Recently I watched a historical movie that was the biggest of all time in South Korea. Myeongnyang
, or The Admiral: Roaring Currents
, was seen by about a quarter of the South Korean people and grossed over $100 million. This film portrayed Admiral Yi Soonshin’s final grand act of love for the people of his country, an act that was a culmination of a life of service, despite having been jailed by his king for acts he didn’t commit. The admiral took 12 ships from the Korean navy, the only ones he could, against 300 invading Japanese ships—and won.
Watching the movie, I was very touched by Admiral Yi Soonshin loyalty. Before going into battle, he said something to the effect of, “I don’t think we’re going to win this battle, either. Actually, this is a battle where we go to our deaths. So, then, if we avoid this fight, will we be able to live? How many of our people and how many prisoners of war have those Japanese right there brutally killed? Instead of fighting, would you just let yourself meet the same death as those people? Then which death will you choose? You’re not the only ones who are afraid, I’m afraid, too. But if we could really stake our lives and fight and if we could just change that fear into courage, we can win. . . . Those who try to live in this war will certainly die, while those who seek to die, will live.”
Yes, when we live and die for a love of something that is greater than ourselves, that requires fulfilling more than our own needs, that’s when we really live. We grow and expand and become something more when we express a greater love, which is loyalty to a group, a nation, or even a cause. In Korean, this kind of love is called Choong
Although it is not the ultimate, unconditional love
, Choong is the next step beyond our love for ourselves and our love for our family toward the greatest love. It takes us beyond our own personal experience to concepts that we could never see, hear, and touch in totality.
I feel that with the connectedness that the internet and our many portable devices gives us, we have become more individualistic and have forgotten about Choong. It seems like an outdated concept. Our electronic connectedness makes the world seem more fluid, without borders or group identities. While this effect is good in some ways, it removes the opportunity to practice Choong and grow our awareness and our capacity to love as a result.
Choong especially gives you the chance to learn how to focus on a central point or axis
. In order for any group to thrive, its members must remain loyal to it, and that means that all should revolve, like the earth around the sun, around its center.
That center is composed of the principles of the group, the common goal of the group, and the leader of the group. These three things create a balance without which the core of the group would be weak. If everyone in a group keeps the core in mind at all times, and orient their activities and ideas around it, then the group will be successful and so will its members. The people within it will also be able to get along well
Like Admiral Yi Soonshin, there have been many heroes throughout history who have given their lives for their country or a cause, and this is important. However, expanding ourselves by demonstrating our love for a group can also be done with small acts we make in our everyday lives. Keeping the needs and wants of the group
, the core, in our minds everyday will tell us how we can express our love and what role we can play to benefit what is greater than us, becoming people of character and integrity in the process.