[VIEWPOINT]Accept limits, look for strengthsThese days I recall the words of an acquaintance who used to say, “I think of all the personages of the Chinese novel ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms,’ Sima Yi is the most attractive personality. There was nothing unusual about him except one thing: He knew that he was no match for Zhuge Liang. He was fully aware of the fact that he would be defeated if he fought against him. He knew it very clearly.
“Imagine that that was the only talent Sima Yi had. Then you can understand that it was of no use, however wonderful the military strategies Zhuge Liang might have used. However hard Zhuge Liang tried to engage in battle so that he could get a chance to kill Sima Yi, he never succeeded in luring him to a battleground, because Sima Yi had always run away from Zhuge Liang. Ultimately, the three kingdoms were unified by Sima Yi’s grandson, Sima Yan,” he said.
Later I realized what he meant to say: Sima Yi could lay the cornerstone of unification of the three kingdoms because he knew the limits of his own capacity precisely.
It also reminded me of my childhood. I wanted to be a pianist. During my fifth and sixth years of primary school, I studied piano without paying tuition. The director of the piano school was very fond of wine, and he made a deal with my mother that he would teach me how to play a piano in return for free drinks at my mother’s restaurant.
But the piano school was closed after two years and I had to give up the dream of becoming a pianist.
During my middle and high school days, I dreamed of becoming a painter because of a fine art teacher’s high appraisal of my painting skill. I met him in the first year of middle school. He used to tell me that I was gifted, and established an extracurricular class in fine arts and bought a sketchbook and a charcoal pencil for me.
I dreamed of becoming a painter while attending the fine arts class, although I was the only student in the class. But I had to give up that dream of becoming a painter as well to prepare for my university entrance examinations. I had no chance for private lessons in painting. So, I felt it foolhardy to submit an application to a college of fine arts.
Since then, I started to think about myself. My family was poor. There was no one who was willing to invest money for my dreams. I did not have money either. I could dream my dreams, but I should not dream a dream that cost money. Then what was a dream that could be accomplished without money?
At the age of 19, I decided to become a writer. There were various reasons behind the decision, but the fact that becoming a writer didn’t cost money was the biggest attraction. If one wants to be a writer, what is required is reading, deep thinking and writing in earnest. One can read as many books as one wants for free if one goes to a library. Thinking can be done at any place at no cost, and writing needs only a pencil and a notebook.
Some people may ask whether I regret my decision because I gave up my dreams too easily and too early. But I have never regretted the choices I made. How many people are there around us who became like monsters by being caught in frustration because they clung to something that they could not achieve with their ability?
Parents tell their children, “You can do it.” But they can’t tell them properly what things they can do well. Wishing that their children could do something better than other children, they teach them various things. But people do not pay proper attention to the things in which their children lag behind other children and the limits of their children. When parents admit and accommodate the limits in their children’s capabilities, they can start to think about things that their children can do better, with the thought, “This is not suitable for him; there must be something else.”
We often hear stories of people who went bankrupt because they could not pay interest on the bank loan they took out to buy a house and a piece of land, or lost a fortune after selling a house in a hurry because they could not meet high living costs in the Gangnam area.
Our society has been filled with bubbles because many people do not want to admit the limits in their capabilities. When people know their limits accurately, they will reflect on themselves and think, “I am not capable of doing this. So what are the things that I can do?”
*The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Myeong-rang