Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The End of My Assignment: Augustinian Lessons in Failure

I.

My assignment at Dandelion has been terminated.  The reason is medical, based on the relatively short amount of time remaining and my counselor's opinion that an immediate return is not ideal.

I disagree with the decision.  Even at the height of my episode at the end of January, I disagreed with the decision to send me home.  I felt I could have continued to perform my duties at Dandelion without going home.

I don't repent of that opinion either.  I know myself.  Tree planting is a tough job, but I know I will be one of the toughest on the crew.  I won't quit before the season's done, and I'll start to heat up at the end when most people are struggling to finish.

So what?  What am I trying to prove?

II.

In his work on St. Augustine, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowans Williams distinguishes between two views of how suffering builds character.

Williams describes the first as the "moralistic" view. On this view, suffering is seen as an opportunity to do the right thing.  Maybe it hurts you to do right by someone, but you do it anyway.  The suffering continues because your action is not designed to get you out of your own suffering but to do right by the other person.  In this way, suffering also teaches you endurance.  By going through suffering, you thus become a "moral athlete."

This is the type of "character building" that happens during tree planting.  You learn perseverance, but, it must be said, in the service of a shallow view of "doing the right thing."  You kill yourself out of a loyalty to your foreman and crew, and the commitment you made at the beginning of the season.

I think that having a shallow view of "doing the right thing" is often a weakness of this view of suffering, more generally.  How do you know you are "doing the right thing"?

Friedrich Nietzsche, someone with a profound understanding of human psychology and morality, knew this as well.  In Ecce Homo, he writes:  "My experiences entitle me to be quite generally suspicious of the so-called 'selfless' drives, of all 'neighbor love' that is ready to give advice and go into action" (228).

Who knows what could be lurking beneath my "moralistic" drives?  Maybe I wanted people to eventually notice how enduring and selfless I was, and get rewarded.  Maybe focusing on others was my way of indulging in a "will to death," or "will to failure," as my own dreams crumbled.  Maybe I wanted to prove that a Christian view of love will win out because I did not trust God to prove that without me.  Maybe this is the original sin: to think of yourself more highly than God.

A professor of mine once described consciousness as a spider monkey sitting on the shoulders of a gorilla, trying frantically to get the gorilla to look in the right direction.  So just because we think we are being selfless or loving our neighbor, doesn't mean that that is what we are really up to.  Our conscious efforts are seated on a much deeper, more persistent aspect of our personality.

Augustine also recognizes this about us.  As Rowan Williams writes:

"Augustine's undiminished appeal to a post-Freudian generation has much to do with this aspect of his thought.  He confronts and accepts the unpalatable truth that rationality is not the most important factor in human experience, that the human subject is a point in a vast structure of forces whose operation is entirely obscure to reason" (73).

This is a serious limit to viewing suffering as an opportunity for "moral athleticism."

III.

However, as Williams points out, Augustine's view of suffering is more profound than this.

Augustine sees suffering as having more to do with a revelation of God's grace than an opportunity for our own works.  Through our suffering, we learn the hard truth that all the good things around us are not God but his gifts, and that, therefore, they are finite things which pass away and cannot fulfill our longings for meaning and intimacy.  This is a revelation that, if internalized, might help us to get us through our grandiose delusions concerning the moral worth of our "athleticism."

But how are we to internalize it?  Am I the only one who has trouble desiring God more than human intimacy and meaningful work?  As I am, it is difficult to see myself "at rest" without these things.

During my episode, at least this much of my own heart was revealed: I do not want to be drawn into the Trinitarian life of God alone; I would rather get lost along the way to God and rest in the shade of the divine light.  There I could enjoy an eternal intimacy with the people I love, with all the hurt and misunderstanding overcome.  There I could laugh and cry and enjoy the presence of those people (perhaps especially a young lady) who God made me to be especially compatible with in the depths of my being.

The abrupt end of the meaningful work and intimate friendships I was just experiencing on my assignment is perhaps an opportunity to learn some theological realism.  We don't get what we desire because we do not yet desire according to the truth of things.  The following passage in Williams' study expresses a truth that hits close to home:

"The Confessions return often to the theme of friendship and its intense importance in Augustine's life; yet here -- almost as an aside -- is the mature man's judgment on the tantalizing inadequacy of human intimacy.  The heart cannot rest even in the heart of another; and this is not the smallest of incomprehensible griefs of human life" (77).



IV.

I am beginning to see that my situation is no longer an opportunity for 'moral athleticism.'  The original, measurable goals of my assignment were not completed.  And so it is clear that my own finitude has resulted in failure.

Finitude, failure and the suffering that comes with it, is not sin.  On the contrary, Augustine points out that Christ too suffered in the finitude of humanity.  Christ suffered weakness, rejection, betrayal and psychological anguish.  Augustine infers that, if Christ went through this, then going through it cannot be considered sin.  There is no reason to feel guilt because of a bad result.

Pushing further into Christ's suffering, Augustine sees how it, even more than our own suffering, reveals the character of the world: "a world that crucifies its God, crucifies compassion, that crucifies beauty" (80).  The point is driven home.  If "doing the right thing" is modelled on Christ's interactions with the world, then there is no choice but to come to terms with suffering, with failure, with the finitude of the things of the world.

