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Is There an Answer to Life?

Posted February. 16, 2002 11:30,   


Mr. Lee Su-Tae is 51 years old this year. He is not a person who achieved fame and success in social life.

He is just a normal person whom we can meet on the street.

He was born in Andong, Northern Kyongsang-do, and went to high school in Seoul.

He graduated from Seoul High School and Yonsei University, majoring in law.

He was once a boy who loved poems and novels. However, he entered the National Health Insurance Corporation, which was not related to his studies, and it was his first job after graduation which he still holds.

He is an ordinary father living in these times. He tried to give his study notes to his son, but his son did not want them. He shudders at the rock music that his son listens to, music with lyrics like `Kill! Destroy!`

He is an ordinary father who finds it hard to accept that he and his son are two completely different people. He is in his middle age who feels the weight of reality more severely than the lure of his dream.

He grieves when reading a 20 year old collection of essays, saying, "There is no feeling like before." and wants to take a rest under the nostalgic scenes of the 50s that are relatively primitive as compared to today. The present is a miserable situation that ties human beings to the desire for money, the poison that was produced by economic development and that cannot be undone.

Moreover he is old-fashioned, refusing to use hand phones.

However, he still has a dream for the world. `The world that respects substance` may sound somewhat extravagant and abstract. `The world respects human beings, talents, and is still alive`, `the world that isn`t swept away by the order of money` is the world that he dreams of.

`Hard To Become An Adult` is the collection of essays that he wrote, telling the story of his dream.

He is a person who agonizes over `becoming a real adult` in these times that glorifies youth and material possession.

He says that adulthood is not the result of the passage of time but by the course of trimming oneself unceasingly.

Therefore, he says in a low voice that small thing, weak thing, and simple thing is the real root of our life in this world, which is pressurized by stimulative things.

His words contain the voice of the one who seeks truth and wisdom not from the outside world but from the soil of the world.

Through his book we meet one mature adult who practices mindfulness and self-reflection to look for happiness of poor soul like lotus flower in the mud.

He feels strange about `being possessive` and ashamed of this world that forces people to seek becoming rich.

He bought an apartment in Seoul when he was 50 years old. However, he is not accustomed to cream color blinds, rose-colored light bulb, intercoms, and dining rooms that look like playground……

Cutting a sago palm leaf which he raised for 10 years with kitchen scissors, throwing away the cabinet which he has been using for 18 years, he asks himself whether he is resigning himself to the index of social success expressed by a 32-pyeong apartment.

He speaks as if he is drinking in the cold night air on the porch and sounds close to moaning.

`Is this a peaceful life with all this destruction, massacre and exploitation?` Peace is not peace, refinement is also not refinement. We are living in a huge `pretend` world. It is about time that we forget that we are pretending…..because we have been pretending for so long………

His philosophy of life has plenty of wisdom conveyed by someone who has lived through experience and has reason.

A society built on poverty of intellect, society that is full of adults who refuse to use reason as if reflection is not in our DNA at all - although the world is a mess, there are many Mr. Lee Su-Taes who live to help poor souls in the land of Korea. As long as they exist, there is still hope.

`Hard To Become An Adult`

By Lee Su Tae

Tree of Thought Press

Mun-Myung Huh angelhuh@donga.com