Higgs boson and Lee Sang-deuk
Apparently shocked by the arrest of his elder brother, President Lee Myung-bak cancelled all morning meetings Wednesday, just after Lee Sang-deuk was detained on charges of bribery. It might have been all the more perplexing for both Lees because the arrest was the first such case against a brother of an incumbent head of state in the nation’s history. In the past, similar cases involved brothers of former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Moo-hyun. But they took place after they had quit the top post.
It was an open secret that Lee Sang-deuk had virtually become the most powerful man because he had maintained an upper hand over all people including his younger brother Myung-bak. It is deplorable to see this once “superb king” humiliated by having his tie yanked by one of the customers of the suspended Busan Savings Bank when entering a Seoul court.
Additionally unforgivable are comments Lee allegedly made after he was assaulted by the victim, scolding his aides for failing to prevent the incident. This means he is not yet remorseful, mindful of the bitterness and suffering inflicted on the customers of the savings bank.
How ephemeral is power! A few days ago, the retired French President Nicholas Sarkozy was similarly humiliated when his house was searched over an allegation that he had received a huge amount of bribes while in office. This took place only 49 days after he left the post.
I attended a pleasant gathering on Tuesday night with a group of professors, prosecutors and lawyers who stayed in Cambridge in the U.K. as I did as visiting scholar some years ago. I enjoyed the meeting because it was comprised of figures from various fields of academia enabling lively debate at an inter-disciplinary level as we had once done in the U.K. Among them was an astronomer.
As I have been very curious about the universe since childhood, I raised the issue of the recent discovery of Higgs boson called the God particle and the possible existence of extraterrestrials. As expected, the astronomer said he definitely believes in the existence of aliens.
A Catholic priest I met days ago tried to underestimate the meaning of Higgs boson, given that it is part of a theory backing the concept of the “big bang” contrary to the Christian belief of creationism. Christians rebuff the existence of aliens. However, the possibility of their existence is admitted to, it would lead to another Copernican shift in Christian beliefs, beyond believing that God created people according to his image.
There are some 600 billion stars and planets in our galaxy and there is almost the same number of similar galaxies in the universe. Given this, it might not be an exaggeration to say that the number of stars exceeds the grains of sand on the entire earth.
In context of the whole universe, the earth is no more than just a particle. The Late Ven. Sungchoel, a Seon (Buddhist meditation) master, said that though the earth may disappear and the heavens suddenly crumble, this would be like witnessing the rise and fall of dust when if seen from far across the universe. He also described human life as a snowflake thrown into a heated stove, which disappears right at the moment that it encounters the heat. How momentary life is!
Regardless of any truth in the astronomer’s speculation about aliens, it certainly seems an excessive waste of space to assume that the earth is the only planet that sustains life in this magnificently vast universe.
Despite the fleeting and short-lived nature of it, life is precious enough and at the same time can never come again. Fortunately enough, all things are constantly changing. Imagine how tedious it would be if everything remained the same. Things are neither constant nor permanent. Every moment we face challenge and our hearts beat. That is the reason why we should maintain happiness moment by moment. As Hyeongak, a Buddhist monk, put it, “Momentary Sutra” is the best of all Buddhist books. Momentary happiness leads to a perpetual one.
To be happy, there are two things we need to discard ― selfishness and greed, which lead to an inevitable collapse, as seen in the case of many influential figures like Lee Sang-deuk. Happiness is for those with freedom, peace and wisdom, living frugal and simple lives without greed for wealth, power and fame.