[Outlook]Silence leads to true inspirationA boy was born on Feb. 11, 1847. As he grew up, he did not receive any attention at school. His teacher did not hesitate to address him by saying “You stupid.” His official schooling ended in less than half a year. What’s worse, he lost much of his hearing in his adolescence. However, he still invented the phonograph, not to mention light bulbs. By the time he died, he had as many as 1,093 patents filed under his name ― Thomas Edison.
Edison’s inventions in the 19th century created a better life in the 20th century and opened up a new future. What encouraged him in his work? The long and deep silence to which he confined himself when he was focusing on his experiments.
There is a famous quote by Mr. Edison. “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Of course inspiration sparked his creativity and he supplied sufficient perspiration when he tried more than 300 materials before finding the right one for the filament of a light bulb.
But there is one thing that we should not overlook. His inspiration and perspiration would never have been if it had not been for his deep silence. The inventor found inspiration when he had time to himself. Because he locked himself in his laboratory, he was able to invent many devices. Thanks to his inventions, the 20th century was radically different from the 19th. When Mr. Edison blocked out noises and complications from the outer world, he found the creative ideas that led to inventions.
Meanwhile, 17 years ago, a man completed a jail sentence on Feb. 11, 1990. He walked out of a prison gate after spending some 10,000 days inside. His name is Nelson Mandela.
He began as a lawyer ready to take up arms to fight apartheid, but after spending a long time alone in jail, he realized that reconciliation and forgiveness were more valuable than fighting and confrontation.
Achieving peace of mind allowed him to endure 27 years in notorious jails ― one on Robben Island and the other at Pollsmoor. If he had brooded over his anger, regrets and obstinacy, he could never have endured even a single year.
When Mr. Mandela was in jail, he prepared for a long journey to freedom. In jail, where he was isolated, he ended the 20th century’s vicious cycle of enmity, jealousy, conflicts and fights and dreamed of forgiveness, reconciliation and unity in the 21st century. He sacrificed power to make dreams come true.
While in the prison of frustration in the 20th century, he opened a future of hope for the 21st. But we often forget that the 10,000 days he spent in jail were the true source of his power. We only remember his fancy career, including winning a Nobel Peace Prize and serving as the president of the Republic of South Africa.
I heard a story about how Buddhist monks practice Zen. Seeking enlightenment, a monk locks himself inside a room that has only a hole through which food is passed in. He gets food once a day and spends a month in the room, meditating on a single subject.
Today, we need the same thing that inspired Thomas Edison, Nelson Mandela and Buddhist monks. We should think hard before saying anything. I hope to see people who pretend or appear to be leaders spending a lot of time on their own in order to create a better future.
A future is not something that comes to us. It is something that we go to. We should not idly wait for the future. Instead, we can shape our future through our own will and efforts. A future is decided by what you look for and where you want to go. We should remember that the real driving force to make a better future is the inspiration found in deep silence.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong
More in Columns
A new epicenter of social conflict
Lessons from a president
Tales of Chairman Lee
Chinese way of tackling challenges
Time to step up climate action