We are forced to keep our eyes on God.  When we do this, we see that he is with us in our suffering.  This is the story of the cross, and Christ's work after the victory of his resurrection as well.  On the Damascus road, Jesus identifies with the suffering church: "Why do you persecute me?"  In the last days, he will identify with the suffering poor of the world: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat" (v. 35).

V.

Am I ready to accept the lesson that my heart is restless until it rests in God?

Even now, as I accept the limits of my moral athleticism, I do not want to learn Augustine's lesson.  Even now, I am not fully convinced of it.  It is hard for me to see how I could be happy apart from God's gifts.

The opportunity now is to accept God's grace, despite the finitude of his gifts, despite the failure of my work.  If there is any story that will break my hard heart toward God, it is the story of God identifying with us in our suffering at cross.



Monday, 5 March 2018

My Mental Breakdown in Cambodia

Dear Reader,


I have not written here in awhile, and there is a good reason for that!  


I had a severe mental breakdown in late January, and, as a result, I lost faith in my ability to communicate appropriately.  The most destructive part of my breakdown was in what I said to others while it was happening, and it is only gradually that I have felt a normal ability to be discriminating about my speech return to me.

I want to give those who don't know what happened to me a clearer picture, and to express feelings of gratitude to those who rescued me.


I will not go into details or name any characters in this story, other than giving some people who were there for me in my worst moments the thanks they deserve.


Here is my story.


I.


I left for a two week vacation to Cambodia in mid-late January.  


By that time, a critical mass of stress had built within me.  At a conscious level, I acknowledged that my circumstances were out of my control and so had to be placed in God's hands.  I had been wounded in an area of my life where I had only recently learned to renew my faith in God.  I had thought that God was answering my prayers in this area, but this had all come crashing down on me.


I was praying and practicing good daily habits.  I was pursuing what was good to the very best of my ability.  However, there was an underlying conflict between my circumstances and my beliefs about God.  I would put it this way.   As of yet, I did not have the courage to acknowledge that my renewed faith was not in God himself, but in an idea of God that had just been proved false by my circumstances.  So, deep down, what I was trying to do was to wrestle down my dragons on behalf of this dying idea of God that I was holding onto. 


This is what I brought with me to Cambodia.



II.


Before I arrived, my mind had already begun to race out of control.  Soon my mood also began swinging between the basement and the heavens.  This oscillation appeared to correspond to my thoughts, as well as physical symptoms I was experiencing.  Then I began seeing things that weren't there.  Eventually, my view of reality totally disintegrated, so that I had no idea what in my experience was a part of the objective world and what was in my head.


This continued for a week and a half.


During this time, I experienced at least one undeniable miracle, which is that I found a practical application to studying Metaphysics.  I think this training allowed me to hold my perceptions and interpretations of reality at arms length, and to continually test my delusions as I encountered new experiences and interacted with people around me.


For about a week, I had primarily theological interpretations of my experience.  For example (and yes, there were more), I thought God was revealing himself in an extraordinary way, or that I had passed through God's judgment and begun to enter a heavenly state.  As these drastic delusions were eroded, I continually distinguished between my particular theological interpretations of reality and the idea that somehow God was at work.


If I did not make this distinction, I think I would have lost my faith.  Either that, or remained in a state of deep delusion.



III.


After about a week, people at MCC in South Korea and Cambodia realized that something had gone terribly wrong with me.  Despite my protests, the decision was made to send me home.  I was safely accompanied back to Canada.  


This happened at the end of January.


There are several people who deserve all the gratitude I can give in return for the help they gave me.  They are all significant reasons why I am doing as well as I am now.  These are Donna and Chris, my MCC representative in South Korea, Jacob and Annalisa, from MCC's office in Cambodia, Solmin, a friend from Korea, and especially Sovannara, a friend from Cambodia who used his training volunteering at Menno Home in Abbotsford to look after me during my breakdown.


Since I returned home, I have been looked after by Sophie, Wade, and Robyn from MCC.  I have also received encouragement from my friends Dante and Mina at Dandelion, as well as Dr. Insoo Kim, Dandelion's founder and leader, who, as he has just reminded me, continues to pray for me without forgetting, and looks forward to my return.


Finally, I would like to express my regret and embarrassment at how I spoke to many people during my breakdown.  I have thought about how uncomfortable and disturbing a lot of this speech was to many of you.  The tone of superiority with which such ridiculous or horrible things were said only made things worse.  I have no idea how to move past interactions like that.  Please know I regret my words and that I apologize for the damage that they did.



IV.


I am writing this from my home in Canada.  I have been wrestling with all the emotions that go along with an experience like this.  I have received encouragement and support from MCC, my church, my friends, my family, and my community back in South Korea.


Please pray for me, as a decision about whether I am fit enough to return to the Dandelion community will be made very soon.


Sincerely,


Robert


---


Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest, the peace which is not of this world is hidden.


In Adam's name I say to you, "Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.


