Confession is good for real man’s soul
He was a warrior, with strong shoulders and toned torso. When he passed away two years ago, he disappeared from the world poignantly and proudly. Until the last minute of consciousness, he refused an ambulance. He was fully in control of his life and ended it without spending time in a hospital. His wife - his “other half,” as he called her - said, “He lived his life just as he wanted, and he had no regrets.” Lee Yun-gi, translator, writer and literary scholar, was 64.
In reality, he was a self-tormenting person, often revealing everything about himself in his writing. He addressed the recklessness and arrogance from his early years, and the complex mentality of an intellectual. He confessed his faults without seeking forgiveness.
I once asked him, “Are you pretending to be good or evil? If you want other people to trust you for being so honest, you are a hypocrite pretending to be good. If you want other people not to mess with you, you are a hypocrite pretending to be evil.”
His answer? “I am neither .?.?. I am struggling to not pretend to be anything. If you are not critical of yourself, you would be posing as an expert and end up making a fatal mistake. It is so much better to admit that I am not an expert and still learning new things.”
So self-torment was one of the techniques the great intellectual used to survive in a turbulent world. His father had already died when he was born to a poor family and he dropped out of theological school. He translated more than 200 literary and humanities books, received the prestigious Ding-in Literary Award and published the best-seller series “Lee Yun-gi’s Greek and Roman Mythologies.” Korea’s mainstream constantly questioned his authority, but he brushed off banal curiosity with confessions that were honest and straightforward.
A few days ago, I met another self-tormented man, Professor Kim Doo-sik of Kyungpook National University College of Law. His new book, “It’s Okay to Have Desires,” is all about confession. He lived his life within a boundary of norms, but now admits and openly discusses his desires. If Lee Yun-gi’s life was full of adventures and actions, Professor Kim’s may be the exemplary textbook. However, he is just as frank and critical about himself, probing and prodding desires that had been suppressed by religious taboos and secular expectations. He advises readers to consider their own lives rather than condemning others.
Whenever a woman says what’s on her mind, says Jang Seong-gi, the charismatic philanderer in the film “All About My Wife,” always respond, “Ah, you are so right.” He would listen to any story and open up. He would not judge the moment. That’s exactly what Professor Kim meant. Be a man and confess your desire, and you will be not only free but also attractive.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree