New Year's Message 2022
"Masters or Slaves"
Grandmaster Taejoon Lee
“If crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call ‘disease’ can be treated as a crime and compulsorily cured.”
When we were young, as a child life was a playground filled with endless possibilities, allowing us to wonder and dream of being anything we wanted; a fireman, the president, an astronaut, and a doctor not one at a time in sequence but all of them together at once; the sky was the limit. It was the innocence, the naivete of youth, and the absence of fear which sparked our minds with hope and wonderment, causing us to dream the impossible. As we grew older, we began to experience increasingly more failures, disappointments, and heartbreaks, forcing us to endure greater pain and suffering, which corrupted our innocence and shattered our hopes with fear.
Fear is the killer of dreams and the reviver of doubt and self-loathing. Fear is the mechanism in which evil fulfills its goal, the annihilation of humankind as evil loathes and hates humanity, achieving its endgame of self-destruction. Being that we are imperfect and impure creatures, we cannot eliminate fear as we cannot avoid making mistakes, doing wrong, or making bad choices, inflicting pain and suffering onto ourselves. Hence, negative emotions, pain, and suffering are unavoidable; it is an inconvenient fact of life. Then, the goal in our lives is not to rid oneself of fear but to learn to endure and overcome it.
The only way to triumph over fear is to face it, confront it, and in so doing one learns of courage, of fortitude, and resilience. There can be no courage without fear, and it is this courage which makes us noble to slay our demons, allowing us to realize our potentials. It is only with courage that one can take risks and without taking risks there can be no growth, no change, no betterment. And, without growth or change there can be no hope and without hope there is only despair.
There is a parable by the Teacher: He tells of a story of a man who goes on a long journey and decides to divide his wealth amongst his servants depending on their abilities. To the first he gives five talents (talent is a measure of currency during the Greco-Roman Period), to the second he gives two talents and to the third he gives one talent. Both the first and second servants take the money and invests, doubling their talents. The third with one talent decides to bury it in the ground for safe keeping. After a long while, the master returns and settles his account with his servants. He asked the first and the second servant what they had done with the talents he gave them, and they both replied by saying that they have doubled their talents and the master rewards them. He then asks the third servant what he did with his one talent and the servant replied, “I was afraid, so I went and hid your talent in the ground.” Then the master called him a wicked, lazy, worthless servant, casting him out into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The talents symbolize potential as money must be used in order to gain profit in the same way one’s potential must be used in order to realize one’s value. Money buried in the ground does nothing but sit there eroding away. The third servant was afraid to lose the money, fixating on the negative consequences and overrun with fear he chooses what he feels is a safer and better path. Every human being is endowed with potential, the potential to do good or evil, the potential to be of value or be worthless, and whether one realizes and achieves their full potential or not is our choice.
Fear contracts, it hides, it seeks comfort, it isolates, it judges, it blames, it lies, its slothful, its irrational, its self-righteous, its amoral. Fear is our greatest enemy and conquering our fears is our greatest challenge. Only by overcoming our fears and liberating ourselves from its enslavement can we even begin to realize our human potential, the value of life, and experience the ultimate happiness and joy of love.
Friedrich Nietzsche states that in nature there are essentially two broad types of species – those animals which are naturally herd animals and those that are naturally loners; those that are prey and those that are predators, and this is the same with human beings. He claims that there are some who are born fearful and being dependent inclined to join a herd and some are born fearless and independent inclined to seek lonely endeavors. Furthermore, he goes on to state that there is nothing one can do about it as it is a product of evolution, and it is genetically encoded into us. He says, “Just as a sheep cannot help but be sheepish and a hawk cannot help but be hawkish, each of us inherits from our parents and from their parents before them a long line of inbuilt traits. It cannot be erased from a man’s soul what his ancestors have preferably and most constantly done.”
In essence according to Nietzsche, we are born either as masters or as slaves. So, if this was true and/or one believes it to be true, then the goal would be to understand what you are whether master or slave, then by accepting that fact would eliminate overreaching expectations, allowing you to live a better life without extensive struggles, disappointments, and strife. Merely as an observational study and a proponent of evolution, one could agree with Nietzsche, however, one important fact must be taken into account, we are not animals. The theory that human beings have arisen from apes and that they are our ancestors is highly contestable and has yet to be proven to be true. We are similar yet distinctly unique and no ape possesses the high cognitive abilities and consciousness of human beings.
Only human beings possess the ability to make choices and alter their destiny unhindered from instinct and predeterminism. Even if one agrees that our social behavior does evolve and changes throughout history without fully advocating the “Theory of Evolution”, human beings still possess the unique attribute to alter their future by the choices that they make. Whether that we exercise this ability effectively or not is questionable to say the least, but it does not negate the fact that we have such power. It is through our free will, better yet our free won’t that not only do we possess the intellectual acumen of the power of rational thought to make proper choices but more importantly we have the power to say “no” and choose against preconditioned, expected outcomes.
This ability to say “no”, I won’t do this or that, is what makes us truly powerful as we can be unreactive and choose against the expected norms. This is our true power, to say no to temptations, to mass hysteria, to tyranny, to oppression, to injustice, to violence, to ridicule, to false witnesses, to lies. However, this requires much discipline, courage, knowledge, and wisdom as the tools for conformity and oppression is through fear, ignorance, and confusion. The struggles of daily living, the pursuit of vain superficial materialism and indulgent pleasures distracts us from what is essential, fundamental, and primary, the seeking of knowledge and truth which is the foundation to purpose and meaning.
It is true that as sheep, as a frightened herd, dependent on the shepherd for our lives, we are easier to control and manage so for those of you who believe in evolution and you are born as prey, as a slave, then my heart and prayer goes out to you as you have no way to change but forever be confined to your natural disposition. And, God forbid when one such sheep decides to leave the flock and become a leader, a master, a self-empowered independent thinker who actually desires to make a difference in their lives. It is often the case that those who live by such memes as “ignorance is bliss”, “life is too short so enjoy it”, “I don’t believe in anything because there’s so much information”, “all beliefs can’t be true so nothing is true” who are most opinionated and critical of others and act as shepherds to gather those strays back into the flock by manipulating their weaknesses and insecurities, reminding them that they are only sheep in wolf’s clothing, only pretending to be strong and independent while in truth they are no different than them, another sheep. By the nature of the herd mentality, they shun, ridicule and persecute anyone who tries to leave the flock or stands against them.
For me and for those who are teachers of Hwa Rang Do®, it is our goal and our mission to empower each person to strive and to achieve their full God-given potential through courage and perseverance: The courage to take the risk and the resilience and endurance to persevere. We reject the idea that we are born as slaves or masters and support the belief that every human being has the power to transform themselves into a strong leader, a master of their own destiny not because this path is an easy one, but it is the most noble one. It is true that we are all slaves; we are all slaves to sin and with this knowledge begins true wisdom by being humble to God. We are however masters of our own choices, and it is through our choices that we will be blessed or damned. No human being should be a slave to any human master, but only surrender to God as their one and only Master.
We are all born free; free to choose and choosing the right path requires the utmost courage and wisdom. Moreover, once a choice is made, it will be challenged on all fronts and the hardships and suffering begin. making it harder to stay on the path. It is our choice to be a master or a slave, a peasant or a warrior, to stand or fall, to fight or flee. More than ever we as humanity are challenged to rise and fight against the tyranny and oppression by fear promoted, endorsed, and enforced by the masses and governments. We cannot eliminate the risks of enduring harm, suffering, pain, or death. All we can and should do is to strengthen, fortify, and forge our will and spirit so that when the time comes to endure such persecution as we fight for our freedom, for what is right that we may remain convicted to the Truth and never sway, never falter, never surrender. The alternative is to choose ignorance, turn a blind eye, and fall in line to the slaughterhouse.
Hwarang forever and Godspeed,