Henri J.M. Nouwen


Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Delightful Blues

I have loved the blues since I graduated from high school.  I think I just realized why.

I don't mean to be melodramatic.  My life is good and fortunate; nothing like the lives of those who wrote the original blues songs.  Moreover, the blues is not a simple wallowing in one's troubles.

Some blues songs are sad; some are happy.  But the divers moods of blues are characteristically expressed through 1) a soulful call and response of voice and instruments, 2) a driving rhythm.



I hear this as an expression of spit and vinegar in response to divers life-circumstances.

The call and response is like our real-life wrestling with our circumstances.  The persistence of the rhythm is like our underlying will to persevere.  Taken together, the blues thus evokes a flexible tenacity, rather than a rigidity, in the face of life's troubles.  In this way, it gives expression to how we must be affected by what we face in life, yet how we can always choose to persevere in the face of what life gives us.  We cannot be a pillar.  But we can be a willow.

That is not all.  The blues sounds good because there is a delight in the music.  I think the reason blues can sound like wallowing to some is that it recognizes that we are not in control.  Perseverance will not always translate to victory.  We all have real difficulties and weaknesses and, anyway, none of us are God.  Blues embraces the fact that we cannot save ourselves or even the people we love.  But it is not a wallowing.  To have delight in life in the face of one's troubles requires a perspective that allows you to get outside it.  My favourite blues always evokes some such perspective in the sheer delight squeezed out of every note.

Let me move beyond blues music a bit.  We are not God, but if Jesus is God then there is reason to take delight in our trouble.  In my experience, one part of the required perspective is knowing that we are doing our best to follow his way.  Things might not seem fair and we may not succeed in every good pursuit.  Furthermore, we have to be humble about how much we are really following Jesus.  We could easily be deceiving ourselves and before God we are all equal.

But, with this in mind, making a few steps in this direction is to enter an adventure.  To defeat resentment in a key moment, to succeed in having a bit of real love for someone, is to act as a character in this adventure.  Our trouble does not go away, but slowly a sense begins to grow in us that this trouble is a part of a fully human life.

It's an adventure and we don't know what will happen.  But we are in the fight.  Even in circumstances that are awful in many ways, this allows us to feel delight: in the call and response, in the rhythm of our tenacity.

Now why don't lets delight in hearing SRV wrestle mightily with the flooding down in Texas.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Work Three Months Later: Beauty and Growing Pains

It has now been three and a half months since I arrived here at the Dandelion Community, and three months since my first reflection on my work.  So much has happened; it feels like a lot longer!  

Here is a bit of what I have been up to, and some reflection on it.

Teaching English


Since finishing Korean classes at the end of October, I've been teaching conversational English twice a week.  Every class, I organize the lesson around a "speech act," that is, something you do with language, like promise or warn or congratulate.  I've been teaching students expressions used in everyday English to perform or describe each speech act.  I have a short lecture, followed by activities and games.  I have a lot to learn about teaching English, but I think I hit upon a good way to organize a class about conversational English, and the students seem to enjoy it.

Preparing Fields

Dr. Kim has come up with plans for how to use Dandelion's land.  There will be two large fields devoted to farming potatoes and soy beans which will be sold to Dandelion's customers.  There will be one field full of garden boxes that students will manage individually to learn about farming and to grow their own food.  Finally, Dr. Kim wants to make the field we use to grow food for the community "the most beautiful garden in Korea," by arranging flowers among the crops.  The beauty is supposed to attract people to the community, as well as creating a space for them to rest, reflect and, ultimately, become a part of Dandelion's larger mission of simple living and helping the rural poor.

I've taken on the job of clearing the fields of weeds in preparation for all this.  It is something I know how to do and which I can do to fill my day in-between other work.  It is inspiring to me to have my work be directed toward this end and become a part of the beauty of this place.

Peculiar Beauty

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a painting.  The Dandelion Community is at the bottom of a narrow valley surrounded by high serried hills.   Fields and persimmon orchards cover the valley and parts of the hills, which also have many wooded areas.  There is a village nearby with small, traditional Korean houses. 

It is now late Autumn, and the blanket of greenery that covered everything in Summer has given way to a duskier, more variegated scene. The luscious plant-life on the valley floor, which grew even over buildings, has died or been harvested, turning everything different shades of yellow and brown.  The green arrowroot that smothered the hills has dried up, revealing the more restrained palette of pine, bamboo and by-now-bare deciduous trees.  Nearby persimmon trees dangle their bright fruits against the pale blue sky, as magpies flit quickly through the cold air in anfractuous, arcing lines.  At night, the the dark forms of houses frame the stars, and the moon is visible through the crooked branches of trees.


The beauty is so particular, so boldly peculiar: the abundance of the vegetation, the angles of interlocking branches, the movement of the stars and moon.  It's like a great painting or piece of music.  Great artwork also has this beauty-through-bold-particularity, like, for example, Bach's melodic lines.  Only later, through familiarity, does the beauty come to seem less peculiar and more iconic.

