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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Life 101: The Book That Taught Me Life

The door that can connect you to everywhere, the sheet that can reverse an item's condition back to its previous state (e.g. from broken to unbroken), a time machine that can take you to any time you want, the unbidden state of mind that allows you to think nothing is impossible; all these sounded pretty fantastic, don't you think? I do have to admit I have a great childhood :)

Reading has always been a passion of mine, and with those magical words and sentences I am transferred to faraway lands and adventures and all those nice things. I went out on my little bike, deliberately took a different route, and it made me feel like I was a great explorer; I took my mother's beach cloth and sat on the field having a picnic with fried tempeh and a bottle of water, wondering why it didn't feel as good as described in the book while my friends looking at me awkwardly trying to understand what the heck am I doing; I put a brick on my bike's basket and pretend it was a puppy or kitten and drove it around like the girl in the story book; I basically trying to simulate interesting things that I read, and as Cinderella would say: In my own little corner/In my own little space/I can be whatever I want to be. Yet nothing come even close to the profound impact of a specific book series that literally shape me into who I am right now: the Doraemon Manga.

Pirate ship Vs Ole-Time Train in space? Heck yes. As badass as it can be. 

The Doraemon manga is a story about a fourth grade boy who has a friend in form of cat robot from 22nd century, and how the robot help him to cope with day-to-day life. The graphic is not spectacular, nor the story line; yet there are far more life lesson that I learned from this series than any other book I read, even The Lord of The Ring series. The complete characters are, for one, are people who I can really relate to: 
- Nobita: Main character, not very bright, slow and lazy, have a kind heart but prone to temptation
- Doraemon: Main character, owned a slew of fabulous future tools and know how to use it wisely yet still got his own flaws and silliness
- Shizuka: The girl that Nobita like, kind and smart and generous but can be nagging and really jealous at times
- Giant: The big bully that will crushed anything on his way, but very loyal and can be depended on at all times
- Suneo: Small rich boy with insecurity regarding his height (he is short), he is both snobbish and cunning and like to flaunt his wealth, and always the last person to agree on helping his friends (yet he would do it wholeheartedly)
Don't we all have someone like this in our little circle of friends? And at one time we can be one of these five characters: the weak, the powerful, the angel, the bully, the elitist?

Yet the attraction of the series went far more than just the relatable characters, this series taught me almost all I need in life. For instance: it taught me about tax, how credit works, evolution, fashion, and even time paradox. It taught me the good and bad effect of flattery. It taught me about cause and effect: in one story Nobita was given a dictator switch where he can make any person he didn't like disappear, in the end he was so frustrated with people that he made everyone disappear and he was all alone in this world until Doraemon showed up and explained to him that it was actually a switch to teach dictators a lesson that nobody is dispensable. It taught me about relationship: that a man with good heart and willing to go the distance for you and his loved ones is the best man that you can find. It even taught me about adulthood: in one story Nobita's dad came home drunk and upset, and Nobita and Doraemon realized that his dad just need someone to cry to and unburden his stress just like a little child who need his/her mom to comfort him/her when the going gets a little too tough. This is the best relationship advice that I ever had, by the way. 

And after all that, they still have time to own a set of flying fish, save elephant and various wild/feral animals, going for underwater hiking and underground adventure, visiting space, say hi to Lochness Monster, swam in the bathtub as large as the ocean, and even have a jolly good hot spring vacation at home. Yes, that include the Everywhere Door, the time machine, the Reverse Cloth, and so on. They had adventures in the cloud, under the sea, in the depth of African Jungle, in the dinosaur era, robotic wars, even a dab at Arabian Night tale. All while teaching the reader about honesty, perseverance, courage, and respect; with a dab of environmental issue. What better lesson can a child get?

If you care to look and listen, you'll hear the same woes voiced by people from different countries in the world: "Our school system does not teach the children enough about life skills such as tax and credit", "The school need to educate our children about kindness and compassion", "School is useless. Period". Now, I have disagree on that because school is not a place where you can be jack-of-all-trade; instead it is an institution than helped you learn about solving problems and dealing with life (friends, superiors, deadlines). Yet if you still feel the school is failing you and your children on this, perhaps it is time to give them a different exposure. Let your children mind run free and unbidden, let them believe that nothing is impossible, help them learn about Life 101 through books and stories. Cool comics like Batman and such will always be cool, but give them something they can hold on through out their life: of kindness and compassion, of loyalty and honesty, of perseverance and respect, and most importantly, about cause and effect. And while you are at it, give yourself this gift too. Trust me, it works :)

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