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A Knife Not Sharpened Grows DullA         fter completing grammar school, I moved to Seoul and lived alone in the HeuksokD...
Kyongsong Institute of Commerce and Industry had a policy that the students would taketurns cleaning their own classrooms....
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Small group experiment a knife not sharpened grows dull


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Small group experiment a knife not sharpened grows dull

  1. 1. A Knife Not Sharpened Grows DullA fter completing grammar school, I moved to Seoul and lived alone in the HeuksokDong neighborhood while attending the Kyongsong Institute of Commerce and Industry. Thewinter in Seoul was extremely cold. It was normal for the temperature to fall to minus twentydegrees Celsius, and when it did, the Han River would freeze over. The house where I livedwas on a ridge, and there was no running water. We drew our water from a well that was sodeep it took more than ten arm-lengths of rope for the pail to reach the water below. The ropekept breaking, so I made a chain and attached it to the pail. Each time I brought water up,though, my hands would freeze to the chain and I could only keep them warm by blowing onthem.To fight the cold, I used my knitting talents. I made a sweater, thick socks, a cap, and gloves.The hat was so stylish that when I wore it around town people would think I was a woman.I never heated my room, even on the coldest winter days, mainly because I didn’t have themoney to do so. I also felt that having a roof over my head when I slept meant that I wasliving in luxury compared to homeless people forced to find ways to keep themselves warmon the streets. One day, it was so cold I slept while holding a light bulb against my bodyunder the quilt, like a hot-water bottle. During the night, I burned myself on the hot bulb,causing some skin to peel. Even now, when someone mentions Seoul, the first thing thatcomes to mind is how cold it was back then.My meals consisted of a bowl of rice and never more than one side dish, whereas averageKorean meals include up to twelve side dishes. It was always one meal, one dish. One sidedish was enough. Even today, because of the habit I formed while living alone, I don’t needmany side dishes at my meals. I prefer to have just one side dish that is prepared well. When Isee a meal that has been prepared with many side dishes, it only seems troublesome to me. Inever ate lunch while attending school in Seoul. I became accustomed to eating just twomeals a day while roaming around the hills as a child. I continued this lifestyle until I wasnearly thirty. My time in Seoul gave me a good understanding of how much work goes intomanaging a household.I returned to Heuksok Dong in the 1980s and was surprised to find the house where I oncelived still standing. The room where I lived and the courtyard where I used to hang mylaundry were still there. I was sad to see, though, that the well where I had to blow on myhands while pulling up pails of water was gone.During my time in Heuksok Dong, I adopted for myself the motto, “Before seeking todominate the universe, first perfect your ability to dominate yourself.” This means that tohave the strength to save the nation and save the world, I first had to train my own body. Itrained myself through prayer and meditation and through sports and exercise programs. As aresult, I would not be swayed by hunger or any other emotion or desire of the physical body.Even when I ate a meal, I would say, “Rice, I want you to become the fertilizer for the workthat I am preparing myself to do.” I learned boxing, soccer, and self-defense techniques.Because of this, although I have gained some weight since I was young, I still have theflexibility of a young person.
  2. 2. Kyongsong Institute of Commerce and Industry had a policy that the students would taketurns cleaning their own classrooms. In my class, I decided to clean the classroom every dayby myself. I did not do this as some kind of punishment. It was an expression of my desirethat welled up naturally from within to love the school more than anyone else. In thebeginning, others would try to help, but they could see I didn’t appreciate this and preferred todo it alone. Eventually my classmates decided, “Go ahead. Do it by yourself.” And so thecleaning became my job.I was an unusually quiet student. Unlike my classmates, I didn’t engage in idle chatter, and Iwould often go an entire day without speaking a word. This may have been the reason that,although I never engaged in physical violence, my classmates treated me with respect andwere careful how they acted in my presence. If I went to the toilet and there was a line ofstudents waiting their turn, they would immediately let me go first. If someone had a problem,I was frequently the one they sought out for advice.I was very persistent in asking questions during class, and there were more than a fewteachers who were stumped by my questions. For example, when we were learning a newformula in mathematics or physics class, I would ask, “Who made this formula? Pleaseexplain it to us step by step so that I can understand it exactly,” and refused to back downuntil I got clear answers. I was relentless with my teachers, digging deeper and deeper. Icouldn’t accept any principle in the world until I had taken it apart and figured it out formyself. I found myself wishing I had been the person to first discover such a beautifulformula. The stubborn character that had made me cry all night as a little boy was making itsappearance in my studies as well. Just as when I prayed, I poured myself completely into mystudies and invested my full sincerity and dedication.Any task we do requires sincerity and dedication, and not just for a day or two. It needs to bea continuous process. A knife used once and never sharpened turns dull. The same is true withsincerity and dedication. We need to continue our efforts on a daily basis with the thoughtthat we are sharpening our blade daily. Whatever the task, if we continue the effort in thisway, we eventually reach a mystical state. If you pick up a paintbrush and focus yoursincerity and dedication on your hand and say to yourself, “A great artist will come and helpme,” and concentrate your mind, you can create a wonderful painting that will inspire theworld.I dedicated myself to learning how to speak faster and more accurately than anyone else. Iwould go into a small anteroom where no one could hear me and practice tongue-twisters outloud. I practiced pouring out what I wanted to say very quickly. Eventually, I was able to sayten words in the time that it took others to say just one. Even now, though I am old, I canspeak very quickly. Some say that I speak so quickly that they have difficulty understandingme, but my heart is in such a hurry that I cannot bear to speak slowly. My mind is full ofthings I want to say. How can I slow down?In that sense, I am very much like my grandfather, who enjoyed talking with people.Grandfather could go three or four hours talking to people in our home’s guest room,explaining to them his views on the events of the day. I am the same way. When I am withpeople and there is good communication of heart, I completely lose track of time, and I don’tknow if night is falling or if the sun is rising. The words in my heart form an unstoppableflow. When I am like this, I don’t want to eat; I just want to talk. It’s difficult for the peoplewho are listening, and beads of sweat begin to appear on their foreheads. Sweat is runningdown my face, too, as I continue talking, and they dare not ask to excuse themselves andleave. We often end up staying up all night together.
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