Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Okashi and Kokoro.

Yesterday, I received a package from my mom in the mail. She didn't tell me that she was going to send me anything, so I was surprised both when I received the package and when I opened it. A lovely box of snacks, all packaged nicely, and not to mention it's pink (one of my favourite colours). 'Twas a pleasant surprise!

On the same day, I attended my third class of Image, Text, Performance: The Emperor in Modern Japan, and we had read Soseki Natsume's Kokoro for yesterday's class. The novel was first serialized in 1914, just a few years after the death of the Meiji Emperor and, soon after, General Nogi. The word used as the title for the novel, kokoro (心), is a hard word to explain- it can be translated into so many different words, yet the meanings are, in a way, connected all the same. Heart, core, center, mind, spirit... rather than it being a word, perhaps one can say that it's a concept.

In any case, I highly enjoyed the book. It was a calm read, but many things passed through my mind as I read each section- things related to history, academia, personal experiences. Yesterday's class was long- but it was intriguing and many interesting things were said.

One side comment that my instructor for the course said really stuck to me, and I think it's true: it's incredibly scary to learn something, because once you learn it, you can't unlearn. If something you had learned is wrong, it's difficult to "deprogram" it from yourself because what you've learned has already become a part of you.

Which led me to remember a part in the book that I had bookmarked while reading, when Sensei, the teacher, writes his testament down for the younger, main character. On page 110 of the Dover edition:

... I can never think of those days without cursing myself for being so trusting and honest. I find myself asking, "Why was I born so good-natured?" But, I must admit, I sometimes wish that I had never lost my old innocence, and that once more I could be the person that I was. Please remember that you met me after I had become soiled. If one respects one's elders because they have lived longer and have become more soiled than oneself, then certainly I deserve your respect.

I, too, feel this way a lot of the time- that the longer I'm alive and the older I grow, the more corrupt I become. Sure I can get a good education and learn many worthwhile things; but at the same time, I feel as if I'm rapidly losing my innocence and that, compared to the process of learning which can be done at anytime, is something that cannot be reversed and seems so much more valuable.

I don't know what other people think about learning and growing up, or if it's normal to just be indifferent about it since "it happens to everyone", but I'm always frightened at the thought of it. But it's not like it's something that can be helped; you can't prevent yourself from learning, and even if you could, with time, that "innocence" would eventually become just plain ignorance.

But I do believe that whatever age one is at, there is always a suitable responsibility that one should fulfill. When one is young, maybe that responsibility is to learn. When one grows a little older and can be called what is considered an "adult", maybe that responsibility becomes the need to adapt and be independent. And maybe, if one is lucky enough to grow a little wiser through time, providing a bit of guidance to other people can be seen to become their responsibility too. After all, if everyone is bound to eventually lose their naivety and "learn", then they might as well learn the good and not so much the bad. Of course, one can choose for themselves what they believe to be "good" or "bad", but some good-intentioned help can never go wrong, I think. If they're going to learn anyway, they might as well take in as much as possible from people who want to help and decide for themselves.

Wow, I totally did not plan this to be a philosophical post of any sort. When did it become so long?


  1. ...Wow, I read that book first year and I remember absolutely none of it.

    Maybe this is why I am not an English major.

  2. aw that's nice of auntie winnie.
    losing innocence makes me sad :( but learning is also exciting