A Bald Head And A Strawberry - Hyung Jin Moon
To the Reader
Many in the past years, have noticed my going from stylish suits and fashionable hairstyles to a shaven head and traditional eastern monastic robes. Most, however, do not have any idea of why such a change took place. I have heard things ranging from. "Oh my God, what has happened to him? He's become a Buddhist monk," to "Don't bother him, he just likes martial arts. It's just another phase."
During these years, however, I have silently passed through many dark moments challenging me to truly face myself without running away. The passing of my elder brother, Young Jin Hyung, to whom I am forever indebted and repentful, was a devastating event in my life.1. I was forced to learn painful lessons from his passing and to this day the words he spoke resonate within me. His words compel me to continue pursuing a life of penance and training. I owe it to him to do so.
This is why, I, as well as my abode, the "Cottage House" in East Garden, have undergone some changes. Where once garbage heaps rotted, gardens now bloom; where once desolate pathways lay, lush waterfalls now cascade. As one walks through East Garden one will also notice the saints and sages representing all religious and spiritual traditions and some other such surprises to the unfamiliar visitor.
These external changes (whether it be wearing robes, shaving my vanity away with my hair, training my body, or transforming my abode), remind me of my internal commitment and vows. I have never shared such things in a public setting before, but as I will be a graduate student At Harvard Divinity School studying World Religions this fall, I feel it is essential to let all know who and what I affirm. This is now what you hold in your hands.
These are my confessions, my testimony, my story, my life.
What is this all about?
It was after high school at Fairfield University where, after reading, Nietzsche, Marx, Hegel, Feurbach and other philosophical thinkers, I questioned the actual existence of God. Was it simply a projected manifestation of desirable qualities that we, as conditioned social/cultural extensions, deified as a God? I had heard too much of a God in Abba's speeches (translated lamely from the Korean word: Hananim-literally meaning. The One) and frankly didn't want to hear anymore of it.
One day I found myself in the office of my philosophy teacher, a Jesuit priest, asking him this question: "Professor, how do you, with all your knowledge of Nietzsche, Hegel and the likes, believe in a God?" He said something along the lines of, "I look outside my window and don't see a random set of events of randomly generated and colliding atoms. I see an organizer with order and beauty."
One evening I was sitting in my room when I was called to see Mother. Was I in trouble? Did I do something? What was it that was so urgent? I knocked and slowly began to inch the door open, calling Mothers name. The room was dark, other than a wall socket nightlight dimly glowing in the corner. As I entered, there was Mother gazing out of the window into the dark night.
As I approached, I began to see tears glistening down her cheeks. She noticed me and quickly wiped them away, clasping at my hands. I whispered slowly and hesitantly, "Mother, are you all right? What is the matter?"
She lifted her gaze but as soon as she saw me she wept uncontrollably. With a shaking voice she spoke what would change my life forever.
"Your elder brother, Young Jin, has passed away." She uttered. "He was in an accident."
My eyes darkened, "What?!" I retorted defiantly, "it's not possible."
I sprinted to his empty room, shouting "Where are you?!!!" punching at the wall, shattering my fists, and falling bloodied and exhausted to the floor.
Young Jin Hyung was my elder brother, a year my senior. We grew up together, and for most of our lives we shared the same room, the same video games, and the same Doritos chips. We ran around on the property, fighting monsters, and battling aliens; we swam in murky shark-filled swimming pools; we saved towns from bands of orcs and goblins that were coming from some where behind the swing-set; we went down early in the morning for some scrambled eggs with cheese, and some baked potatoes with sour cream and bacon bits; we drew pictures of heroes, and villains, played Dungeons and Dragons on lazy summer Sunday and watched the latest episode of "X-Men"; we argued about this or that; we jumped for joy, in the bleachers, hugging and high-fiving every one around, when Barry Sanders broke 2,000 yards rushing in Detroit; we even got married on the same day. But now it was over.
For days I lay awake in my bed, blaming myself, "if I was only a little more understanding." If I was only a better younger brother." If only I was there I could have stopped it; but I was in school, he was in school; it's the university's fault; if we went to the same college then it would be different."
"Why was it him? Why not me? He was always the good one. He always did what Parents told him to do. He always succeeded, did well in school. I was the lazy one. I was the one flunking out of school. I was the one who was always called "lose," made fun of as "janitor," and always going through "phases." If there is a God then, why did He take him and not me?!!! I should have gone! It should have been me. It should have been me." I mumbled, as I drifted into sleep.
As a child, I had experienced the loss of another elder brother, Heung Jin hyung, and my grandmother, Daemonnim2. But it wasn't until the passing of Young Jin hyung that I was old enough to experience the feeling of lows, despair and helplessness that accompany a loved ones passing. Now, I had many new questions and many new priorities. First priority now was: "live life to its fullest every second I have." I thought it was in the clothes, the cars, the luxury where I would be happy. I thought it was in coolness, fashion, the look where I would be content. I thought it was in the popularity, the spot-light, in living large, where I would be satisfied. But I quickly found it to be an ugly road. I began to look somewhere else.