Postscripts, one to four

Postscript [one]

Tuesday, 14 April 1998

I am 18 days from Singapore, 21 days from Johannesburg. I have twelve working days (and one class) left. Twenty kilogrammes of luggage have already been sent. I’m currently reading through my old newspapers. I plan to do absolutely nothing next week, just sit on my couch and wait for the time to pass.

I feel excited, a little anxious, perhaps a scrap sentimental. All previous references to this time were made within a certain context – work, people, weather, money, experience, time, emotions, and so on. Now that the long-awaited “last days” have arrived, I think of all those times, but naturally I’m more affected by the current situation.

The past three months or so have been like a magnifying glass. I know I am at a crossroads, an important new part of my life, and the bridge leading to it will soon be crossed. This is one of those times I would later remember as intellectually and emotionally meaningful. This is the ground from which profound meaning sprouts, a time to which one later refers back as a direction pointer, a determinant of future. The path I will embark on within a week or three will always have its beginning in Korea, in these last days.

I do feel the temptation to ask, in summary: What now?

I am going to focus on what is important to me – knowledge, freedom from a world that makes no sense to me and that holds no attraction for me, and financial independence. These dreams, and much more are within my reach in my own country.

I have to pursue my dreams until they’ve been fulfilled, or until there is no more life left in me. I knew that when I came here. I know it now.

I have made a full circle. I’m ready.

Postscript, two

Sunday, 19 April 1998

I grew up in a world where the church minister was the highest authority in the community when it came to ethics, morality and theology, and the state president was the highest authority in the field of political judgment and justice. If these two characters said white supremacy was right, then that was the way it was. How else?

Enough of that. I finally saw light in all these areas. Today I live in a world where there are no clear lines, or markers that indicate the path that one must take. Each person must sort that out for himself.

What I have learned is that money is more important than many other things in life. The more you have, the better. In the world I inhabit it is every person for himself. There is little mercy for the poor guy, and many rewards for the rich man or woman.

I’m not interested in the illusion of security promised by companies and corporations. People build their homes on foundations that are provided by, or are on loan from other people or businesses, only to find out one day to their shock and grief, and that of their families, that the foundations could crumble overnight. Why should I commit myself to such a world if I already have this knowledge, and have already experienced the shock, grief and humiliation?

Where is my place in this world? The answer is, I don’t have a place. If I want to feel sun on my skin, I’d have to sort that out in my own way with the Source. I should forget about self-appointed agents of the Sun who promise warmth and light, but on their terms.

Postscript, three

A snippet information from another source:

“People who are believers in themselves are usually pessimistic about the world, but optimistic that they can make a difference, can persevere, by going against society’s grain, trends and habits because conformity is the bottom line that must never be crossed. Mad at the world but secure in their own, these people are like missionaries, seeking converts to subscribe to their own views. They are pessimistic about the fact that the majority will never change, but optimistic that they will personally make a difference.”

(Korea Herald, 25 October 1996)

Postscript, four

Friday, 24 April 1998

Every now and then the question of a single ambition, a single focus comes up. Often, this has to do with other people’s perception of you – or at least what you think they think of you. When this question arises, you sometimes feel the urgent and intense need to hang a poster around your neck that says: “This is what I am. This is what my life is about.”

There are also times when you are tempted to be defiant, when you want to say: “I know who I am. I know what my dreams and ambitions are, and I don’t care what other people think about it.”

The problem is, few people are so independent and confident about themselves that what other people think of them is absolutely of no relevance. Even though I sometimes think I’m immune to it, the opposite seems to be true – I am very aware of other people’s opinions of who I am and what I do.

This leaves me with a clear problem. Since I don’t have a single word – “Student”, “Engineer”, “Journalist” or “Teacher” – to hang around my neck, I am exposed to other people’s views or perceptions of me that I am an unrealistic dreamer – a man of big words, but not of action.

Three possible solutions may be suggested: 1) I can avoid all the people whose opinions and views of me I regard as important; 2) I can hope for concrete success within a reasonable period, supported by verbal assurances that the success is part of the bigger picture that I have in mind; 3) I can try and hoodwink people with something that might impress them for the moment – that I am planning to go to Europe in a month or two, or something similar.

Fact is, there’s a tough road ahead of me. I expect that most people will not be impressed with my detailed explanations of my dreams and ambitions. I expect that most people will think I’m an unrealistic dreamer, a man of big words but not of action. Expect it to sometimes hit between the ribs.

In conclusion, and in view of renewed focus, how would I answer when a stranger – or a friend – flings the question of a single ambition, a singular determination in my direction?

“Power – to do what I want to do,” I will answer without looking in their direction, as if I am saying it to everyone who has ever wanted to know, or who has wanted to ask but didn’t expect an answer, or who had asked but did not understand.

Final night in Chonju
On my way home – May 1998