Truth Is My Sword Volume I -Collected Speeches in the Public Arena
by Bo Hi Pak
Art and True Love
August 6, 1989
Closing remarks made at the Third Annual Conference of the Arts at the Grosvenor House in London, England, on August 6, 1989.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Time passes by so quickly. Already it is time to bid farewell, and I look forward to seeing you again at next year's conference. Truly it can be said that our conference is unique. First of all, it brings together highly imaginative and distinguished individuals. That makes the conference very special. At the same time the topics we discuss are original. In a way, we are all like Don Quixote-and maybe we are pursuing an impossible dream or an unreachable star in searching for absolute values in the arts.
Are there such things as absolute values in human life and in art? Not only is this the theme of our conference, but it has been pondered throughout history. Many people have drawn their own conclusions and lived out their lives accordingly, and yet we know there is no agreement on the answer; the topic will certainly be debated for many years to come. Therefore, this conference gives you the burden: to dwell on these recurring fundamental questions and to strive to formulate the appropriate answers. When I think about it, I feel almost as if I have been tormenting you, so please forgive me.
In my opinion, however, regardless of your field of endeavor, the question of absolute values remains crucial to every one of us, not only in regard to art but in regard to the daily living of our lives. Our conclusions will determine the direction of our lives.
The latter part of the 20th century could be characterized as a time of great confusion. Disorder exists in both East and West in every field of endeavor and on every level. At its source our confusion is basically one of values: an uncertainty about what constitutes right and wrong, about what we choose to cherish and what we choose to abandon. Let me ask you once again: Is there such a thing as an absolute value? And, if so, where can we find it?
Absolute value implies something unchanging, permanent, perfect, and eternal. That "something" can then become the yardstick by which all human effort is measured. Our search for this standard must begin with the question of whether there exists an absolute being whose values are indeed absolute. This being could be called God, the Creator, or perhaps the Supreme Architect, the Divine in Nature, or even, as in a popular movie of a few years back, "The Force." It does not matter what we call God, but we must determine whether such an absolute authority exists in the universe, since only then can there be an absolute standard of value. This absolute being must have had a purpose for creating and, in order to realize that purpose, must have established the basic principles by which all things exist. For us, as created beings, the purpose of creation is the rout of absolute values.
In other words, absolute value is not man-made or voted on democratically; it is given, and we must abide by it. We have no choice if we intend to exist in harmony with the universe. Therefore, when we are discussing absolute values, the question really boils down to whether God, the Creator, exists in our universe.
Ladies and gentlemen, now let me offer my own opinion nn these fundamental questions. As you know, the International Conference of the Arts maintains a tradition of being a completely free and open forum. Everyone is entitled to speak his mind. If Karl Marx were alive today, we would invite him to present his views, since we recognize that the men and women of this assembly are able to draw their own conclusions. I hope you will feel relaxed as I share some personal reflections. Certainly some of you will agree to disagree, but I am honored either way.
Three Influential Men
In the 19th century, there emerged three extraordinary men who played major roles in changing the way we view the world. These men drastically changed the intellectual climate for mankind. Their ideas affected the lives of billions of people and, as it turned out, millions were killed in the name of one of them.
The first member of this notable group is Charles Darwin, who came to prominence in the mid-19th century as the author of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwin gave mankind another view of the origin of species. Seen through the glass of the evolutionist, human beings, as Darwin made clear in his book The Descent of Man, descended from apelike beings. In other words, human beings are highly evolved animals.
The second member is Karl Marx. Marx claimed to have discovered a scientific explanation of human history based on what came to be known as dialectical materialism. Marx was greatly stimulated by Darwin's idea that higher animals are the result of the war of nature. The fit survive, meaning those capable of surviving the struggle of life. According to Marx, communist society would prove itself the most fit through a series of great social struggles. Marx's dialectical materialism couches the doctrine of the "survival of the fittest" in terms of class struggle.
The third member of this trio is Sigmund Freud. Freud laid claim to having unlocked the secrets of the mind, and in so doing, it seems, disposed of the idea of sin. There would be no guilt or sin if we could remove repressive doctrines from our minds. In this way Freud said the liberation of the human mind was possible.
Together these three men accomplished a great task. In the name of science they made God seem unnecessary, undesirable, and non-existent. Of course, they could do so only against the backdrop of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. As the late French philosopher Maurice Clavel noted: "Through the Renaissance, men came to deny sin. Through the Enlightenment, they came to deny revelation. And through communism, they carne to deny God."
