To Rise Above the Masses

BY: HAEBITCHAN JUNG

I  have been avoiding God as much as possible, and until now, I have been doing a good job at it. I kept my mind distanced from him and covered my eyes and ears so that I would not perceive his existence. By inhibiting all presence of God, I felt undeniably alone and desolate inside the cocoon of solitude; but the decision was a conscious one, so I could not complain about it. Many readers will find problems with this decision I made years ago, but it was done at that time for my own good…

Because back then, I needed strength. It was my first year of college, and I realized that the only way I could “make it” in the world was by standing out from the rest of the crowd. I wanted to rise above the masses, and the first step was to distinguish myself in the academic setting. However, I was not prepared to find solid ground in the intellectual domain; I lacked study habits and recourse to knowledge for academic success. Thus I had to start my academic journey from scratch and build myself up through pain and industry. Along this treacherous path, I grew sharply disenchanted with my religious community that questioned and subtly trivialized my tireless effort for individuation.

In fact, I found my will to individuation to be unaligned with the will of the church. The church inexorably advocated community and valued the “we” before the “I.” It was nearly sinful in its eyes to witness an individual rise above his community. Thus it continually preached, “Jesus died for our sins,” as if commanding the listeners to do at least a portion of self-effacement that Jesus had done for the community. In contrast, those who wanted to extricate themselves from oneness were declared to be consumed by deleterious pride. I had no objection to this claim, because I was indeed proud of seeing myself grow and mature in the mind.

But the will for individuation ran into a wall of expected problems. My pride gave way to arrogance and egotism. I saw other students as competition, and this mentality problematized my camaraderie with students who were receiving better grades than I was. Fiery jealousy ensued as my sincere feelings of compassion and kindness dwindled. I saw myself becoming indifferent and apathetic toward humankind since I had not achieved my goals yet, not caring for the aim of community. As a result, my awareness of the situation did not alter the process, and because I stopped following the rules of the church, their standard of good and bad had little meaning to me in my progress toward the “Ubermensch.”

But when the time for retrospection is upon me, my resolve for individuation crumbles and by and by, it cannot support the heavy task of my endeavors. I feel pressed down to the ground. Every step I make requires tremendous effort, and sometimes, it is more than I can handle without the comfort of God. Though I lost faith in the church, I remained in the church. I realized that I never left because I did not have enough courage to tackle the world on my own. Readers might regard me as a hypocrite, but even Jesus received help when carrying the wooden cross before the Crucifixion. I feel as though my drive for individuation is pushing me forward, my desire to give everything up and return to the warm community drags me from behind. And yet, I still soldier on. Until my struggles finally reach its terminus ad quem. Until then, I move on with the heavy weight on top of me, pulling me down, but not enough to see me fall.

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