Sustaining and Transcendent Beauty

In some ways, though, this place does not feel like a painting.  For example, I could not spend a lifetime in a painting without growing tired of it, yet I do not think I would ever grow tired of the beauty of this place.  I can appreciate great art again and again, over many years.  Yet not even the greatest of human art can I appreciate continuously without taking a break from it.  But the beauty of this place is such that I would not grow tired of it. 

I have thought the same about the forests of British Columbia.

This is beauty that transcends and so sustains life.  It remains constant irrespective of what is going on with me: my successes and failures, my hopes and anxieties.  Beholding it, therefore, is a way to transcend myself and, in Wendell Berry's phrase, "rest in the grace of the world."

Some Growing Pains Being In Community


For this reason, beauty, along with friendship, is a part of my experience for which I am especially thankful.  This is all the more true because of some of the anxieties I've had as I learn better how to work in community.

One of my anxieties has come from realizing I am not wholly well-adapted to a simple, community lifestyle.  It has certainly been useful for me to know how to do labour work well.  However, living here has made me realize that who I am and what I have learned has been shaped by my privileged life in modern Canadian society.  I sometimes feel a little useless.  In particular, skills bound up with the use of the English language and manipulation of concepts, which I have developed in my life, do not appear to be very much use in making a concrete contribution to the community.  I feel lacking in practical know-how having to do with cooking, growing food, and the complexity of relationships that make up community life.  

I am improving slowly, and coming to realize that having weaknesses is OK.  Living in community  means trusting others for basic things like food, health and good relationships.  So, being in community also means being vulnerable to how well others are doing in their own walks.  As far as food and health, there is no danger of not being taken care of here.  Yet there is indeed a spiritual battle to be fought to maintain trust in others to treat you well and to not consider your weaknesses a burden.  If you do not maintain this trust, or others break it, it is all too easy to be tempted with the usual list of vices: jealousy, pride and resentment being near the top of the list.

Some Growing Pains Working In Community


Another anxiety comes from having a schedule that is largely self-regulated.  I get occasional direction and feedback, but, within the framework of regular duties, I often decide how to spend my time.  I set rules for myself and try to keep busy.  I do this partly from love of the work and partly because I would make myself miserable if I were not busy.

I think I have done fairly well at this, but sometimes I am uncertain.  To be honest, it has been disorientating to not have a regular work day followed by personal time.  Some of my anxieties are about whether I am working enough, whether I am around the community enough, how well I am doing my work, whether others consider all the work I am doing as a valuable contribution to the community.  

I also worry that seeing my work through the lens of my previous jobs may be leading me to disproportionately emphasize things like showing up on time and working hard over against things like participating in community activities where I do not contribute anything in particular, like when students go on special trips.  I have tended to choose to stay home during these outings in order to do other work or to rest.

Having this lens also creates a greater risk of under-appreciating, and, God forbid, even resenting fellow workers when they do not live up to the standards I have set for my own work.  This circumstance has meant working on questioning my own presuppositions about work, and, in addition, trying on some humility and the wisdom to know that God gives his children different gifts and different ways to serve him.

Being and Doing

Many SALT assignment descriptions warn potential SALTers that their assignment may turn out to be more about "being" than "doing."  That is, to live well with yourself, with God, and with those around you may be a more important part of your work than accomplishing projects whose good effects are immediately visible and measurable. Such warning is thought to be necessary because the West tends to over-emphasize the value of "getting things done" and under-emphasize "being with others."

Let me use the framework of being vs. doing to conclude this reflection on my work.  In the end, I think both my anxieties -- about being a good community member and doing good work -- are founded in real concerns.

On the one hand, I do need to learn better habits of "being," and some of my ideas about the value of "getting things done" need to be questioned.  Things under the heading of being -- the beauty of the world, friendship, living justly with the poor, and peacefully with enemies -- are indeed what my time here, and life in general, is all about.  Sometimes I am forgetful of this as I busily do things for my own reasons, or when I worry in a selfish way about my own lack of ability.

On the other hand, I know that work directed at a good end and performed with competence is a part of human flourishing, and that being lazy is not an option.  I want to work as hard and as well as if I were earning a wage.  As far as I'm concerned, if I did not do this, it would be a refutation of what this year is supposed to be about.  I am not here to complete an exercise in useless idealism.  I am here to try to figure out how, in a community like Dandelion, good work, done in the cause of things like beauty, love and justice, can be a reality.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

In the City, On the Mountain, Among the Community - Pictures and Stories from October

Working

Feeding chickens and collecting eggs in the morning.

Sorting and packing eggs to be sent to customers.  I've been told egg production has really picked up!  Jonghyeon is behind me and Solpa is to my left.  They both recently graduated from school and work on the farm occasionally.  Jinha in the back is in charge of the farm.

Planting garlic with students in the farm class, which is lead by my housemate and former SALTer, Wilhelmina Witt (Mina).

Just doing a little weeding around the greenhouse.  As a treeplanter I was known as "the Pounderine," and then as the "Honey Badger."  Here they call me "Hedgehog."

Last week, Jinha harvested rice.  We dried it along the road for a few days (you see this being done a lot in these parts this time of year).  In this picture, I am collecting the dried rice with Hagyeong, a high school student.

