Of Lightning and Oranges

Without warning, lightning slashed, fleetingly illuminating what seemed to be the roots of an exceptionally large dicot planted in the gray skies. Rain fell, finally, after weeks of a searing Japanese summer, freeing petrichor from acres of yellowing grass. Such as it was, how else could we spend our time waiting it out, but to talk loosely of love and life, and all inanities in between?

‘If you were something else, an entirely different entity, not a person, not an animal, just a thing, what would you be and why?’

Thanks to years of Lasallian Personal Effectiveness Programs, I actually have standard, if unimaginative, default answers to this question. I do not, however, seem to have developed the default pep and panache expected from leaders, and still find myself constantly reminding people that I am honestly, truly, smiling on the inside. I digress. Anyhow, my standard replies to this question would be a kaleidoscope or a pen. As to the why, well, my answers befit what Haruki Murakami wrote in 1Q84: ‘If you couldn’t understand something without an explanation, you couldn’t understand it with an explanation.’

I’ve heard a gamut of answers for this one, even those that are merely variations of my own. Most of the time, the answers are reflective of a person’s interests or career aspirations. While they are not always direct representations of professions or personalities in themselves, the relationships or abstractions are often obvious. Thus, I was refreshingly surprised when one of our students, who plans to pursue further studies in UC Berkeley after graduation and create his own clinical welfare company, answered, without skipping a beat, that he would like to be an orange.

Unfortunately for me, this required an explanation.

His reasons were as follows. When you eat chocolate, there comes a point when you become satiated. (Sometimes, that’s hard to imagine, but I’ve been told it exists.) Eat an orange, and its acidity counters the excess sweetness. In contrast, when you sequentially consume sour food, then end the meal with an orange, the latter tastes, relatively, sweeter. The nature of the orange is relative, flexible, adaptable. However, the essence of the orange, in itself, is constant.

Maybe I just need to read more, or maybe this is simply an old Japanese proverb, but I think that I simply have a very smart and inquisitive student. I think myself undeservedly lucky, because I actually have many smart and inquisitive students.

There were countless revelations in the seven months I spent with them, but some of the best ones are moments such as these. I have confirmed that I would definitely like to have teaching be one aspect of my career, if only for the chance to encounter minds that surprise you. I have that learned that people can be good to you, truly and unrestrainedly, if you let them.

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