“In the second genre of error a beautiful object is suddenly present, not because a new object has entered the sensory horizon bringing its beauty with it…but because an object, already within the horizon, has its beauty, like late luggage, suddenly placed in your hands.”- Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just
“Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”- Zadie Smith, interview with The Guardian
“…love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things…”- the apostle Paul, King James’ version of 1. Corinthians 13:4-7
The loss of human life is the great priority-checker. It freezes the steps of those in its path, and sends a flurry of questions into their hearts and minds. Why is this happening? Who can I blame? What the hell is wrong with people who take lives so willingly? This past week was a fresh reminder of tragedy as the memory of a beloved UNCG staff member who lost her life to a brain aneurism resurfaced, as someone correctly wondered about the awful death of a toddler, and as the anime series T and I have been watching allowed one of its characters to destroy an entire village. I will spend time on the cartoon, since the former two deserve more reverence than a neatly-packaged journal entry.
Isn’t it amazing how even a fictional portrayal of death can render tears? I bawled uncontrollably reading “The House of Mirth,” “Suite Française,” “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed” and “White Fang.” Just the thought of the song Moon River in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” pushes out the eye water. Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly is so adorably reckless that you hurt for her mistakes. This is bitter icing to the wretched cake of movies involving orphans, war-torn countries, and innocent parties being lambasted for the delight of evil. I wish I saw the reasons for breast cancer, miscarriages, the Klu Klux Klan, neighborhood shootings, Nazis and unprotected elementary school students. All I know how to do is mourn, particularly when it comes to imaginary creations because I don’t have to face them each day and fight the urge to offer some kind of solace.
So (spoilers) Naruto, the sixteen-year old ninja held as the Christ figure of the show (he never gives up on people to an unfathomable amount, has extraordinary powers, sacrifices himself, etc.) is training for the battle of his lifetime. His enemy is the Akatsuki, a group of villains who kill so much you want to jump in the t.v. and fight your own battle. In particular, he is now fighting Pain, a grown-up orphan who sees peace as wielding ultimate weapons to force nations to get along with each other. Doesn’t make sense to you, either, huh? Well, this is part of what makes even Pain’s character desperate but still forgivable. He is lashing out because he doesn’t know what else to do, and countless villagers and friends of Naruto are victims in his wake. Over a course of episodes, he goes from picking off a few people to obliterating the Hidden Leaf Village with nuclear-type powers.
Ensuing episodes introduce us to the terrible heartbreak of Pain. He loses his parents, dog, fellow villagers, and the respect of ninja who refuse him food even though he starves and they feast. He harbors misery when one of these warriors forces him to watch his best friend die before his eyes. These things culminate in bitterness and a vendetta. His victims are now more innocent children, as the vicious cycle continues.
Naruto, after beating Pain with his newfound super-powers, follows the villain to his hideout to simply have a chat. Drawing on the warm memories of his dead comrades and unflinching hope in love, Naruto says that Pain’s simple mistake in his philosophy of “peace” is that he doesn’t believe the reality of it can actually happen. Maybe Paul had this hope in mind when he reminded the church love won’t be destroyed. Its wings, born by humility and joyful perseverance can’t die in the gravest of circumstances. Events will terrify and depress us, but the rainbow light of love will crush this dark matter. Few scenes in anime have come as close to displaying this, as when Pain undoes his curse and life is made new in the Hidden Leaf Village
I’d do well to try and change my jaded, self-serving idol of a heart. Yes, help is given to me by God. But all those direct objects and action verbs don’t fill the Bible for looks. Jesus and my neighbor are far too important to douse love’s fire with overdone self-promotion and a hunt for validation. It’s tricky, however. I shouldn’t exchange obnoxiousness for obnoxious self-deprecation. We are all also given gifts that should be shared. My hope is that this writing does something small to help the world. Naruto’s hope was that his simple conversation would make Pain stop hurting people. He had no idea it would cause rebirth.
Elaine Scarry talks about two “errors of beauty” in her treatise On Beauty and Being Just. One error is to realize something once held beautiful is now not—like a well-dressed, seemingly charming gentleman who asks you for sex on the first (bad) date. The second error is to see what one never knew considered beautiful in the first place as breathtakingly gorgeous. Like a mass-murderer who seeks redemption, and helps to rebuild what he annhiliated. I’m sure Paul knew a little bit about that…