With crisis comes opportunityWhen a mother lost her son, she was devastated. Instead of holding a funeral, she held him in her arms and searched for anyone who could bring him back to life. She begged, “Please save my son. Give him any medicine to revive him.” She visited Buddha, hoping that he would be able to save him. She placed her dead son down and said, “Please save my son.” Buddha said, “You have to get three mustard seeds from a house where no one has died before.”
The mother went to the village and visited every single house, asking if anyone had ever died there. But she couldn’t find a house that had never experienced death before. She came back empty handed, and Buddha said, “You believed that you are the only one who lost a child. But death comes to every living soul. Before your desires are fulfilled, death will take you.”
Understanding the teachings of Buddha, she accepted the death of her son.
The story does not end here. Having realized the meaning of life and death, the mother entered priesthood and attained enlightenment.
After the accident, the Republic of Korea has become the mother who lost her son. The funerals and memorial services are still in progress. We held the victims in our arms and shouted at the Coast Guards, the bureaucrats and the president to bring the children back to life. We couldn’t accept their deaths.
We also doubted that our nation was functioning properly.
The Sewol ferry disaster has drawn us into grief. People feel too guilty to go back to life as usual.
I read the episode of the mother who lost her child again. How did she turn her despair into hope? How could she let her son leave her arms? How did she become a religious ascetic and attain enlightenment? I asked again and again.
Then I realized that the Sewol ferry is a mud hole. It is a quagmire of despair and anger. But underneath the surface lies great energy. It may seem like the energy of fury, but if you look closely and ask yourself where the anger is headed, you will see its true identity. It is a tremendous energy desperately craving change and reform of society. It is the same energy that drove the mother who experienced sudden loss into understanding the meaning of life and death.
The time has come to use the energy of the Sewol ferry to take the Republic of Korea further. If we don’t, the ship will capsize again. There are people who want to use the accident with political intention. That’s why we need the right rudder. The captain of Korea has to sail the ship. President Park’s navigation skills are facing a historic trial. The need to rebuild the nation is something both the conservatives and the progressives agree upon. No one, not the bureaucrats, opposition party nor media, can deny the need for reform.
The great crisis poses a great opportunity. Lotus flowers grow from mud. To me, the Sewol ferry is a muddy pond waiting to bloom.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 24, Page 30
*The author is a deputy culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
BY BAIK SUNG-HO