Making the world a better place

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Making the world a better place

I sensed that something was off earlier this month as I read the news about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to donate a huge sum of money to charity. He and his wife plan to give 99 percent of their Facebook shares, currently worth more than $45 billion, to philanthropic causes so that their daughter Max and other children “will grow up in a world that is better than the one we know now.”

But instead of being moved by the story, I felt cross. Good for you, Zuckerberg, for being so young, for having such a loving family and for being so rich.

This year, I never got lost in the Himalayas, nor did I have to fight off the last tiger in Korea. So why am I so cranky?

I’m flipping through next year’s calendar, but there is no hope, nothing to anticipate. However, as I was sitting there thinking, a few of the books piled on my desk caught my eye.

The first was “Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception,” in which author Joseph Hallinan illustrates through various experiments on animals and humans that our circumstances can actually change if we simply believe, “I can do it.” In fact, he urges his readers to deceive themselves.

As a young man, Ray Bradbury, the acclaimed author of “Fahrenheit 451,” accumulated a wall full of rejection letters from publishers and editors. But he believed in himself and wrote his stories on butcher paper for hours at a time. Looking back on his youth, he said, “The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”

Then I found another book. This year, as a culture reporter, I have had to read one book a week and write a review; so I’ve read at least 52 books. My favorite was Gregor Eisenhauer’s “The Ten Most Important Questions of Life - Answered in a Nutshell.” Eisenhauer, who wrote obituaries for the German daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, wrote about the lives and deaths of ordinary people who had no reason to be in the news. He understood the profundity of everyday life. As a young man, he suffered from a variety of sicknesses but was still surprisingly cheerful. Before his death, he wrote: “Bravery is not always about shouting out loud. It could be the quiet whisper at the end of the day to try again tomorrow.”

The last book I want to introduce deserves some pause. “Mom, It’s Me” is a collection of poems written for the Danwon High School students who perished in the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014.

“Dad, I am sorry for staying by your side so briefly, leaving before I turn 20.”

“Mom, I am so happy that you are my mother, and I will always be.”

The stories of the children end with hope. “Spring is coming. Please dream a warm dream in the spring.”

With just a week left in 2015, I have made up my mind to be better next year. My impact may not be as great as Zuckerberg’s, but I will try harder to make the world a better place for the children who were forced to leave this world far too early.

The author is a culture and sports writer
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 23, Page 34

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