I recently came across this article in The Atlantic about how common it is to see young children in Japan out in public, unattended by adults. I was captivated by the accompanying video, even though it’s somewhat poorly shot and bizarrely edited. (I’m not able to link to this particular cut here, but you can watch it on their website.) The video is from a popular Japanese reality show that films young children going out on their first unaccompanied errand. I found small details poetic. For example, the older brother is terrified and crying at first, but at some point along the way, he stops to pick up a dandelion seed pod and painstakingly blows on it until every seed is released. Somehow in the midst of his fear, he’s able to give his full attention to the act of re-populating dandelions. (Then he goes right back to sobbing.) I love how his little sister just keeps urging him along, comforting him, but moving him forward, all with a gentle little smile. She even offers to carry his backpack at one point. I also enjoyed the very small moment where the older brother takes some candy from a jar and hands it to his sister first, before taking a piece for himself. The adults in the shops patiently help the children figure out what items they need and which coins are worth what, while the other patrons wait without complaining. Their kindness, and the impulse to put others first, seems automatic and effortless.
I know there are issues in cultures that value the good of the collective over individualism, and I don’t want to idealize that—I’m aware that Japan’s society has a lot of problems. But I’m amazed at the idea that two tiny children can walk around in public unattended, and the ingrained expectation is that everyone will keep an eye out for them and help them if they need it. The cultural anthropologist quoted in the article says that this is called “group reliance”, and that Japanese children are taught early that “any member of the community can be called upon to serve or help others.” I’m not saying Japan is perfect, I’m just saying that if this had happened in the U.S., CPS would be called, the parents would be arrested, the little sister would have smacked her brother and called him a wuss, the boy would have taken all the candy for himself, and the whole incident would become another internet outrage of the week.
Let’s see, what else to tell you, what else…I’m still in between writing projects, but I have an idea for a new poem. I’m bound and determined to finish my damn rug, already, and soon. And I really want to get back to my regular weekly writing group, which has just not happened for various reasons the last few weeks, most of those reasons being my fault. On that topic, please go and read my friend Lisa’s flash fiction piece here—it just got published and it’s fantastic! I got 10 cc’s of blood and fluid extracted from my other knee, which is still swollen from the fall I took almost a month ago now. And, I signed and mailed off a contract this week for the new publisher of “The Acme Employee Handbook.” I really hope it works out this time.
I received some hand-knit coasters for Christmas last year, and ever since we got Buddy, they have been MIA. Then I looked under the couch and discovered that he’s been putting his own, Dali-esque touch on them make more interesting:
Which is better? You decide!