Learning Korean

Dante and I attended Korean language classes for one month at the YWCA in the city of Jinju.  In this picture, we are celebrating Chusok (a bit like Thanksgiving) as a school.  Many women from around Asia dressed up in their traditional clothes.  Dante did also.

This is my greatest work in the Korean language to date.  It is called "My family..."  I think I really nailed the last line.

"My family consists of my dad, my mother, and three younger brothers and, making us six people.  We are all Canadians, but I now live in Korea.  My younger brothers' names are Michael, David and Aaron.  Michael is a computer programmer; David and Aaron work with my dad.  These brothers are RV technicians....

I am twenty-seven years old.  There is two years difference between Michael and I, two years difference between David and Michael, and three years difference between Aaron and David.  I will go to Canada, and so see my brothers next Summer.  Because we have the same parents, we resemble each other."

Teaching at Dandelion

Korean classes are now over, and so Dante and I now have time to teach English and be more involved in the school.  This is a picture taken from a game I organized for recreation time.  It's called "Celebrity Selfie Hunt."  Students split into teams and take selfies with teachers, who hide around the community.  The team who takes selfies with all the teachers without getting caught by the security guard first wins.


Mina is holding the chicken.  Geonweon, on the left, led one student team, which also included Seongeun, between Geonweon and Mina, Hagyeong, hiding behind Mina, Jihong, behind Hagyeong, and Serin, on the far right.

Here they found Seoyeong, the Korean teacher.

At our house

These are the people I live with.  From left to right: Mina, Yehyouk, me, Dante.  Dante and Mina are both excellent cooks.

Also excellent goofballs.

Trip to the Goseon Dinosaur Museum with Dante and Mina


The Chuseok holiday lasted for more than a week at the beginning of October.  During this time, almost everyone was gone from the community.  So, we decided to spend one day exploring a dinosaur museum which was about two hours away by bus.

There were dinosaur footprints in the rock by the seaside, and models of various dinosaurs and their skeletons.  However, we were somewhat preoccupied filming the following Chicken Man episode.


 Night Out in Jinju

Some people with whom I have rubbed shoulders often enough have discovered my weakness of being absent-minded to the extent that I sometimes have no idea where I am or where I am going and must be rescued and lead back to the place where I belong.


One day, however, a teacher at the YWCA in Jinju invited me to a party celebrating the anniversary of her church.  To show everyone how brilliant I could be at going places, I decided to go.  I successfully navigated myself to the church, enjoyed a very nice evening with people I had not met before, and made it back on the last bus out of Jinju.

Methods of transportation included walking, inter-city bus, running, city bus, taxi, walking with a lady and a man, Dandelion School's Vice Principal's car, and, last but not least, a local parsimon farmer's work truck.

Later I found out that by accepting a ride from the parsimon farmer, I put myself in danger of being sold to pirates and spending the rest of days hunched over an oar in the hull of some ship (sorry Grandma).

MCC Retreat in Chuncheon


From October 19 to 22, Dante and I returned to Chuncheon with Mina for the first time since we arrived in Korea.  We got to spend time with Solga our coordinator, who is second to the left, our fellow SALTer, Allison, second to the right, as well as Jenny, Jiwon, and our reps, Donna and Chris and other friends.

We were all happy to spend time together again.  From left to right: me, Solga, Mina, Allison and Dante.



We went for a hike together.  Here I am happy in a tree on top of a mountain.

Here Allison, Solga and Minjeong are also being happy in the tree.  Apparently, this is how monkey impressions are done in Korea.

At the end of our trip, someone off to the side of the road yelled "Canada!" at us as we walked past.  I was the only one from Canada in the group, and my dress was the only possible way he could have known that.

 Hiking Jiri-San

I am still walking like an overweight duck from the Dandelion community's hike up Jiri-San.  Autumn was on the trees.
On the way to the summit.

Geonweon and I raced to the top.  Technically, he beat me.

Jihong in front, Yehyeon in the back right with the phone, and Geonweon taking the photo.  Technically, Yehyeon's pack was heavier than mine.
After reaching the summit, we took this trail to a shelter to spend the night.

Serin and I did this part together. "Teacher, I am sleepy and hungry and tired."

After spending the night in the shelter, we headed back down the mountain.  As a Canadian tree planter, I felt it necessary to really show off how good I am at hiking.  So after I reached the bottom, I went back up to meet people and carry their bags.  Unfortunately, my brilliance at traversing the hiking trail on this occasion was offset by my going half-way up the mountain again on the wrong trail.  Still, Jiri-san was beautiful.










Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Neighbour Love and Romance 이웃 사랑과 로맨스

This is a devotional I shared at the Dandelion Community Church on October 15th.  Translated by Yehyouk Kim.


사랑 나무  Love Tree

I. The Relationship of Neighbour Love and Romance

I have been reading this book [Kierkegaard's Works of Love] for my morning devotionals since I arrived in the Dandelion Community.  It is a book about Christian love – the kind of love that Jesus commands us to have for our neighbours.

저는 민들레에 도착한 이후로  아침마다 아침 예배 시간에 이 책을 읽었습니다. 이 책은 기독교 사랑에 대한 책입니다 - 예수님이 우리에게 명령하신 이웃 사랑에 대한 책입니다.

