Re­mem­ber­ing a teacher’s life

The Korea Times - - OPINION - By Kim Sun-ae Kim Sun-ae is writ­ing a book, “A Jour­ney to My­self.” Her blog ad­dress is blog.naver.com/danc­inglf.

Some­times I think of him. In the au­tumn at the age of 21, I took a theater course. At that time, I was study­ing at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, Van­cou­ver, Canada as an ex­change stu­dent.

Pro­fes­sor Peter Lo­ef­fler, who taught the course, pur­sued the essen­tials in life. Ma­te­ri­ally, he lived very sim­ply with­out a car, a com­puter, or a TV, in the same blue jeans and blue shirts through­out the se­mes­ter. How­ever, his men­tal life was rich with his love for his stu­dents and his pas­sion­ate teach­ing.

Our class­room was a theater in the col­lege. The pro­fes­sor in­vited a di­rec­tor and ac­tors to our class so that we could see ac­tors act directed by the di­rec­tor. One day, Pro­fes­sor Lo­ef­fler gave us an op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a short scene by groups, hand­ing out scripts. He, him­self, also showed us on the stage var­i­ous ways to say the line in Ham­let, “To be, or not to be? That is the ques­tion.” Ev­ery class was in­ter­est­ing.

In the mid­dle of the se­mes­ter, each stu­dent met with the teacher. I too vis­ited his of­fice and talked about my term pa­per and so forth with him. He gave me warm ad­vice. To go to his of­fice, I passed the stage of the theater, and the hall­way in­side. The of­fice was small like Keat­ing’s of­fice in the movie, “Dead Po­ets So­ci­ety.”

At the end of the term, the pro­fes­sor gave us each a piece of pa­per, say­ing that he pre­pared a present. On the pa­per was a list of “Five The­aters You Should Not Miss,” with pic­tures of masks, the Swan Theater in the Shake­spearean era and so on. The list con­sisted of the Theater of Ep­i­dau­rusin Greece and the­aters in Italy, Brazil, Swe­den, and Bel­gium.

Af­ter the se­mes­ter ended, I wrote a thank-you let­ter to Pro­fes­sor Lo­ef­fler and went to the theater. Pass­ing an aisle in the au­di­to­rium, and the stage, I ar­rived in front of his of­fice and knocked. There was no an­swer in­side the closed door. I left my let­ter un­der the door.

Later, I heard that he had passed away from dis­ease. I do not know when he knew about his ill­ness. But not show­ing it to us at all, he left qui­etly af­ter giv­ing us the best love he could give.

Be­fore long, the school held a ser­vice cel­e­brat­ing his life. Stu­dents and friends who loved him gath­ered, shared mem­o­ries of him, and lis­tened to the songs stu­dents sang. It was a snowy win­ter day with an all white sky. I at­tended the ser­vice with a friend who had taken the theater course to­gether with me, and cel­e­brated our teacher’s life.

One day, af­ter a long time has passed, I sud­denly missed my teacher. I haven’t been to the five the­aters in the world that he rec­om­mended. Nonethe­less, as all the places in our lives are the stage, we will have no re­gret if we live as pro­tag­o­nists of our lives wher­ever we are. And if I visit one of the five the­aters some day, I will be­gin anew there once again, re­mem­ber­ing the teacher: To be de­voted to the essence of life.

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