(Note: The text below is an abridge translation of an earlier post titled “檸檬是不是水果?” written in Chinese. Readers who can read Chinese are invited to read the Chinese post to get a fuller version of the writer’s discussion on the issue.)

For the past couple of weeks the writer of this post has been “hea-ing” (Refer to my earlier post titled “Hea-ing in Brisbane” for the meaning of this word.) his life away in Brisbane. During these days, while he occasionally exchanges a few words with his young and atttracitve wife and his Internet-addicted son, the writer of this post has somehow experienced a sense of void in his usually vigorous intellectual endeavour. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he had a blog that he started almost two years ago, and that has been left unvisited by himself. So he decided to revive this blog into one that posts the world’s most well-written articles. The few entries that he has posted on his blog over the past few days have given him a certain degree of satsifaction, yet he has this feeling that they somehow do not seem to be sophisticated enough. In other words, they don’t seem to be adequate in demonstrating how knowledgeable the writer of this post is.

So, to demonstrate his knowledgeability, the writer of this post decided to set a question of himself, for himself, and (to be answered) by himself. With painstaking efforts, which shows how serious he was in the matter, he came up with the question that concerns the entire human race, which numbers more than six billion: Are lemons fruit?

“Are lemons fruit?” is, without doubt, a highly profound question, and therefore it can only be answered by the writer of this post himself. Since this involves an important academic discussion, we need to take a look at the definition of “fruit” first.

So, how is “fruit” defined? The Cambridge Online dictionary defines it as “the usually sweet-tasting part of a tree or bush which holds seeds and which can be eaten” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=31470&dict=CALD&topic=fruits-and-seeds-and-their-parts). According to this definition, lemons are edible. Yet, are lemons really edible? Most of the time people would just put slices of lemon into hot or iced water to make lemon water or lemon tea, or put use them in cooking to make lemon chicken pieces or lemon duck pieces. And in either cases those lemon slices would not be eaten. Seldom would people eat the pulp of a lemon in mouthful of pieces like they eat other fruits such as oranges, apples, water lemons, grapes and bananas — at least normal people like the writer of this post don’t eat it this way. Lemons, in this sense, don’t seem to be fruit.

Yet, if lemons are not fruit, why do we have to go to the fruit stalls in the market or the fruit shelves in the supermarkets when we want to get some lemons, the same way when we want to get other fruits? In this sense, lemons do seem to be fruit. Furthermore, if lemons are not fruit, what are they? Are they vegetables? Meat? Mushrooms? Not quite so, I guess.

Regardless of whether lemons are fruit, one thing is definite: they grow on lemon trees. During his teenage, the writer of this post enjoyed listening to the song Lemon Tree. With the song, briefly speaking, the singer tells his audience that his father had warned him not to believe in love, that love was like lemon trees, which, despite their beautiful and sweet look, were to bear fruits too bitter to taste. Later on the singer got fallen in love with a girl. He pushed his father’s warning to the back of his mind and passed his time with the girl under a lemon tree all day, until one day the girl left him for another man. While his world was immediately turned upside down, he finally understood what his father had said. So he wanted to warn other people of his experience with the song. By likening the outcome of romantic love to lemons, the song has a rather desolate undertone, which the writer of this post didn’t quite comprehend during his teenage.

Regardless of whether lemons are fruit, another thing is definite: they are not the moon. In the 1979s, a Mandarin song titled “Yue Er Xiang Ning Meng” (月兒像檸檬, i.e. “The Moon Looks like a Lemon”) became very popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Its lyrics were not particularly impressive, something about how the singer got mesmerized by being in love with someone, and thus seeing the moon as a lemon.

With almost a century of life experience, the writer of this post does not see the moon as a lemon. Instead he sees life as a lemon. A lemon is either bitter or sour or astringent, depending on which part (skin, pulp, juice, seed) of it one tastes. Sometimes a part of it may be bitter, sour, and astringent at the same time. What about life? As the Buddhists say, everyone has to go through the sufferings of ageing, falling ill, and dying after birth. At different stages of our life, whether it be childhood, teenage, adulthood, middle-age or old age, we all have to experience the suffering of not getting the persons or the things that we like, the suffering of having to see or live along with persons or things that we don’t want to see or live along with, and also the suffering of seeing persons and things change in ways that we do not want them to change. That’s why life is so much like lemons. Yet, on the other hand, lemons can become yummy and thirst-quenching dried fruit when they are dried under the sun with liquorice added to them, giving people who eat them this way much enjoyment. Our life can be a happy one with achievements and blessings as long as we positively deal with adversities with our abilities and integrity. So, once again, life is really like lemons.

Perhaps, whether or not lemons are fruit is unimportant, and what is important is that we make use of them wisely.

P.S. Lyrics of the song Lemon Tree:

When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,
Come here and learn a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.
Don’t put your faith in love, my boy, my father said to me,
I fear you’ll find that love is like the lovely lemon tree.

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

Beneath the lemon tree one day, my love and I did a lie
A girl so sweet that when she smiled the sun rose in the sky.
We passed that summer lost in love beneath the lemon tree
The music of her laughter hid my father’s words from me:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

One day she left without a word. she took away the sun.
And in the dark she left behind, I knew what she had done.
She’d left me for another, it’s a common tale but true.
A sadder man but wiser now I sing these words to you:

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

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