This book has helped me to think about the relationship between the neighbour love that Jesus commands us to have and romantic or erotic love.  This is what I’d like to share with you about this morning.

이 책은 예수님이 우리에게 갖기를 명령하신 이웃 사랑과 낭만적 인 또는 에로틱 한 사랑 사이의 관계에 대해 생각하게 해주었습니다. 오늘 아침에 여러분과 얘기를 나누고 싶었습니다.

“Love” is a word that names many different things.  So, just because loving your neighbour as Jesus commanded and having a crush on someone are both called “love,” does not mean that they are the same thing.  Just because you fall in love does not mean you are following Jesus’ command.

"사랑"은 여러 가지 다른 이름을 짓는 단어입니다. 그래서, 예수님이 명하신 것처럼 당신의 이웃을 사랑하라는 명령이, 단순히 누군가에게 호감을 느끼기는 수준의 사랑이 아닙니다. 둘 다 "사랑"이라고 불리지만 둘이  똑같은 것을 의미하지는 않습니다. 당신이 사랑에 빠졌다고 해서 당신이 예수님의 명령을 따르고 있다는 것을 의미하지는 않습니다.

But if they are not the same thing, then how are neighbour love and romantic love related?  Are we supposed to act one way to our neighbour and another way to someone we are in love with?

그러나 이 두가지가 똑같지 않다면 이웃 사랑과 낭만적 사랑은 어떻게 관련되어 있습니까? 우리는 그냥 이웃에게 한 가지 방법으로 행동하고 또 우리가 사랑하는 사람에게는 다른 방법으로 사랑합니까?

Kierkegaard’s answer is to say, yes not everything we call “love” is neighbour love, but, for Christians, everything we call “love,” whatever else it is, it should also be neighbour-love.  This follows from the fact that everyone is our neighbour.  If everyone is our neighbour, then the person we love romantically is also our neighbour.  Therefore, we must also love the person we have romantic feelings for first and foremost as our neighbour.

Kierkegaard의 답변은 우리가 "사랑"이라고 부르는 모든 것이 이웃 사랑이라고 말하는 것이 아니라 그리스도인들에게 우리가 "사랑"이라고 부르는 모든 것이 무엇이든 간에 이웃 사랑이기도 합니다. 이것은 모두가 우리 이웃이라는 사실에서 따릅니다. 모두가 우리 이웃이라면, 우리가 낭만적으로 사랑하는 사람도 우리 이웃입니다. 그러므로 우리가 낭만적으로 사랑하는 사람도 이웃 사랑의 계명으로 먼저 사랑해야 한다는 것입니다.

II. Three Examples of Neighbour Love Transforming Romance 

I think this is the crucial insight for how to think about the ethics of dating: for us Christians, all love is first and foremost loving our neighbour as ourselves.  This changes the way we do romance.

저는 이것이 데이트의 윤리에 대해 생각하는 방법에 대한 결정적인 정답이라고 생각합니다. 우리 그리스도인들에게 사랑은 무엇보다도 먼저 우리 이웃을 우리 자신처럼 사랑하는 것에서 시작되어야 합니다. 이것은 우리가 로맨스를하는 방식을 바꿉니다.

I have three examples.

세 가지 예가 있습니다.

First, loneliness.  Sometimes we can feel lonely when we do not have someone to love.  Kierkegaard notes that, for human beings, love is experienced as a need.  But if romantic love is neighbour-love, then our need will not just be for the one special person we are thinking about.  This is because if our love is to be neighbour love, then our need is to love everyone.  For everyone is our neighbour.

첫째, 외로움. 때때로 우리는 사랑할 사람이 없을 때 외로움을 느낄 수 있습니다. Kierkegaard는 인간에게 사랑은 필요로 경험된다고 말합니다. 그러나 낭만적 인 사랑이 이웃 사랑이라면, 우리의 필요는 우리가 생각하고있는 한 특별한 사람을 위한 것이 아닙니다. 우리의 사랑이 이웃 사랑이 되는 것이면, 우리의 필요는 모든 사람을 사랑하기 때문입니다. 모두가 우리 이웃입니다.

So, we should not wallow in feelings of loneliness, as if we needed some particular person to make us happy.  If all love is to be neighbour-love, then the only real need is the need to always love our neighbour.  So, when we feel lonely, we must just start loving those we see, those we already know, those we bump into everyday.  The need to love one person in particular is weakness.  But the need to love everyone all the time is wealth and strength.

마치 우리를 행복하게 해주는 특별한 사람이 필요한 것처럼 외로움에 빠져서도 안됩니다. 모든 사랑이 이웃 사랑이된다면, 유일한 진정한 필요는 항상 우리 이웃 사랑을 사랑하는 것입니다. 그래서 우리가 외로움을 느낄 때, 우리는 우리가 이미 알고있는 사람들, 우리가 매일 부딪히는 사람들을 사랑해야 합니다. 특별히 한 사람만 사랑하는 마음은 우리에게 해로울 수 가 있습니다. 그러나 반대로 모든 사람을 항상 사랑하는 것은 우리에게 부와 힘이 됩니다.

