the beauty of sorrow

since the covid pandemic, i have done two things that i never thought i would do: order nba league pass on tv (to see more games than is psychically healthy); subscribe to netflix. i have become a couch potato–a new chapter of my life that i had never experienced in the past!

netflix ( as well as viki tv) offers a wonderful range of korean dramas. i love their style of storytelling and movie pace. there is a certain earthiness to korean acting. in these dramas, emotions are powerfully shown in loss, resentment, rejection, sadness, grief, shame and vengence. it’s all often raw and heart-felt. this is all part of a common cultural trait in korea called han.

han does not translate well in english but one succinct definition of the korean concept is the beauty of sorrow. it is an art to portray han well; in film making there is a different power as it is seen on screen. han makes for pronounced and engrossing drama because these are all a deep art of being human.

our relationships with God and others are always filtered through one’s cultural lens. korean han, for me, expands and confronts the place of suffering and death for christians. whereas in the usa, we do not deal well with suffering and death, han embraces them. in the us, we whitewash hurt/sorrow, han puts them front and center.

theologian Suh Nam-dong described han as “a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined”

these are all aspects of the cross– indeed Christ’s cross and our crosses are one. we experience. mary the mother of jesus is our greatest saint. there is a reason why the image of her at the foot of the cross watching her only son die is powerful. mary knew han very well. the spirituality of the seven sorrows of mary expands the embrace of the suffering cross for us.

related christian constructs that han fleshes out are suffering/hurt, healing, resurrection and grace. when we embrace and sit with the crosses in our lives and in the world, we find grace. resurrection happens because of the cross.

han helps us put a new set of glasses on when we hear the stories of the black lives matter movement. han opens our ears to those who suffer with and ultimately lose loved ones in tragedies such as fires, hurricanes and covid19.

han helps us through the crosses we bear at this very moment.

if you’re interested in seeing a korean drama, let me know and i can suggest some shows on netflix or viki

ps– in may i wrote a similar post:

let us pray:

Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free, you are the savior of the world

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