The pureness of childhood is always touching and nostalgic. It might be because it’s about our pure old selves. There is a story that starts with a swallow chick. It is not the special swallow featured in a Korean fairy tale “Heungbu and Nolbu,” which brought a miraculous gourd seed to kind Heungbu. It is an ordinary swallow.
The parent swallows worked hard to feed their chicks after they were born. However, a cabbage butterfly worm that they caught fell to the ground as chicks were being “fussy.” The worm that could have become a butterfly fell and died. Ants gathered around the dead worm. They were hungry and tried to drag it to their nest but struggled due to a “tiny hill the size of a baby’s fist.” For the ants, the worm is like the boulder of Sisyphus. As Sisyphus had to roll a boulder up a hill only to repeat the process as it rolled down from the top, the ants repeatedly dragged the worm up.
Then, a story of a human starts here. A child is squatting down and staring at them with tears in his eyes. This is what’s described in poet Yoon Jae-woong’s prose poem titled “The biggest teardrop in the world.” In the poem, the child is a young Buddhist monk to remind readers of Buddhist teaching. “A young monk with stubbles on his head is squatting down and looking down at them with tears in his eyes.”
His tears are the tears brought out by the nature of Buddha innate in humans, which is described in “Nirvana Sutra.” A sense of sympathy, which expands not only to humans but also unlimitedly to other beings like ants, is within ourselves. British poet William Wordsworth said such an ethical impulse comes from a god. The child’s tears over the cabbage butterfly worm and ants are the products of such an impulse. They are not the tears of naivete. They are from deep within one’s heart. This is enough reason for adults to learn from children.