03 April, 2008

Sometimes Titles Are Just Counterproductive

Today I watched an anime film titled "5 Centimeters Per Second", by the celebrated Makoto Shinkai. It's a very depressing story told in three parts. There's no death, disease, war, hatred, physical pain - it's all about the emotional pain that exists in that ever-growing space between people. Specifically, a boy and girl become friends in elementary school, but they drift apart over time - not for want of separation, but due to the inevitable circumstances of life. Blame the calling of The Division Bell, if you will.

I wonder about nostalgia, and its purpose. But more importantly, what do you call it when you have nostalgia for experiences that have never occurred in your life? Regular nostalgia includes a longing for a state of being that has passed - but at the same time, there's that comfort in knowing that you were once there, that it was once a reality for you. But what happens when you feel nostalgia for a fantasy? When you can imagine something infinitely beautiful, and your heart longs to experience it, but it lies outside your reach?

How come fantasy is so much better than reality? I see things in fiction that are beautiful, and then I compare them to my experience of reality, and I can't help but become depressed. I see things I want to experience, things that would enrich my life, but I can't touch them. I can imagine scenes of "the perfect childhood", "young love", "true happiness with friends", but they elude me.

In 5cm/s, the boy and girl share a romantic kiss in the snow, and at this one magic moment, they realize simultaneously the perfection of their connection, and the incompassionate truth of reality - that they cannot live their lives together. After years of forced separation, they even end up in the same place, but they couldn't be farther from each other. And yet, each one secretly yearns for one thing, which they understand is impossible, and that's to have had a chance for fate to have allowed their happiness together.

What do you do in the face of that realization? That your life was wasted, that you missed out on your chance for perfection, and that there was never anything you could do to change it. What was the point? You were one of the many bad eggs that didn't pass quality control, so now what meaning does your existence have? To live in misery? To gain cheap satisfaction from an illusion of lies? The only thing that has any meaning for you is that ideal, of living that perfection. But no matter what angle you look at it, there's no way for you to break in. So what can you do? What do you do? What will you do?

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