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subject [첨성대] 걸림돌과 디딤돌

불행은 사람을 가리지 않고 공평하게 찾아온다. 그러나 삶의 승자와 패자를 가리는 것을 불행이 닥쳤을 때 좌절하고 포기하는가 아니면 불운의 잿더미에서 희망의 불씨를 찾아내려는 마음가짐이 있는가 이다.

  ‘걸림돌을 디딤돌로 삼을 줄 아는 사람은 성공이 보장된 사람이다’ 영국의 사상가 칼라일의 말은 극복하려는 의지가 있으면 아무리 어려운 난관이라도 넘을 수 있다는 뜻이다.

  세상을 살다보면 우리는 부지불식간에 숱한 난관에 부딪쳐 넘어지게 된다. 그때마다 일어나서 앞만 보고 달리는 사람이 있는가 하면, 뒤를 보면서 머뭇거리는 사람이 있다. 앞을 보고 나가는 사람은 그의 희망이 앞에 있기 때문이요, 뒤를 보는 사람은 후회가 뒤를 따라오기 때문이다.

  또한 어떤 어려움이 닥쳤을 때 그 원인을, 내부에서 찾아 스스로를 반성하는 사람이 있는가 하면, 그와는 반대로 그 원인을 외부에서 찾아 남을 원망하는 사람이 있다. 전자는 성공하는 사람의 특징이요, 후자는 실패하는 사람의 특징이다.

  20여년 전 겨울에 눈의 나라로 유명한 캐나다를 여행하다 오타와 근처의 스키장에 간 일이 있다. 생전 스케이트도 타보지 못했는데 스키는 엄두도 내지 못했을 때라 스키장 주변만 맴돌고 있는데 저만치 새하얀 눈 위를 누구보다 신나게 활강하는 사람이 눈에 띄었다. 그런데 자세히 보니 한 쪽 다리가 없는 지체 장애자가 아닌가!

  나만 놀란 것이 아닌지 그곳에 와 있던 어떤 기자가 마이크를 들이대고 즉석 인터뷰를 하는 것이었다.

  “우리는 양다리를 가지고도 수없이 넘어지고 힘겨운데, 당신은 어떻게 그 외다리로 스키를 즐길 수 있는가?”라고 질문하자, “나에게는 아직 한 다리가 남아있으니까…”라며 태연하게 대답하는 것이었다.

  나는 그 말을 듣는 순간 뒤통수를 한 대 얻어맞는 기분이었다. 뜨거운 감동이 밀려왔기 때문이다.
  ‘그렇다. 저렇게 외다리를 가진 장애자도 스키를 타는데, 성한 다리를 가진 내가 어찌 못하겠는가’라는 생각이 들자, 나는 지체 없이 스키를 배우기 시작했다. 넘어지고 또 넘어지면서, 하루 만에 꽤 높은 슬로프를 활강하는데 성공했다.

  아마 백 번도 더 넘어졌을 것이다. 넘어질 때마다 포기하고 싶었지만 그 장애인의 모습이 떠올라 포기할 수가 없었다. 그곳에서 일주일을 체류하는 동안 거의 불편 없이 스키 연수(?)를 마치게 되었다.

  성한 다리를 가진 나도 수 백 번을 넘어졌는데, 그 외다리의 장애인은 얼마나 더 힘들었겠는가. 그는 넘어질 때마다 앞만 보고 일어났던 꿈을 가진 사람이었고, 불운을 남의 탓으로 돌리지 않고 숙명으로 받아들인 의지의 사나이였다.

  요즈음 젊은이들은 ‘성공은 실패의 원인이다’라는 말을 많이 한다. ‘실패는 성공의 어머니다’라는 말을 뒤집은 익살이겠지만, 그 말은 나름대로 되씹어 볼만한 가치가 있다. 젊은이들은 자칫 작은 성공에 도취되어 더 큰 성공을 바라보지 못하는 경우가 있기에, 이를 경계토록 하는 말로는 이 이상 적절한 말도 없을 것이다.

  젊은이는 성공도 빠르고 실패도 빠르다. 쉽게 감격하고 쉽게 흥분하기 때문이다. 그러나 냉정하게 감정을 다스린다면 실패의 고배는 면할 수 있을 것이다. 즉 부정적인 사고를 긍정적인 사고로 전환하는 이성의 목소리에 귀를 기울일 줄 알아야 한다.

  삶이란 길을 걷다보면 돌부리에 걸려 넘어질 경우가 종종 있다. 이럴 때 돌부리를 걸림돌로 생각하느냐, 디딤돌로 생각하느냐가 인생의 성패를 좌우하는 중요한 가늠대라는 것을 다시 한번 곰곰이 되새겨 본다.

김병권 (국제펜클럽 고문)
27호 (2006.8.31)

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