…because some thoughts are worth remembering
In the days of yore, before the word, “Google” was used commonly as a verb, there was a search engine game called Googlewhack, whose goal is to end up with one search result when typing in two words. Being two proper nouns, I’m not sure Hello Kitty and Montaigne would have been acceptable entries, but I would venture that regardless of their legitimacy, there would have been very few results that contained those terms in one website.
The commonality I see between Hello Kitty and Montaigne comes from an article I read about the psychology of Hello Kitty. The famous Sanrio character has been made into obvious merchandise such as stuff animals and mugs, but also on odd items such as tombstones and auto parts. It isn’t just for small children: grownups covet Hello Kitty merchandise, decorating their kitchens with Hello Kitty toaster ovens and making Hello Kitty pancakes. Too lazy to bake/cook yourself? There are Hello Kitty cafés, as well as Hello Kitty theme parks.
The popularity of Hello Kitty lies in the fact that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth drawn in. Apparently, the shape of the mouth is used to express and signify one’s mood (e.g., a smiley face turns into a frowny face icon by a mere flip of the parenthesis). Because Hello Kitty doesn’t have one, we can project our own mood to it: when you are tired, Kitty agrees with you, when you are happy, Kitty joins you in your joy. In short, we project our own emotions to Hello Kitty, as it becomes your best silent and empathetic buddy.
When Michel de Montaigne published Essays in 14th Century, the style in which a collection of short writings on how one felt about specific topics, which in formed a portrait of oneself, was novel. Montaigne described himself through his thoughts on topics as emotional as sorrow and solitude, as well as culture, such as ancient customs and books. With over a hundred vignettes, the readers are treated to not only how he felt about shortcomings of governments, but also how his views have changed over time, as he continued to edit earlier essays until his death.
Regardless of your own views, Montaigne’s Essays was a hit not only during his lifetime, but its popularity continues to the present day, where somehow, writing about oneself has ended up creating a mirror for others to realize their own humanity.
Hello Kitty allows you to recognize your own humanity without a mouth or an opinion, and Montaigne does the same with a pen and opinions on numerous topics. Whatever the methods, their success in acting as a mirror for our own humanity shows our need identify with ourselves.
Photo: After the sunset on Maine coast