[VIEWPOINT]Life’s cycles, autumn sadness

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[VIEWPOINT]Life’s cycles, autumn sadness

Fall rushes down from the high mountaintops. The pigments that began to dye the summit of Mount Chukryeong in various colors slowly spread down the mountain like water permeating art paper, finally pouring red- and yellow-colored water on the maple trees, winged spindle trees and gingko trees in the Achim Goyo, or Morning Calm, Arboretum.
These gingko trees dye our hearts with yellow color and those maple trees touch our hearts with that vivid crimson.
Flower trees such as magnolia, Korean winter hazel and the yellow ginger-smelling flower tree that had been forgotten all summer, appear again in all colorful leaves before us, as tearfully beautiful as pictures of old times.
Who said that everything that disappears is beautiful? Why does fall dye the whole world so beautifully with such gorgeous colors? Why does the setting sun tinge the evening sky so beautifully and then disappear? Why do we see the beauty of a person and miss the person only after he or she leaves us?
Why is the thing that disappears beautiful?
Everything that exists is constantly in conflict or competes with each other. This kind of competition in life occurs even in the seemingly most peaceful forest.
Although under tall trees grow small trees and under them grow all kinds of wild flowers, all branches and leaves vie for more sunlight and those lost in the competition will die out.
This is the principle of nature. Branches in the shade continuously die away and young trees under big trees cannot grow. This is the sorrow of things that exist. With the fact alone that we exist, we can cause trouble to others. While I am looking up at the sun, I throw a shade behind me. I live, blocking the sun of others.
This is why it is important to know when to disappear. To disappear is to remove the shade that I have thrown. It is a sublime act of self-sacrifice that protects new lives and lets them grow in its place.
How often have we felt sad to see flowers falling? Flowers are beautiful because they wither and disappear. Flowers that do not wither and die are merely like artificial flowers because they do not bear the seeds of life.
The flower petals, which have displayed their beauty so proudly, are scattered and gone in the wind, but in their places, the seeds of new life are conceived and born without fail.
When the tinged leaves that have so brilliantly painted the entire world lose color and fall in autumn, the poet may be sad. But in the places from which the leaves fell, germs are surely left to prepare a new spring.
When the icy cold winter passes and spring comes with the sun shining through the branches, wild flowers begin to bloom in the warm sunny side of the earth. But in the dense forest of evergreen pine trees, no wild flowers bloom and just dreary winter continues until late.
Although sunshine is great, the land will become a desert if the sun keeps shining and there is no rest or pause. When the sun knows the time to retreat after doing its day’s duty and vanishes in the song of evening glow, stars and the moon will begin to twinkle and shine in its place.
To disappear is the aesthetic of life, and an art produced by everything that exists. Those who live, feeling sorry for the shade they made by blocking the sun, and those who know that they are bound to disappear someday and know when to disappear are beautiful.
Those who have higher positions and those who possess more wealth should not forget that they are throwing more shades. Aren’t we all beings that should disappear so beautifully before long? For this reason, life is sublime and death is beautiful.
“Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” On this autumn day when the fall tints in the mountains and fields are tearfully beautiful, why do I ruminate on this verse from the Bible in my memory?

* The writer is a professor of horticulture at Samyuk University and the founder of Achim-goyo (Morning Calm) Arboretum. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Han Sang-kyeong
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