Second, resentment.  Sometimes we can feel resentment toward people because of romance.  You might resent a girl you like when they don’t like you.  You might resent other people of your gender because they seem more successful than you.  But you cannot love someone as your neighbour and resent them.

둘째, 분개. 때때로 우리는 로맨스 때문에 사람들에 대한 분노를 느낄 수 있습니다. 당신을 좋아하지 않는 여자를 원망 할 수도 있습니다. 그들이 당신 보다 더 성공 했다 해서 원망하고 질투 할 수도 있습니다. 그러나 당신은 당신의 이웃으로서 누군가를 사랑할 수 없으며 그들을 원망 할 수 없습니다.

This follows from the fact that love always builds up.  When you resent someone, you want to tear them down.  You wish you could get back at them or that something bad would happen to them.  But neighbour love always builds up.  So, we must kill any resentment we feel and wish the best for everyone.

이것은 사랑이 항상 축적된다는 사실입니다. 당신이 누군가를 원망하고 그에게 화났을 때 당신은 그 사람이 잘못 됬으면 좋겠다는 생각을 할 것입니다. 그러나 이웃 사랑은 항상 쌓여 갑니다. 우리는 자기죽음으로써 남을 향한 미운 마음을 내려놓아야 합니다.

If all love is neighbour love, then we must build up even those who reject us, even those who are our rivals.

모든 사랑이 이웃 사랑이면, 심지어 우리를 거부하는 사람들조차도, 심지어 우리의 라이벌 인 사람들까지 세워야합니다.

Finally, group selfishness.  When you only seek what is good for you and ignore what is good for others, this is called “selfishness.”  When you only seek what is good for a group that you are a part of and ignore what is good for people outside the group, this is called “group selfishness.”  Sometimes people who fall in love can be guilty of group selfishness: when they only focus on each other and do not spend time on people they are not in love with.

마지막으로, 집단 이기심. 당신에게 좋은 것을 추구하고 다른 사람들에게 좋은 것을 무시할 때, 이것을 "이기심"이라고 부릅니다. 당신이 한 집단의 일원 일 때만 추구하고 그룹 밖에있는 사람들에게는 좋은 것을 무시하면 이것을 그룹의 이기심이라고 부릅니다. 때로는 사랑에 빠진 사람들은 서로에게만 집중하고 사랑에 빠진 사람들에게 시간을 낭비하지 않으면 서 집단 이기심의 죄를 범할 수 있습니다.

But since everyone you meet is your neighbour, then we cannot have this type of group selfishness.  The person you are in love with is your neighbour, but so is everyone else.  So, your relationship cannot separate you from those around you.  It must bless and build up the community you are a part of.

그러나 당신이 만나는 모두가 당신의 이웃이므로, 우리는 이런 유형의 집단 - 이기심을 가질 수 없습니다. 당신이 사랑하는 사람은 당신의 이웃이지만, 다른 사람들도 마찬가지입니다. 그래서, 당신의 관계는 당신 주위의 사람들과 당신을 분리시킬 수 없습니다. 당신이 속한 공동체를 축복하고 함께 세워 주어야합니다.

These are three examples of how I have thought about applying neighbour love to romantic love.  Because the world does not understand romantic love as neighbour love, the way we do romance will look different than the way the world does it.  We cannot fall into the traps of loneliness, resentment or group selfishness.

이것들은 제가 이웃 사랑을 로맨틱 사랑에 적용하는 것에 대해 어떻게 생각해 왔는지에 대한 세 가지 예입니다. 세상은 이웃 사랑으로서의 낭만적 인 사랑을 이해하지 못하기 때문에 세상과 다르게 보일 것입니다. 우리는 외로움, 분개 또는 집단 이기심의 함정에 빠질 수 없습니다.

III. C.S. Lewis as an Example

I think the English author, C.S. Lewis, is a good example of putting neighbour love before romantic love.

저는 영국 작가 C. S. Lewis가 낭만적 인 사랑 앞에 이웃 사랑을 보이는 좋은 본보기라고 생각합니다.

C.S. Lewis met his wife Joy when he was in his 50s or 60s.  She had read his books and travelled from the US to England to meet him.  When she was in England, she became very sick.  But she couldn’t receive care in the hospital because she was not covered by health insurance.  Even though C.S. Lewis was not yet in love with Joy, he married her so that she could receive medical care.  After this she recovered, and C.S. Lewis fell in love with her.  They enjoyed a few years together before she died.

루이스는 50 대 또는 60 대에있을 때 그의 아내 Joy를 만났습니다. 그녀는 그의 책을 읽고 그를 만나기 위해 미국에서 영국으로 여행했습니다. 그녀가 영국에 있었을 때, 그녀는 매우 아팠습니다. 그러나 그녀는 건강 보험에 가입하지 않았기 때문에 병원에서 치료를받을 수 없었다. C.S. Lewis는 아직 Joy와 사랑에 빠졌지 만, 그녀는 결혼하여 의료 혜택을받을 수있었습니다. 그 후 그녀는 회복했고 C.S. Lewis는 그녀와 사랑에 빠졌다. 그녀가 죽기 전에 그들은 몇 년을 함께 즐겼습니다.

