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To Persevere, Live Life to the Full

Posted December. 24, 2005 03:00,   


My wife Patti and I were leading normal lives in a nice apartment in New York. If you had met us then, you would have said we were happy, but a little too busy to talk about it.

But then one day, Patti fell off a station platform while waiting for the subway. Three train cars ran over my wife, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. In the hospital, Patti asked, “Why?” I was confused and angry. What should we do now? How should we get over this?

That is when a handicapped friend of mine told me the following story.

A couple was planning to go on vacation to Italy. But when they got off the plane, they realized they were in the Netherlands instead. The landscape was boring and ash-gray, the people were dull, and the food was so-so. There was nothing but dikes all over the place. Good Lord!

But then something amazing happened. They began to enjoy the place. Everything was so slow and gentle. The couple began to see a certain inner calmness in the people. They had begun to see a new world; in Rembrandt, old coffee shops and the tulips of Keukenhof. Certainly not what they had expected, but it was good nevertheless.

The Netherlands; this is where Patti and you have fallen into! The world of the handicapped! It’s not what you wanted, it won’t be as fast-paced and exciting as the world you used to live in, but this life is deep and rich. You will learn how to live this life, and you will learn to love it…

“Every Day Matters” (2003) calmly illustrates how the author persevered during an unbelievably difficult period of life. Through drawing, he found peace of mind, and it opened his eyes to a new life.

“I started with drawing the things around me. Sunlight shining down upon my notebook, my kid’s drawing posted on the refrigerator, dust rolling around under the table…I wanted to feel the blessings those things gave me.”

His drawings have a special quality that is different from his pervious works. That difference was not derived from the way he drew, but in the way he looked. He looked at every object as if he were caressing it. “Everything was special, different, interesting and beautiful.”

The author asks, “Could it be that we are in pain because of the futile ideas we conceive?” Our lives are filled with vicious unhappiness, as Montaigne put it, but maybe most of that unhappiness never truly exists at all.

“We cannot determine how life will treat us. We can only determine how we are going to treat life. So drink up the fullness of life. It will be like opening the window on the first day of spring…”

Gi-U Lee keywoo@donga.com