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A Hero of Our Time
[ Issue 157 Page 10 ] Tuesday, October 24, 2017, 00:16:21 Sangwook Ha Staff Reporter ha.sangwook@kaist.ac.kr

What if you passed by someone or something lying in deadly pain, wrenched in the cold waters of the Styx? The good-willed member of society is obliged to assist, to guide, and to save. We should not, and must not, become the victims of cowardice and lethargy. This is when courage is needed and when the lone ordinary becomes the mystically heroic.

On a sunny day in the confines of campus, I, at the age of 21 and with much to learn, was in classrooms, studying and listening to lectures. Invertible matrices. Linear algebra in the morning. Then, before lunch, it was topological insulators. Did I really care? No. My heart was rushing. But I was also deeply calm. I knew that if I had to save him, I had to be smart. I could not afford to be careless.

Finally, the clock struck twelve. The bells to keep my heart at beat. Tired as I may have been, I moved to the bike stands. 1507. Nothing special had happened that year, except that Martin Luther, a hero himself, had been ordained a priest of the Catholic Church, thereby coinciding with the combination number to my bike locks. A lock worthy of a hero. I pedaled hard. Every time it took a photon from the Sun to reach the Earth, someone else was close to stealing it from me. I had to be the savior. Who knew what they would do to it? I had to do it for the greater good.

When I arrived at the entrance of the undergraduate library, a line had already formed at the entrance. I had to do something. Break the law? I dismissed this thought immediately. A hero has to and must line up behind the next man. When I finally reached the start of the line, the librarian handed me a small sheet of paper with boxes indicated for stamps. How many stamps did I have to get? Three? This was ridiculous. But then I met eyes with the thing I was here for. The Juliet in my heart. Behind the transparent plastic cover was Apeach, dressed as a panda holding a miniature bamboo stick firmly in his right hand. He loved that bamboo. He was different from the other ordinary, white, and soulless Apeaches. His eyes were an immaculate rectangular black with two little stars in each to show the genuine glee he possessed. Feeling an even larger urgency growing deep inside me, I quickly went to one of the booths the library had installed. They introduced me to how I could borrow books online and read them offline through a service the library was providing. I was always a fan of hardcopies. I did not listen.

Then I heard a packet of thrills. I looked in agony and shock. Disbelief filled my eyes but it was quickly followed by small tears which I shamefully hid. He was holding him, the box well between his two hairy, monstrous arms. Through the transparent film, I could see the endangered panda trapped, deprived of nourishment and proper treatment. Is our God an unjust one? Maybe He is, if we claim blasphemy and let our scales be the judge.

I knew that I could easily double, no, even quadruple the happiness on his face. I had to do it, at least for Jeremy Bentham or at the very least for his encaged body back in London. Equal distribution does not guarantee happiness. I would have been much happier. Utility is the sum of all pleasure minus suffering. I would maximize utility.

I quickly went to the other booths to get the all-important stamps. I would not be trapped in the bureaucracy of advertisements. I would rise, come out sane and untouched from the “Library Open Day”, triumphant with Apeach safely in my hands. History can only be carved in the hearts of the fallen by the victors.

I went and handed in my sheet. I was never lucky in these kinds of occasions. Perhaps I had used up all my luck when I won the lottery at the physics seminar, when I was guaranteed three years of major course textbooks if I joined the KAIST physics department back in 2014, which I, of course, immediately did.

“Yikes,” the librarian said. I was given a plastic folder. Did they really think they could soothe me through a complimentary gift, the opium to appease the oppressed? I snatched the plastic folder and put it inside my bag, vowing to destroy it in private. I looked at him once again, perhaps for the last time. His black eyes had slightly turned into a faint glimmer of sadness. Jester had torn the island on which Apeach and I had found ourselves in two, just like he had with the veins in our hearts.

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