Friday, September 18, 2009

A diligent boy

From time to time I wonder: If I lived this time as a small school boy, what would I have done? How would I have felt about the goings on the world, how would I regard the people around me? How would I breathe in the air which is the beginning of the 21st century?

Occasionally, I encounter kids who remind me of my own youthful days. I observe them with great interest and empathy at these times, as they appear to be the echoes of my emotional and intellectual life of the past.

While vacationing in Taketomi island last extended weekend, I glanced upon a boy by chance. He was reading a book while strolling the venerable street of Taketomi, flanked by age old coral walls. The boy was deeply absorbed in his reading. From time to time, he would raise his eyes, and watch us strangers from a big city afar.

What kind of mental life is he nurturing, I wondered. How would it feel to be born and grow on this lovely island of a population of 342, with just 172 households, where everybody presumably knew everybody else?

How would he absorb the flying clouds in the sky? Would he be astonished by the great fruit-eating bats flying in the darkness of night? Would he pick up the seashells on the shore? Would he accumulate knowledge about the beautiful butterflies that inhabit Taketomi? Would he dream of going to the big cities, to attend places of higher education?

It was not likely that my life and his life would cross again in any significant way. However, that afternoon, on the coral island of Taketomi, my life resonated with the life of a diligent boy, leaving a bittersweet aftertaste.

I wish all the best in life for the little soul.

The diligent boy on Taketomi Island


US said...

Warmhearted writing.

Seen against the dignified coral walls, the boy on the milky street looks really bright.

I feel country children are more and more precious for us.
They are well endowed with nature, and probably feel alienated when they land on the big cities.
The wider the gap, the larger the filler.

The cute boy can be one of the bridges between civilization and mythology which is the present form.

Petrusa de Koker said...

Ken, I think, if you grew up on a small island where everybody knew everybody, you would probably look at the “big-city-people” and think how they absorb the clouds in the sky (if ever they do) and whether they are astonished by the great fruit-eating bats and the beautiful butterflies. I think you would definitely be attracted to places of higher education (no matter where they are) and more knowledge. My guess is that you would not experience less things, but just different things. You would not hear traffic, you would hear the wind in the grass and the rustle of a lizard amongst the leaves. I think you would still be you and that means that you would finish school and go to university, study hard and then write books, keep a blog, travel the world over, etc. You may have slightly different habits, but those can be changed or kept as you wish. I may have summed you up totally wrong, but I have a strong suspicion that you would still be intrigued by most things around you.
I grew up in the country (albeit on the other side of the world) in a small village where everybody knew everybody else and where the grandchildren of my grandfather's school-friends were my school-friends. Indeed, when I landed in Cape Town (even though this is a small city compared to Tokyo) I did feel a bit alienated. However, I find it quite the normal thing to introduce myself to neighbours and colleagues, to greet people when I see them and to strike up a small conversation with someone (even if I know the person only from sight or from a brief introduction), whereas the big-city-people around me kept a respectful (and safe) distance and would not speak to anybody unless they know them well. I quickly learnt that there are just too many people to go about greeting everybody.  Even so, I remember how exciting the “big city” felt. This is where things are happening – technology, business, etc. I still find that stimulating, but I have to be honest that, as I grow older, I look forward to more and more “quiet time” in the small village in the country. “Quiet time” does not mean that I necessarily relax and do nothing – sometimes I am actually very busy and doing loads of things.
Your picture of the little boy is very endearing. …and the boy is indeed diligent, carrying a back-pack and another bag while reading a book.

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read that blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and anything connected to them. I definitely want to read more soon.