JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
This is one of my favorite posts, published here last year on 3 November 2008. It is a fantastic idea, this memorial for lost and worn-out toys, and one which I think could work well in the U.S.
"No two toys are ever broken in the same way or with the same emotional results." Robert Graves, Poetic Unreason
At the beginning of my 10th month of blogging I'd like to open with these images showing the practice of an utterly fabulous idea--an eternal resting place and shrine for broken playthings. This is an absolutely outstanding concept, and I simply have no notion as to why we don't have such observations in the United States. (The following two details are from the larger images, below, found in the 27 July 1929 issue of The Illustrated London News, page 157.) The story provides these two pictures and unfortunately scant details of the ceremony which was held at the Imperial Primary School at Sugamo, Japan.
The first photo shows the detail of children offering flowers for the altar on which their tray of broken dolls is being venerated; and to the right is the detail of children bowing to the grave of "broken playthings", though the markings on the (grave?) stone indicate that it is for dolls. It also seems to be a marker for a mass of toys, not that each toy would have its own marker; I suspect it to be enough to have a place where allot of kids could come to venerate objects in which they might have invested countless hours of their time, effort, attention and affection. That it is a shared place and experience makes the monument all the more so powerful.
There are few better things to teach a child than to pay respects for something that has given them pleasure or helped them, or, say, for returning the love which has been showed them from their doll or toy. It has always struck me as not-quite-right that a toy can be a beloved object one day and a dust-magnet the next, destined for the trash heap. Certainly these are holy objects in themselves, and deserve a better and more kinder fate than being mixed with broken glass and greasy unmentionables.
Are there greater things to be concerned with? Yes, of course, but only on the face of it--I think that helping kids understand the underlying dignity of inanimate objects such as their playthings could give them a greater awareness for the other seemingly invisible things that they will find throughout their lives. Further I think that a visible, constant reminder for these objects would be really more like a memory-monument for a period of time, a place in nearly everyone's life in which held a certain purity and promise, a protected and beloved frailty of the human experience shared by all. I can honestly think of no other monument that could reach across religious or philosophical or belief systems to arouse a feeling of common goodness than this. Everyone has had a toy that they've loved, and I have no doubt that if remembered these would be powerful emotions, and could be about the most common denominator we have on the planet. I can think of no divisive element in such a monument of veneration.