Kokoro no Oni

[If you saw a previous post — this came from my diary. Upon thinking about it further, I’ve decided to return it there.]

Today I taught second graders. The lesson was related to Setsubun, the old holiday where you throw beans at oni/ogres to keep them out of your house, and I instructed the kids on drawing oni using the English words “eyes, nose, mouth” (and somehow “horns” got into there too). The kids caught on quickly. One class demanded my signature, while the other had a veritable league of little artists drawing their oni in Cubist or Post-Impressionist style. Then, all of a sudden the teacher asked them to write their “kokoro no oni”, or “ogre of your heart”, underneath the picture.

It took me some mental bridging to figure out that an “ogre of your heart” means something that is preventing you from being a good kid, but the kids seemed to get it with no problem. Is this an ordinary Japanese expression? Not only did they understand what a “kokoro no oni” was, most of them quickly figured out which “oni” they thought plagued their hearts the most and wrote it down on the paper in a manner of seconds. Some examples of what they wrote:

  • しゅくだいさぼるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of skipping homework!
  • べんきょうしないおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of not studying!
  • わすれんぼうおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of forgetfulness!
  • きゅうしょくのこるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of leaving food on your plate at lunch!
  • いじわるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of being rude!
  • はずかしがるおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of being shy!
  • かん字きらいおにをたいじぞ! Defeat the ogre of disliking kanji!

Wow! They could all grow up to be school counselors!

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Japanese kids can identify their own faults. School rules such as studying well and eating your food at lunch are stressed throughout the year, and character flaws like rudeness and shyness are discussed on most popular children’s shows. Still, I can’t imagine American elementary schoolers being able to complete an assignment like this so quickly. Little kids truly have a lot of thinking power that can be molded into many different things.

Posted: January 28th, 2011 | JET

Marriage and Divorce

Your parents, who brought you into this world and raised you, should rightfully be the most important figures in your life. On the bedrock of one’s forefathers are civilizations built and raised. Yet the Western cult of the self attempts to subvert this and create a society of orphans. Adults are constantly rewarded for putting their personal or professional goals before their children. Parents think nothing at fighting in front of their children. Above all, the insipid practices of divorce and premarital pregnancy create selfish adults and miserable kids; the hedonistic adults perhaps happier in the short term, but eventually dead, and the kids passing on dysfunction to the next generation. In short, in popular culture children are expected to have no reason to respect their parents and every reason to hate them.

In the midst of this society of orphans, I had the incredible fortune to be born to two perfect parents. To my knowledge, they have never quarreled; if they did it was not in my presence, which to a realist historian means the same thing. They never demanded recognition or respect, but earned both by pouring their hearts into raising their children with selfless love.

What is the result of this labor? The creation of children who can feel the presence of love in their homes, and have the means to distribute that love throughout society. The false, selfish “love” of a temporary obsession should crumble before this almighty goal. If “love” brings you to overlook alcoholism, brutality, and dishonor, then it is no grounds for a marriage that might expose children to these things. Similarly, if you yourself engage in these things in the presence of children, then it is you who must be shamed and removed from the pool of desirable partners.

The purpose of a marriage is not to memorialize a selfish, limited love between two people, nor is it (as Christian leaders suggest) to “produce” children. Only a couple who cannot think rationally about the society they want to live in will settle for one of these shallow goals, and only a foolish individual will promote them. Humanity as a whole deserves better than that. Marriage must engender an outward, contagious love conducive to raising healthy children.

I’m still on the fence as to the meaning of human existence, but I feel fairly confident in saying that raising children who carry both wisdom and love with them to the next generation should be among humanity’s highest goals. Let us hope, then, that we can enshrine that goal both in our laws and in our stories.

Posted: January 28th, 2011 | Kultur 2 Comments »

Winter Vacation, Part 2: Comic Market, also Kyoto

Continuing where part 1 left off. Now you can learn about what I did in Tokyo.

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Posted: January 2nd, 2011 | Travel 1 Comment »

Winter Vacation, Part 1: Banpo-myeon, Korea

The vacation you’re about to see requires a fair bit of explanation, so I’m releasing my photos as a blog post. Please note that there are more pictures in the Picasa album.

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Posted: January 2nd, 2011 | Travel 1 Comment »