One day, I happened to read a bibliography about Yulgok Yi I*.
(Translator’s note: Yulgok Yi I was one of the two most prominent Korean confucian scholars of the Chosun dynasty.)
He was a born genius who won first place in the state exams nine times.
What made him a great scholar of the Chosun Dynasty and an outstanding politician? Was it his genius intelligence?
His mother was Shin Sa-im-dang.
She was a woman who, extraordinarily, could read books written in Chinese characters in the Chosun Dynasty*.
(Translator’s note: During the Chosun Dynasty, women were not allowed to learn and be educated. Therefore, it was unusual for women to be able to read books.)
Through her, Yulgok Yi I had access to literature and art from his youth.
Also, he met Yi Hwang, who became the two major streams of Neo-Confucianism with him in Chosun at that time.
They met only once and their academic views were different.
However, they exchanged letters while acknowledging each other’s studies and the letters became a great help to Yulgok academically.
In addition, his forefathers and friends acknowledged and believed in him.
He was active around the time that the Confucian scholar group had gained power after four massacres of scholars. That must have become a good environment for him.
All these people that he met while growing up and the environments he was in probably raised him to be a great scholar and politician. If even one of these factors were missing, his life might have turned out differently.
There is a saying, ‘A great child is born and raised, and a great person is born and raised.’
We have to look at a child’s natural-born characters and talents, but I think ‘how you make them’ is important while they are growing. Yulgok Yi I was born with distinctive talents that he developed well and utilized in a great way.
How have I been making myself? How have I been making my beloved children?
A house that has already been built cannot change its structure. In the same way, we have to build our life well from the beginning. I should examine my children closely and precisely and make them well while taking action perfectly with a perfect design, but I am not confident about it with my lacking wisdom and knowledge.
Today again, I am clinging to Heaven with prayer.
Please, not according to my design but God’s perfect design, make me a great person and make my child a great son. Please let us make ourselves perfectly blameless so that we can be used valuably by the heavens.