My father loves telling stories from folklore and real life. One is about a famous Korean calligrapher named Han Seok-Bong (한석봉 韓石峯 1543~1605). Here’s an abbreviated version of the full story at [Jineral_HanSeokBong].
A mother sends her child “Han Seok-Bong” to study calligraphy at a temple far from home for many years. He misses her and returns home before completing his studies saying that he has mastered the art. She challenges him to write in darkness while she cuts rice cakes (Tteok, 떡). His writing comes out poorly while her rice cake slices come out perfectly. He returns to the temple and eventually becomes a renowned calligrapher.
What does the story evoke for you? For me, three things. First, what tenacity! To practice calligraphy diligently for so many years. This reminds me of how “Chiba Masashi sensei used to practice a continuous set of 3000 suburi every day” [KendoInfo_Moment]. And how a friend practiced 1,000 suburi daily for years in his backyard with a make-shift target (constructed from a tire, chair and ropes) to develop jodan. Second, the words “Perfect practice makes perfect” of Vince Lombardi come to mind. How important it is learn something correctly. Otherwise, the boy could have acquired and mastered flawed writing skills. Third, what a “Tiger Mom!” How many mothers in this day and age could send their child away to remain apart for many years? And have the heart to re-send their child away if he or she returned prematurely to see her.
I close with my rough English translation of a well-known Korean poem that my father would often recite to me and my siblings.
Although a mountain is high, it is nonetheless a hill under the sky. / If you climb and continue to climb, you cannot help but climb to the top. / But some refuse to climb / and only complain that the mountain is high. – Yang Sa-On 양사언 (楊士彦)
태산이 높다 하되 하늘 아래 뫼이로다 / 오르고 또 오르면 못 오를리 없건만은 / 사람이 제 아니 오르고 / 뫼(산)만 높다 하더라 (泰山雖高是亦山 / 登登不已有何難 / 世人不肯勞力 / 只道山高不可攀 ) – 양사언 (楊士彦)의 태산가(泰山歌)
May the story and poem encourage those pursuing their dream(s)!
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