Jeong as love, vulnerability and relation

Excerpt from Heart of the Cross. A Postcolonial Christology (2006), written by Wonhee Anne Joh.

We need to recuperate the public and political conception of love… We need to recover today this material and political sense of love, a love as strong as death… Without this love we are nothing.

heart of crossMichael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude

Today the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the political fight.

Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization

Relationship is constitutive of who we are and what we can become… Relationship makes us or breaks us.

Eleazar Fernandez, Reimagining the Human

Han, dan and jeong [Three Korean notions]

We dream, hope, and live with, and through the heart… [T]he transformative power of the cross is not based on a sterilized view in which han is contained either through emphasis on the inner-Trinitarian relationship or through the denial of abject/han as some feminists insist, but rather, the transgressive and transformative power of the cross lies in its very complex messiness. … (118)

Andrew Park has observed that han is “the abysmal experience of pain.” while Lee goes further by insisting that on an individual level, han “is the original wound.” Han, from a Korean North American perspective, is not only compounded by classism, sexism, and racism from within but also from the outside. …Our very own ethnicity, whether we are determined to erase it, through thorough assimilation into white culture, or cling to it, in a nostalgic return to some pure originary roots, is often used against us…. (118)

Elimination of han is most often connected with the practice of dan. The literal meaning of dan is “cutting off”. On a personal level, dan is the practice of self-denial through which one is to remove oneself from the temptation of being part of the systems of injustice and oppression. The inherent implication of dan is its promise of a clean departure from systems of oppression that cause han. … Jesus did not practice dan in his ministry. Rather, he embodied the praxis of jeong. His radical living out of jeong is found in the way this jeong is extended to those who should have been “cut off.” Jesus’ jeong is not limited to those who are victims but also extends to the perpetrators of oppression… While dan is critical for dismantling oppression, jeong transforms relationships, thereby transforming systems of oppression… (119, 120)

Jeong emerging with connectedness

Jeong connotes agape, eros, and filial love with compassion, empathy, solidarity, and understanding that emerges between hearts of connectedness in relationality. Jeong is a supplement that comes into the interstitial site of relationalism… As it emerges in between connectedness, it works as a lubriant and as relentless faith that han does not have the final word.

Unfolding the Chinese character of jeong reveals its multidimensional characteristics. Its multiple shades of meaning are derived mainly from the notions of heart, clarity, vulnerability, and a character that means life when used as a noun and “something arising” when used as a verb. All these components are important in the various experiences of jeong. It signifies a genesis of becoming that is intimately linked with connectedness and heart. It connotes an ongoing process of incarnation. Jeong emerges with connectedness to blossom hope for unraveling han and also in the process of becoming, a new genesis. This resonates with the metaphor of the unleavened bread that rises with yeast when it is used as an analogy for the process of the kingdom of God. For the arising of jeong (like the small yeast) within relationality is what generates the power for emancipatory praxis. (120)

Jeong, vulnerability and collective solidarity

Jeong from a Western perspective could be construed to perpetuate either oppression or liberation.  Emphasis on jeong might project uncertainty of liberation in its immediacy, yet life in the fullness of jeong brings healing and a break in the cycle of han. Foremost, jeong challenges and demands vulnerability from ourselves. By ultimately asking for vulnerability we are challenged to go beyond ourselves. In fact, I insist that jeong‘s call for vulnerability challenges us to identify ourselves with those whom we perceive to be the Other. Jeong is the divine presence that nudges us not only to perceive but also to accept the often negativized and shadowed parts of ourselves and thus ultimately to awaken to and practice the way of living in the fullness of jeong…

The active calling of jeong, through the recognition of the self in the other, is a definite form of collaborative compassion. This collaboration with compassion is not one that seeks to maintain the status quo or to perpetuate oppression. Rather, such collaboration, born out of connectedness, seeks to work towards emancipatory praxis for all. … A popular saying and sentiment in Korea precisely embodies this collective solidarity that might be uncomfortable for the Western individualistic sensibility: “You die – I die; you live – I live” embodies an extreme sense of jeong that emerges within relationality. (122)


This entry was posted in Love, Relationality, Vulnerability, Wonhee Anne Joh and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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