This anti-God, anti-religious trend bore fruit in the 20th century not just in communist countries but in the free world as well. As this century progressed, an increasingly militant form of atheism has pervaded nearly every facet of human life. Perhaps most significantly, this progressive removal of God has occurred in the name of science. Science, for these individuals, would ultimately dispense with any need or basis for the belief in God.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us shift our attention for a moment to the way in which science has developed in the 20th century. In the past nine decades, Rutherford has investigated the structure of the atom, Fermi and others have split the nucleus, Einstein has predicted and verified radical departures from Newtonian mechanics, Watson and Crick have described the DNA chain, and Hubbard has explored the depths of the galaxies.
These scientists and others dramatically changed the landscape of 20th century science. Just as we have gone from a few airborne minutes at Kitty Hawk to a man walking on the moon in just 60 years, science has left far behind the neat, mechanical, seemingly predetermined world in which our three 19th-century men operated.
Not a trained scientist, I speak as a common-sense observer. From my point of view, 20th-century science has not been the enemy of God after all. Rather, modern science, among all its revolutionary changes, has brought us to the threshold of a greater understanding of God and the origin of the universe. In no area has change in science experienced a greater revolution than in the very concept of matter itself.
The 19th-century materialistic view holds that the essence of the universe is matter and that matter is composed of tiny irreducible parts, built up layer by layer into the solid objects that we easily perceive. It is matter, and only matter, that is real. However, 20th-century science did away with this view. We no longer recognize any material particle as being fundamental and ultimate. Instead, today we hold the view that matter is composed of energy; i.e., a non-material, formless source crystallizes into the material objects in the universe. Einstein contributed to this realization with his equation of energy and matter, saying that energy and matter are interchangeable and interconvertible.
When energy becomes matter, we see everything from the myriad stars above to the water in the glasses on the tables in front of us. When matter becomes energy, we call it nuclear power. An atomic explosion takes place with the conversion of a small amount of matter into an enormous amount of energy.
Twentieth-century science turned the tables on the scientific materialists. Their rigid view now appears to be 19th-century superstition. The new concept of matter makes clear that order and lawfulness pervade the universe. Energy is not converted into matter at random but according to a precise and purposeful order. In other words, scientists have to recognize the invisible Will behind the universe. This Will-the principles, laws, ideals, and reason expressed in the universe-is an attribute of God, the First Cause. God is invisible and insubstantial yet real. In its quest to understand the nature of all things, science has come to the threshold of investigating the nature of God. Dr. Paul Davies, an author and physicist, writes of the close relationship between scientific theory and what formerly were religious questions in his book God and the New Physics. He says: "In my opinion, science offers a surer path to God than does religion." Now this is an eye-opening statement, whether you are a scientist, an artist, or a scholar.
Certainly Karl Marx's fond wish that science would finally put an end to talk of God has not come true. He was bitterly betrayed. Science is not the adversary of God but leads us to God. As Einstein remarked, "I want to know how God created the world. I want to know His thoughts. The rest are details."
What then are absolute values? To begin with, there can be no absolute value unless there is an absolute being. As I said, this being is God, the Creator, and God has created a certain standard of value that is incorruptible and eternal. Once we accept the existence of God, and that God created all things, it follows that God created with a purpose. Why did God create? He created for the sake of joy. Like each of us God wants to be happy, and why not?
Why do you artists toil, practically torturing yourselves to create? You strive for artistic achievement, but the bottom line is the satisfaction that such achievement brings-the joy. This applies not only to artists but to businessmen, athletes, scholars, even politicians. Why make money? Why create a masterpiece? Why seek honor, fame, reputation, power, glory? The bottom line is the pursuit of happiness. We act to feel joy and satisfaction.
All of these human characteristics come from the Original Maker. This is God's character also. Among the many things that bring us joy, what is the greatest of all? The answer of course is love, true love. The give and take of love creates the greatest joy between people. That is true between God and man, between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, and among all human beings. After all, what is art? Art is the expression of love. When you remove the element of love from the greatest masterpieces of art, they are reduced to nothing. Take a great work by Shakespeare. If the elements of love are removed from Romeo and Juliet, it is more miserable than removing all the alcohol from beer.
One word of warning. There are two types of love. One is pure, genuine, and sacrificial, the noblest of all values. There is, however, a selfish, dirty, and perverted kind of love. The dividing line is motivation. The love that seeks its own benefit at the expense of others is not true love. It does not bring joy to God, for it is unlike God's love.
We conclude that we want true love and that with God we find absolute value. The value of true love is absolute. It has been established by God as the fundamental value of the universe. All other values exist in relation to the fulfillment of God's original purpose of creation, which is the propagation of true love. The value of true love does not change. For example, 4,000 years ago the parental devotion of Jacob for his son Benjamin had the same quality as that which you have for your son and daughter.
