This is a translated version of the speech I delivered yesterday in my Toastmaster’s Meeting. Yoon Du-kyeong, Kim Hyeon and Lee Kyeong are my students, and fellow Toastmasters, at Mokwon University. The original is here, in Korean.
What is the meaning of life? That’s a very deep question, so I’ll give you a second to think about it. You, Yoon Du-kyeong, what is the meaning of life?
“To be happy and enjoy my time alive.”
Interesting, wrong, but interesting. Kim Hyeon, what is the meaning of your life?
“My family is the center of my life.”
Also incorrect. The meaning of life is philosophy!
Ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to understand life. When I was a rugrat, I devoured encyclopedias like they were candy coated crack. Especially the dinosaur stuff. For a while, I was certain that dinosaurs were the meaning of life. By reading the encyclopedias, I learned many facts but, with facts alone, it’s not really possible to understand life.
I needed a philosophical system with which to understand life. So I started reading the maxims of the great thinkers. Jesus said “God is love.” Can I understand the world by these words? I don’t know. So I read Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” Then Socrates’ famous maxim “I know that I know nothing, and therefore I am wise.” Then Nietzsche said “God is dead, and we killed him.” Finally, my middle school homeroom teacher’s great maxim “Damnit Ben, will you please shut up?”
These are all profound philosophers. We can learn much from their great words and wise maxims, but I always felt I needed something more.
Until last week, I wandered alone in this hopeless dessert, despairing over my imperfect philosophy. However, last week, on Wednesday, in this very same room, I discovered a new, inestimabely wise philosopher. This philosopher’s name is … Lee Kyeong.
Lee Kyoung, due to his youth, has as of yet produced only two philosophical maxims. Yet for what he lacks in quantity, he more than makes up for in quality. The first is “if we drink a lot of liquor, the evening will be more enjoyable.” The second, perhaps even more meaningful is “be faithful to the now.”
When I get stressed, I worry a lot. I worry about the future, I worry about the past. I make plans and contingencies to a truly insane extent. For example, when I visit a restaurant in a stressed state of mind, I will worry about ordering too much food and thus appearing greedy or gluttonous. I will also worry about ordering too little food, and thus needing to eat again soon, thereby wasting money. I will have escape routes planned in case terrorists attack the restaurant. I will have triage strategies in place for dealing with the victims of this entirely imaginary terrorist attack. When I’m stressed, I worry about everything. Well, everything except the now.
When I feel like this, I should just remember the great philosopher Lee Kyoung’s words.
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To understand the meaning of life, once must experience life and the duality of nature. It seems Lee Kyoung is doing just that!
That kid has a great sense of humor, thank God. 🙂