[VIEWPOINT]Importance of being innocent

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[VIEWPOINT]Importance of being innocent

I am known for being forgetful and losing stuff. I spend half my waking life either losing things or desperately searching for them. Many times, I have stored things in a "safe" place, pledging that this time I will not lose them. Then, of course, I forget where that safe place is.

I must look pathetic to the people around me. They tell me to make a list of things that I should not forget. But the strategy does not work because, almost immediately, the list slips from my hands and disappears.

Not only do I lose precious time every day, but I am always on a full alert like a hen watching a fox prowling outside the hen-house. Today, I forgot an important meeting and left some of my students' papers in the dentist's waiting room.

I, nevertheless, remember that I was complimented for being smart when I was young. At some point, during the subsequent years, my life became too complicated and I found that I had to remember many things in order to survive. My brain, however, seems to have refused to follow my needs and instead chooses to forget.

As I grow older, I feel more compassionate and find myself paying greater attention to stories about people suffering from dementia. I even put extra money in a fund that I can retrieve when I am 70, a safety net so I can afford a nursing home because I do not have kids who will take care of me if I suffer from dementia.

A few days ago, a newspaper article -- about dementia, of course -- attracted my attention. It was about how to prevent the disease: read books for more than two hours a day; try to use the left hand and left foot more often; laugh a lot; avoid living alone for long periods of time; do not use aluminum plates or bowls; and go out and commune with nature as often as possible.

After reading this long list of things that seem nothing more than common sense, there was one last line: "Be moved as often as possible."

I do not have adequate scientific knowledge to explain the correlation between dementia and being moved, but it seems that the mind's activity also affects the brain. That said, I also realized that there have been fewer and fewer opportunities to "activate" my mind in my mundane daily existence that spins like a chainsaw.

That is why I want to tell a story that I read in an English 101 textbook. The tale touched me, stimulating emotions that had long been forgotten.

Jamie, a third grader, was trying out for a role in a school play. Jamie's mother worried about her, because Jamie put too much effort and anticipation into the part. If Jamie didn't land the role, her disappointment might be overwhelming.

On the day that the roles were assigned, Jamie's mother anxiously went to school to pick Jamie up, worried that Jamie did not get the role. Then she saw Jamie running toward her, her eyes sparkling with excitement and pride.

"Mom, guess what role I got," Jamie said. Her mother, heaving a sigh of relief, asked what.

"I am chosen as a person who claps her hands and cheers!"

Maybe it is these difficult times that make Jamie's innocence and humbleness so touching.

We are living in an era of group dementia, forgetting what we said yesterday, saying different things today, unable to predict what we will say tomorrow.

Everybody wants to be the important person on the stage. But if we can open our minds to warm, honest and touching stories like Jamie's, we may be able to be lucky enough to take important roles like Jamie's, who has the honor of applauding and cheering for other people.


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The writer is a professor of English literature at Sogang University.

by Chang Young-hee

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