Several months ago, a Northwest jet crashed while attempting to take off from Detroit. Tragically, the only survivor was a small girl who was traveling with her parents. As the plane lost control and began to dive, the girl's mother covered the little girl with her own body. As a result the mother died but the little girl survived. This is an example of the love of parents for their children. A pure love seeks to sacrifice itself for the other.
True love is the most powerful force in the universe and yet it is completely insubstantial and intangible. It is natural that the source of absolute value would not be a tangible, physical object. No matter how much money you have, it is not permanent. Jewelry can be stolen. Your house might burn down, and it might not even be insured. Your physical body will inevitably age and come to an end. No physical being could be the standard of absolute value. Absoluteness is a quality of the spirit. For this reason the eternal God created each of us with a spirit that is eternal to allow us to experience true love for all of eternity.
Art and Attainment
Honesty, purity, unselfishness-these are the absolute, permanent qualities of God. Wise persons devote themselves to the pursuit of that which is absolute and permanent, even though it is invisible and intangible. Truth, beauty, and goodness, the qualities that artists strive to attain, comprise the attributes of God. All creation reflects these divine qualities. Everything that God made is true; there is no hypocrisy or falseness in the creation.
God's creation also embodies goodness. Human history unfolds as a succession of struggles between good and evil, the result of man having separated from God. God always stands on the side of good and, in the end, goodness will prevail, perhaps not immediately but it will bear fruit. Our earthly life is not the end; there is an eternal spiritual life. If we do not experience full justice in our life on earth, we shall surely experience it in the spiritual realm.
God's creation manifests beauty. We recognize it and derive great joy from the beauty around us; we imitate it and expand it in our art. God is the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness. In one sense, artists are not so much creators as discoverers. The artist discovers art, be it fine art, literature, music, film, or dance. Art is created by God and hidden for the purpose of our delight. We seek it and discover it, and that process brings joy to us and joy to our parent God. You might even say that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony was there before Beethoven was born. It happened to be Beethoven who dug it out and gave it to humanity.
In my opening remarks I said we are co-creators with God. In closing I want to say that in addition to being co-creators, we are discoverers. God creates and we discover, and that induces mutual joy.
The great Russian author and visionary Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, upon receiving the Templeton Prize for progress in religion, made this comment: "If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Bolshevik revolution that destroyed more than 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat, `Men have forgotten God.' That is why all this has happened."
Solzhenitsyn identified this forsaking of God as the principal characteristic of the entire 20th century, which is being sucked into the vortex of atheism and destruction. "It is one thing," he said, "that millions of human beings have been corrupted and spiritually devastated by an officially imposed atheism as in the Soviet Union. But it is another that the tide of atheistic secularism has progressively inundated the West so that the very concepts of good and evil have themselves been ridiculed."
Solzhenitsyn observed that human beings have chosen one of the two basic ways of life we described. I respect him as an important prophetic voice who knows what is right and wrong.
Today we hear of value-free education and value-free art. Does that mean that education and art are to say nothing about right and wrong? Sadly, the statement often made is that everything is right and nothing is wrong. As we pursue this illusory notion of liberation, it becomes clear that the abuse of freedom has resulted in a tighter bondage of the spirit.
In 1987, Insight magazine featured Allan Bloom's book, The Closing of the American Mind, as "Book of the Year." Dr. Bloom says that in the name of openness, the minds of young people in America are being closed to the wisdom of our cultural heritage. Bloom believes the United States is sinking into a kind of moral illiteracy, the result of decades of thought and discussion devoted to the proposition that morality is a matter of personal choice.
This disease, Bloom says, is everywhere. But it is most dangerously prevalent on America's college campuses. The elite being educated to rule the country have become akin to what the ancients called the mob, dedicated not to learning or to serving their fellow human beings but to the exercise and fulfillment of their passions. Hedonism, promiscuity, the refusal or inability to distinguish between good and evil-these characterize the best and brightest among today's youth. It paints a terrifying portrait of America's youth. Bloom advocates a return to the teaching of classical philosophy as a key step on the way back to national moral health.
What he advocates is an education in values. To me it seems that he is speaking about an absolute standard of values that can only be centered on God. I believe the goal set by Artists Association International is the correct one. We search for the expression of absolute value in the arts, which means we promote the expression of true love through art. Ladies and gentlemen, as I said, these are my personal observations, and yet I hope at least some of my remarks have stimulated your thinking.
In closing, I want to thank you for your contributions to our third conference. I am fully satisfied with its outcome, in which I experienced the pleasure of knowing so many wonderful people. I look forward to our fourth conference next year in another great city. Frankly, however, I cannot say where it will be. But I promise you in due course that you will be the first to know. Until then, may God bless you. Thank you very much.
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