Post Chuseok death at Dongjung
The teacher who sat at the desk in front of me at Jecheon Dong Jung (East Middle School) passed away yesterday. He had been struggling with a serious disease for some time. The entire school assembled on the athletic field as the hearse-bus did a lap of the grounds. Everyone hung their heads for a single solemn minute. His wife wailed with grief.
Then the bus left and suddenly everything returned to normal. The kids were smiling and joking. Class was rowdy as usual.
I didn't really know the man--we'd only spoken once or twice--but his death served to remind me just how little contact I have had with death so far. Only a handful of people I know have died.
Today was also my 29th birthday. This combined with the death seemed to hammer home the message that I, too, will someday get old and die. In fact, the dirty little secret is that aging, not AIDS or cancer or Republicans, is the single biggest cause of death on the planet. Why didn't anyone tell me? But people have been dying for millennia! Why is it that humans suddenly find themselves old and unprepared for death? It's like an anxiety dream in which you've forgotten to study for the biggest exam of the year. Geez, most people in developed countries have at least 50 years or so to mentally and spirituallly prepare themselves, and everyone knows that cramming for a test doesn't work.
The Japanese word もらい泣き (morai naki) means to cry out of sympathy for someone, usually for someone else who is shedding tears of grief. To me, it looked like the teachers who were dabbing their eyes on the grounds were crying because the dead teacher's wife was crying, and not because they felt any real grief for his passing. And I found that to be the saddest thing of all. People spend much of their lives at work, but many maintain very superficial relationships with their coworkers. It's not natural.
Just like driving a car to the grocery store is unnatural.
What am I saying. Too much soju and karaoke. Good night.