C.S. Lewis loved Joy as his neighbour before he loved her as his lover.  In doing so, he became odd in the world; and he became a witness to Christ’s neighbour love.

루이스는 기쁨을 사랑하기 전에 조이를 이웃으로 사랑했습니다. 그렇게함으로써 그는 세상에서 이상하게되었습니다. 그는 그리스도의 사랑에 대한 증인이되었습니다.


Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Trans. Howard Hong. 1962. New York: Harper, 2009.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Growing Joy: Humour at the Dandelion Community (Also Chicken Man Begins!)

Humour, Vanity and Joy

I remember thinking once, when I was a youth, that I didn't want to be funny because that would only show that I liked it when others liked me.  I had just started reading C.S. Lewis, and remembered that C.S. Lewis condemned vanity as a vice.  And so, I resolved, there was no good reason for me to be funny.

I think probably, though, I was deceiving myself.  For why else did I not account for the fact that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and that perhaps good humour might serve the cause of joy?  C.S. Lewis had also said that vanity not as bad as the harder, more self-centred type of pride which makes one not care what others think and feel at all.  I should have realized that humour could be used in the service of joy as a way to care about others.

I also did not see the connection between humour and honesty which I do now.  I have discovered that I am an odd enough person to sometimes make people laugh by doing nothing else than expressing myself honestly.  Maybe humour of this sort presupposes a sort of perspective on yourself that is at odds with vanity.  It is precisely not caring to hide the odd, funny bits about yourself in which this type of humour lies.

Humour at the Dandelion Community

In any case, the reason I am writing this post is because my time at the Dandelion Community, and South Korea in general, has been full of this kind of good, honest humour.  I hope Dante and Mina will not mind me saying that they are odd enough to be funny without trying.  And it has filled our community with one another with joy.

I admit that when I first heard, by email, that the YAMENer I would be staying with was a "comedian," I had my doubts.  Maybe it was the harder type of pride that led me to assume that Dante would be the kind of guy who had come to call himself a comedian because he thought he was funnier than he really was.

But, by God's mercy, Dante is not such a person.  He is a real comedian, and he is really funny.

As evidence, I would like to share this video with you, which Dante made a few days ago.


A Story or Two

Unfortunately, many of the jokes Dante, Mina and I share are such that I cannot write them down for you here without risking expulsion from the Mennonite Central Committee.

However, I think I would be willing to undergo the risk of sharing a story or two.

Many of you will know how important respecting your elders is in Korean culture.  And you must believe me that I have endeavored to do my best in this regard.  I am quick to give up my seat when an older person gets on the city bus.  I bow and say "Anyeonghaseyo?" to our elderly neighbors as they look doubtfully at me from their roadside fields.  When I'm called upon, I help out the little old ladies who all pile onto the morning bus, dragging their farm pickings along with them to sell in the town.

However, I must confess that the cultural adjustment has not always gone so smoothly.

Only last week, for example, I found myself giving my Korean teacher a piggyback around the YWCA concert hall, to the, may I say, excessive merriment of all the Southeast Asian women who also study Korean with us.  In fairness, though, in this case, it was not my fault.  I did not choose of my own accord to parade my Seonsengnim around in front of the whole school.  I would not have chosen of my own free will to introduce Canadian culture to Korea in the style of the half-time show at the Calgary Stampede.  No, the Koreans at the YWCA conceived of this display all on their own.  And, may I say, it was a punishment the likes of which gave me flashbacks to fourth grade, when I was made to sing the Canadian national anthem in front of the class sitting on Mrs. Hutchingson's lap.

Then there was that time, about two weeks ago, when a student's parent gave me an apple.  I sat down and took a break from splitting wood, and then tossed the apple core over the embankment.  Three minutes later, the generous parent returned with my apple core.  He was acting out the scene, quite dramatically I must say, of how the apple core had fallen from the sky and hit him on the head.

I wish I could say that was the last of it, but no.  There is something I did not confess to you about my adventures during my first week in Korea.  If you remember, I related how I had spent a beautiful, romantic night watching Korean musical performances at the historic site where Korean alphabet was invented.  The romance of the night was only increased as sporadic downpours made us open and close our umbrellas as we watched.

I did not relate, however, how the mystique of that night was somewhat punctured by a certain incident.  I confess that I neglected to mention how, after one such downpour, I had raised my umbrella up ever so carefully, so as to avoid hitting anyone as I collapsed it; how, by so carefully raising up my umbrella, in order to not disturb the romance of the night with even the slightest indiscretion, I proceeded, with a release of the umbrella's extraordinarily high-powered springs, to ever so carefully dump all its watery contents directly upon the elderly gentlemen sitting in front of me.

Yes, I confess to you now that MCC chose such a one as most fit to enter Korean culture and represent them.

I know I take a great risk in relating these stories to you.  But I think honesty and good humour demand it.  Yes, these stories are full of good humour, and I confess that the lion's share of it belongs to the Koreans I met over the past month and a half, for which I am certainly thankful!