Mikan

Today, if this post goes how I think it will, we’re going to start with mandarin oranges and little Japanese children, and end up with deep philosophy.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep well, and the song “Mikan” by Morning Musume popped into my head. So I looked it up. Mikan turns out to mean, basically, “satsume”, or a type of mandarin orange. And if Wikipedia is to believed, which is usually isn’t, the song is a reference to Japanese childhood memories, of eating mikan next to a kotatsu.

Not gonna lie, that affected me a little.

See, here’s the thing. I have my own set of childhood memories. I’ve talked about a few of them here. Many of them are pleasant, most of them are vivid and all of them are intrinsic to what makes me, me. For example, I am pretty sure my love of music comes from the fact that the cult/church I grew up in was, even if incompetently, very music centric. Certain aspects of music got tied indelibly with certain very positive emotions, and I’m not sure that particular set of associations will ever be removed.

But I have no memories of eating mikan next to a kotatsu.

But many Japanese children do. They may have memories of going to festivals, and hearing the taiko drums and chants, or being dressed up in kimono and eating many delicious Japanese delicacies. They may have good memories of shougakko, and maybe have a fond memory of a teacher or two. Japanese children are as precious as American children, even if their memories are entirely different.

See, they wouldn’t understand mine, either.

I could play the hymn “Declare his Works to All Nations”, and nevermind Japanese folks, 99% of you wouldn’t know what is so powerful about it to me. Because it’s a childhood memory. As much as I resent and regret my time in the church, it’s special to me in its own way. Just as the different, vibrant colors of tulips and other flowers are, just as going to religious festivals in different resort towns are, just as… just as I look back in it and wonder where the vividness of the world went.

My mind has been turning to the idea of perception lately. Let me run through two different mental exercises with you. Let us say, first, that there is nothing but space. No stars, no matter, not even your body You are just nothingness floating in a sea of nothing. You can see, but what can you see? You can feel, hear, taste, etc., but what can you see, here, feel, taste, etc? There is nothing to perceive, so in a very real way, do you exist?

Let us say, secondly, that there is nothing at all. Not even space. You exist in a void, of which there is not even space. There is still nothing to perceive, so the question now, is: is there anything functionally different in existing in an endless void devoid of matter, or an endless void devoid of space itself? Perceptually, there would be no difference. You may exist, but there is nothing to the existence.

So then, it becomes clear that self-awareness, or in a real way, existence, only makes sense when it is reflected in the perception of an other.

I think this is, in a way, why the notion of little Japanese girls eating mandarin oranges next to a kotatsu affected me so much – well, apart from the fact that I’m switching medicines and am probably a little weepy to begin with. It’s because their experience is so different, and yet it is so much the same. I don’t remember that experience, because I didn’t have it. But I can imagine how… treasured…. it must be to those who actually have it. Such a simple thing. I remember eating cottage cheese salad on a summer day. It was very simple to make – just lettuce leaves, with cottage cheese and fruit on top, and pineapple juice. Nothing worth writing home about, but I liked it.

Such a simple thing, and I think, maybe the simplicity of being a child is where beauty is to be found.

We get so wrapped up in our own experiences, our own troubles, and sometimes even our own joys, that we forget how little meaning the have if they’re not shared.

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