Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Naturally Mournful Children

In the kindergarten, of course, most children are stupendously happy in that mindless way only young children can manage. They never walk, only run, and delight overcomes them numerous times on a daily basis, so much so that their only means of expression is to yell and scream. Their numerous petty squabbles and bad tempers have vanished from their memories almost as soon as they have occurred. In their youth they cannot appreciate how precious their innocence will one day seem, as the future holds for them many revelations of a dark, brutal, cynical cold world full of fermenting evil and diabolical ruinations.

This applies to the majority of the kindergarten anyway, who spend their days in happiness. However, there are a couple of young tots who already show signs of a predeliction for gloom. With naturally doom-ridden faces, their happiness is tempered by early sparks of self-absorbed introspection and over-sensitive pessimism.

These two children are Samuel and Alex.

Samuel is in Rainbow class. He is quite sweet, and his mother evidently takes great care in styling his hair, as he ranges from a mini-Elvis to the slicked back style of the yuppy 80s. He speaks in a quiet and croaky voice, and is prone to bursts of irrational excitement. Just as quick though, bursts of devasted misery are prone to overwhelm him, and he has a face moulded perfectly for this. His face seems to droop, just like the Warner Brothers cartoon dog, and his eyes sag from the pressures of his young life. A simple question answered wrong can trigger a world of torment for this poor little chap, as his lips tremble in sadness and he is unable to prevent the tears welling in his eyes before becoming a flood of tears, which he buries in his arms with his face. His dark eyes stare hauntingly at you, as if a puppy dog being boxed up and sent to its fate downriver.

Alex is a year or two younger, in Forest class. He isn't prone to crying, but nor is he ever prone to great displays of happiness. Already at this young age, he is a ghost, a faint shadow in the classroom. His face is pulled down, long and empty of emotion. He is always pale. His greatest excitement seems to be when questioned about a letter of the alphabet, which he invariably identifies as "K". Gym class holds few thrills, as while the others run around gaily, he frequently slinks in a corner unwilling to participate. He's neither bright or popular, and is ignored more than he is pushed around. This is not to mean he is without his spells of impish pleasure, but too often when running about in excitement, his is actually just trailing behind the other members of his class, unsure exactly what the source of joy is but just instinctively feeling he should be part of it.

As the traditional Korean society based on Confucianism decays under the overwhelming force of Westernisation, capitalism and globalisation, the community spirit is one of the first things to be shattered. The suicide rate in Korea is climbing, as a sense of isolation cripples those who feel they have no place in this new, impersonal society. Without a community to be embraced and controlled by - for better and for worse - there is no system of support for the lonely. Thus, annually, the suicide rate in Korea climbs.

Samuel and Alex are but young children, with an unknown future ahead of them. But even in these days of youthful reckless hedonism, demons haunt their joy. Let's pray for these sweet little angels and for the years ahead of them, and hope they always find an embracing community to shelter them from the torments of depression.

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