Ever look at or listen to a "star" and assume he/she had it "easier" than you? Check this out.
If you believe you are too busy, or feel frustrated by the time it takes to view this, imagine what 22 year old Choi Sung-Bong from Korea must have endured, the patience it must have taken, the persistence to believe in life, when all seemed lost. His story is a golden reminder that the story of transformed suffering -- that endeavor to turn what is asleep and leaden in our lives into what is fully alive and golden -- is global and cross-cultural. The instinct to bring forward what is within our hearts is embedded into our very cellular structure, pushing for expression regardless the odds.
Perhaps this is in part what irks us so much when we see the dysfunctional antics of politicians at work. Their power games, their stalling, their refusal to move forward from the dung heap of their thinking, reflects human nature at its very worst. Whenever we are held hostage by those who are sleep-walking is the time to take back the reigns to our own life. A refusal to bend, to compromise and to address what is needed for evolution goes against the very grain of awakening to the gift of life. Whenever life force is squandered we lose hope; we fall victim to despair, anger and resentment. So when someone refuses to roll over and play dead, we do well to pay attention for it reignites the creative fire in our belly to do better.
Choi, a manual worker by day, was abandoned at an orphanage at the age of three. He was beaten by the people who took him in and ran away by five. He slept in public toilets by night and sold sticks of gum in the day for over 10 years. He did not whine, stamp his feet or say "no" to life. He dealt with what was before him. He did not take his conditions personally. This courageous young man is a living example of the potency of belief in sincerity finding its voice. Even for those who mutter to themselves, "I've heard it all before," this story has its particulars that cannot fail to humble those of us who catch ourselves in a bit too much whining, and a bit too little rejoicing for what is before and within us.
Who is the "different person" Sung-Bong finds within himself when he sings? That "other" is nothing less than the self, the soul, finding its way in a world that is generally far too preoccupied to care -- and specifically, a world fascinated by far too many stories of "ain't it awful" tabloid or governmental high dramas. How refreshing it is to be reminded that the gold in life is worth the work it takes to harvest that which is within.
Witnessing such a story is powerful because it challenges us to ask ourselves whether we are settling for a life too small. Is the conversation we are having one that invests in greater possibilities, or greater limitations? Are we allowing ourselves to be side-tracked by the unexpected, and even annoying, challenges that have presented themselves in our lives, or are we remembering to "take five," as the saying goes, and pare down to the essential?
Like Choi Sung-Bong, are you willing to use your circumstances and conditions as a launchpad from which to shine? Not shine for the "glory" of it, or the fame of it (a limited shelf-life at best), but for the sheer desire to give voice to what is within because it is there to give. Perhaps the music he makes resonates with us, in part because it is driven not by obligation, duty or self-aggrandizement, but out of sheer delight. He does not deny his earlier circumstances. Like a rose, he grows from dark compost. His contribution is not in spite of his history, but comes through it. The best of all is that he has, as the old song put it, "only just begun."
Everyone has their story -- their saga of personal suffering. We all know people who insist that they cannot "do better" because of their history, their parents, their family, their DNA or what they ate last night that gave them spiritual indigestion. In fact, if we are completely honest, who cannot recall a time when we did not "milk" our "woe is me" situation longer than necessary just to garner a tad more attention? Or, as Andriette Earl has pointed out so beautifully, perhaps we hesitate so long at the fire because we'd like to have a few more folks notice the "flames licking at our heels" and get more credit?
Consider what story you would write with your life if you were abandoned as a toddler, beaten, ran away, raised yourself for 10 years on the streets, slept on a urine soaked floor and lived alone? There are those, I know, who have these stories. Then there are those of us who grew up in a home, were raised by imperfect parents (to the best of their ability) -- by mothers and/or fathers who tried to give us more than they'd been given. Maybe our lives were not perfect. Maybe our families were "dysfunctional." Maybe we lived in a good neighborhood or a lousy one. Maybe "the deck" we've been handed has more than its share of hard knocks. The thing is, however, what matters is not so much what our history has been, but our interpretation of who we are in relationship to our world today -- by virtue of letting who we are at the core shine forth -- which is something much stronger, more irresistible than the stale old stories we tell ourselves. The issue is not one of "doing," but first, as did Choi, listening. Noticing what affects us deeply and then committing to that unique something within, even when, like him, we do not believe we are very good at what makes us happy.
Related or not, by blood or nationality, when we hear Choi sing our own heart strings are pulled in a remarkable way. In that moment he is our son, our brother or sister, our mother or father, our grandmother or grandfather. He demonstrates what it is to break through perceived limitations, and step out and up. As the hero in Amistead said long ago: "I am my ancestors' dream." Amen to that. Heroes and heroines peel back the layers of disappointments and fears, and break through their own traditional story of misery -- shining through the darkness. This is nothing less than miraculous.
You might be asking yourself what makes it possible for one person to step out of the shadows like this -- and lift our spirit through the humble offering of their gift, like this young man -- versus one who shrinks back, plays small and makes excuses? Very simply: It is the nature of the conversation we are having with ourselves. The good news is that it's never too late to shift the way we converse when we are talking with ourselves!
Choi reminds us of the power of courage -- yes courage -- which comes when giving comes not out of obligation, but from joy. Gilbran puts it this way in "The Prophet" "On Giving":
"And there are those who give and know not pain in giving...
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these, God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth."
Your turn: Who inspires you most? Whether you know the person or not, it doesn't matter. What inspires you? I'm listening and learning from you, my teachers. Wishing you every blessing. I will be back in September after holiday, and beginning a new chapter in my own life. You are in my heart. Cara
His is the dream of his people's people. So are we.
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