Saturday, June 7, 2014
Searching for Truth
A professor at Sogang University gives us his thoughts on watching a popular historical drama on Korean TV. The drama is Jung Do-jeon; the name is taken from the leading figure in the transition from the Goryeo Dynasty (1392) to the Choson Dynasty. When we deal with historical drama, we are seeing events through the eyes of the person who writes the screenplay, so we can't say all is historically true, but we are dealing with a historical event which adds to its charm. We are able to see the choices and actions of those in the historical situation and compare ourselves and our situation with the past.
The drama is situated in the time between the end of the Goryeo Dynasty and the beginning of the Choson Dynasty. It was a difficult time filled with turmoil. The two characters that we follow are Jung Do-jeon and Jung Mong-ju. We are shown how they acted and their decisions. Jung Do-jeon wanted to change completely from the past and start anew. Jung Mong-ju saw the contradictions and the abuses but did not want to change the foundations of the Goryeo Dynasty.
These two ways of thinking, says the columnist, in the opinion column, View from the Ark, are both valid ways of thinking. Even in our own times the course of action is not readily ascertained.The position of Jung Do-jeon and his idea of loyalty can be seen as traitorous, but the citizens looking at his position can see him leading the country into new times and with a genuine search for truth. Jung Mong-ju no matter how incompetent and filled with problems, he was loyal to the country and worked to better the situation. He is seen as a loyal citizen. His position was to protect the foundations of the country, and would be considered conservative.
In our lives, we see similar situations repeated often. No matter what the standards we need to face our situation, judge and choose. Different standards that co-exist in society come into conflict: choosing between positions is not easy. One side says this, and the other says that. In our society, we have similar problems deciding.
The professor says the basic standards that we use are both partial and limited, which brings about the conflict. When each side looks at the situation and judges according to their individual view point and then absolutizes their decision, there is bound to be confrontation between the two sides. When I make my opinion the absolute standard, I have to reflect on what I am doing. In this case when we make our opinion, absolute, we find ways to justify the position. In the drama, this is what the two Jungs do; as if their positions are the only ones possible.
The professor quotes Wilfred Cantwell Smith, who in such a situation and when we stubbornly insist, arbitrarily on our opinion, we need 'Faith' to surmount this way of thinking. 'Faith' is a the transcendent response of the whole person. A transcendent person is a person that is seeking to follow the whole truth. Such a person who is searching for transcendent truth will be continually examining themselves. Before an absolute and transcendent truth, we should be able to see our limited and partial opinions, and put them aside as we examine ourselves in search for transcendent truth.
When we have opposing values, he concludes, that are in a collision course as in our present society, choosing demands that we examine ourselves, which requires we have a genuine faith, a prerequisite of the times in which we live.