[FOUNTAIN]Taking a step backWe cannot hide our backs. How we appear in the back is so honest that it makes us feel sad. Recognizing someone by their back is possible only between really close acquaintances. The moment you see a person’s face, the truth can become obscured with their facial expressions and body language. The French photographer Edouard Boubat is famous for his pictures of people’s backs. Boubat stares at his objects from behind for his unique out-of-focus black and white photographs. Michel Tournier, who has been often nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, wrote that the “backside reveals the truth” in Boubat’s photo album.
Shoichiro Honda founded the Honda Motor Company. With the success of the air-cooling system in October 1973, he quit his job without hesitating. He tapped Vice President Fujisawa Takeo’s shoulder and asked, “How about it now?”
“Yes, okay. It was a pleasure. I was happy working with you,” said Fujisawa. The two stood up quietly. They never came back. Shoichiro Honda showed his back when the company reached its peak. This tradition of leaving when you are at the peak is still alive in Honda.
Jeong Tae-hwa was prime minister during King Hyojong of Joseon Dynasty. During the war against the Manchurian invasion, he fought bravely. He served three terms as prime minister. Once he was accused of enjoying loud music and disregarding his neighbors. From that time on he asked the king 37 times to accept his resignation as a measure of self-reflection. It is the highest number recorded in the Joseon Dynasty. “When people tell you to stay, it is time for you to leave.” That is the word he left for his followers.
This year, many figures left the stage. The prime minister left due to a golf scandal. Prominent lawmakers from the opposition party are likely to leave for receiving briberies. The number of prosecutorial investigations is getting alarming as time goes on. Executives from large companies and high-ranking economic officials are trembling. There will be a large number of people leaving soon. But I hope at least they would not leave in a bad way.
This is a part of Lee Hyung-gi’s poem Nakhwa, falling flower. “How beautiful is the back of the person/ who knows when to leave/ knowing clearly/ ... like the falling flowers/ blessed by the wonderfully designated separation from the tree/now is the time for us to leave.” Even the flowers know when to leave.
Come to think of it, it makes me wonder. What would the back appearances of us all look like? Today of all days, I would like to suggest taking a picture of just my back.
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.