But for most ordinary people, feelings are expressed through the eyes. Among a person’s sensory organs, the eyes are the most important. The eyes serve as the windows to the mind. What one thinks and feels is directly delivered to other people through the eyes. Eyes are an important tool for attainting understanding and sympathy among people.
A pupil can become as large as 8 millimeters in diameter and as small as 2 millimeters. A pupil enlarges or shrinks as it responds to light and also as it reacts to its owner’s feelings. When one has favorable feelings toward another, one’s pupils become large. A gentle glance is the result of the movement of the pupils.
When one is experiencing hostile or negative feelings, one’s pupils become smaller. As dark pupils shrink, the white of the eyes appears larger. When one looks at another person out of the corner of one’s eyes, it gives the impression that one’s eyes are completely white. The Chinese expression “looking with the white of the eye” refers to ignoring or despising another person.
There are plenty of anecdotes about eyes in ancient Chinese literature. Lu Meng, a general of the state of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period, was an ignorant man. But through perseverance and effort, he achieved a high level of learning that astonished even scholars. This story is told in old texts using the Chinese word guamu, or gwalmok in Korean, to express their amazement. The word loosely translates as “to rub one’s eyes clean to look at another person in awe.”
The characters meaning “face” and “eyes” form the word mianmu in Chinese, or myeonmok in Korean. When a person focuses all his senses, in Korean it is said the person “uses his ears and eyes to the fullest.”
The Korean word banmok also contains the same character, and refers to the act of turning one’s face away from another and not looking them in the eye - an act of hostility and aggression.
Today, acts of banmok are commonplace in Korea’s political circles. When faced with an issue which needs cooperation, our politicians choose confrontation. Cool calculation is preferred to sincere communication.
If they keep turning their faces away without using their eyes, they will ultimately lose vision. Just as moles have lost their eyesight after living in darkness for so long, Korea’s politicians have lost the ability to communicate.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yoo Kwang-jong [firstname.lastname@example.org]