[OUTLOOK]A short rest is time well spentI got out of the office at 3 p.m. and took a train at Yongsan station. The destination I decided on, after giving it some thought, was a small fishing port called Gomso village at the southern tip of the Byeonsan peninsula in North Jeolla province.
I don’t have special ties to that area, just a vague memory of having gone to that place more than 20 years ago. I had happened to hear of a festival taking place there, and I decided to play a little hooky from work, something that wasn’t really like me.
The moment I got away from the city and saw the beautiful mountains, all the tangled thoughts in my head disappeared like magic. Wow, such refreshment and freedom. Why hadn’t I thought of doing this before?
A few lines from a work by the poet Shin Kyung-rim came to my mind:
“What is the reason to rush like this / Without seeing the trembling flower shadows under the bright spring sun? / What is it I have to fly off to do?/ The same scenery and words that I have seen all those years till the age of over 60 / They will probably be waiting for me at the last stop too./ Let’s abandon my car at a mountain station that looks down on fields / And let’s walk. Walk till my feet become swollen / Let’s take a nap in a forest of flowers/ And perhaps stay up all night drinking, if someone insists...”
I got off the train at Jeongeup station and left my car somewhere near Gomso port, as the poet recommended. I slowly walked into the port only to find that the festival had ended the day before, leaving only some lonely-looking merchants who were trying to sell some leftovers at temporary tents.
I went to a stall that sold bits and pieces for 1,000 won ($1), and bought a unique looking weeding hoe. The person selling the hoe told me that it was used to dig up shells at estuaries. I wondered if it would be as useful for my wife, who gardens a small flowerbed back home.
As nightfall came, the sea became still. It was hard to believe this was the same region that once was rocked by violent protests against a plan to build a nuclear waste disposal facility near here.
I found a place to stay the night at a small village on a hill that overlooked the sea. As I lay down to sleep, I thought to myself that all my life I had been rushing, as if someone were chasing me. Now I want to take a moment to rest, get away from the thirst and obsession of needing more.
Someone once said, “It is great happiness to get something you want. But it is even greater happiness to not want something you do not have.”
If I take a look around the world, there may be people who live an even more hectic life than myself. For example, there are children who go straight to private tutoring classes after school. They come home late at night to fall asleep right away.
And there are politicians who make speeches here and there all day long and even have dinner two or three times to talk to more people. What kind of serious policy could come out of such busy people?
They cause useless debates and controversies by speaking useless tough words and using vague expressions. I wish they would no longer create unnecessary trouble, making people sick and tired, but concentrate their efforts on making politics more trustworthy and making people’s lives more comfortable.
Also, I wish politicians would free themselves from the obsession that they know what is best and have to take care of everything themselves. Sometimes it is best to just leave things the way they are, and sometimes there are things that are better left to subordinates.
President Theodore Roosevelt of the United States once said that a great leader is someone who can identify talented people to whom he can entrust important tasks and someone who has the self-restraint to let them do their work without interruption.
In Catholicism, there is such a thing called a retreat. It is a process where you depart from the complex world for a certain period of time and stay in a quiet place, praying, contemplating and listening to sermons. Even a day or two at such a retreat leaves people feeling clean and refreshed, both physically and spiritually, and energetic.
Even if you are not a believer, going to a nearby church or temple when you have problems, and just sitting there for a while, or perhaps just walking down a quiet road, can help refresh your mind.
I recommend all who live a busy life, including our political leaders, to take the time to rest and refresh themselves. I also think that I should live like that.
There are people who complain that flowers are blooming a little late this year compared to previous years, but the season will repeat its cycle, without exception.
After spending the night in an unfamiliar place and taking the flower-filled road back to Seoul, I was reminded of an essay written by Pierre Sansot, who said life is a fortune that he wants to use sparingly.
* The writer is a senior attorney at Shin & Kim. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Kyung-han