Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Melancholy of Haruhi Redux

(I previously had this post using my full name, but because of the whole companies searching for my name to check me out and then reacting badly to the medical/mental stuff here, I had to take it out. It sucks, it's not how things, but F-ing A-, that's the way the world is.)
(I love using my middle name to give a phrase a little bit more gravitas.
And a word such as melancholy has been overused so much, one must add a dash of gravitas to bring out its true essence.)

Because melancholy's a little bit more than that whiny-ness it's so often associated with, it's about a profound disconnect from the world and from that which gives people joy in life. Melancholy's not a fun place to be...

But it is sometimes a fun place to watch, at least in the case of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. As I said in that review of the show, I can identify with her melancholy. She has the loneliness of anonymity. If you're just one out of millions of millions, why do you matter? Why do the people around you matter? Why should you bother with happiness? And the natural laws of population say that there are millions and millions of humans, and they're never that far away from you. It's natural to feel a melancholy, and even if it's masked by a manic lust for excitement driven by a desperation for a source of uniqueness, that melancholy, it's absolutely horrible.

And I said I could relate to Haruhi's feelings, and I can. But I have a reply to those feelings and so does the show. Since I'm going to talk about the latter as well as the former, prepare for spoilers.

Or to make it more clear Warning: Spoilers.

By the beginning of the show, Haruhi, in response to her melancholy has discarded all normal human relations, all normal human activities, and all normal human impulses, because she is determined to find the abnormal, and so she'll only bother to become interested with things which defy the normal world, such as aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers.

Yet her approach at the beginning of the show is rather self-defeating, because instead of being guided towards the weird, she is isolated from even the normal. All that's left to do is sit bored and stare out the window. But Kyon, our intrepid, if foolishly impulsive, hero boldly begins to talk to her and mentions that those dissatisfied with the world are doomed, unless they're an extraordinary few who change the world.

So Haruhi is determined to become one of those few. So she organizes a club like none her school has seen before. Its mission is to seek out aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers, and have fun with them!

That's certainly a response to the melancholy that possesses her. And it's a response that makes sense. Instead of waiting for the strange, go out and find it. Instead of resigning yourself to be normal in a normal world, make your world extraordinary and become extraordinary.

And that approach works... to an extend. I suppose I adopted that approach to a degree during my high school year, or even before. I wanted to seek adventure and get all my friends to help me. I even drew up the club papers for John Corp, which isn't too far away from the SOS Birgade. I had a dream of a personal army who would seek out the dangerous, the glorious, and the righteous, and would reform my school and would run businesses and would implement my revolutionary new ideas and would fight the drug culture and... yes I did dream of fighting the melancholy.

But there is a problem with that approach. The world is very hard to change. And when you do change it, the change is always small compared to the bigger changes the world inflicts on itself. To make matters worse, you can't always control the changes you make to the world. Perhaps I hold myself too harshly for this, but during freshman year I ran for Class Treasurer (actually originally I had planned to run for Class President but a pal of mine convinced me to run for Treasurer while he ran for President, ensuring that there was only one male in each category, so that while the female vote splintered, the male vote was concentrated... essentially we rigged the election... awesomely), and my approach was three-pronged. I gave an impassioned speech outlining my plans, my enthusiasm and my reasons for service. Then I did a rap and did a dance. Yep.

To add to things, several friends of mine had written J-O-H-N on their chests and took off their shirts. In short, I raised the bar on showmanship for the high school election.

Yet every year after that, it seemed like speeches became less and less about issues and more about jokes, till finally senior year a cabinet full of funny, good-natured, but lazy jokers were elected. Events went unorganized. Our school phonebook, once renown for its terrific art (including once a cover by me), was left with crude last minute scribblings. Our finances stagnated and our once grand senior trip plans had to be cut up (to a degree, exactly to what degree I can't remember, it was 4 years ago). In short competence had gone out of student government.

I think I blame myself too much for this, since a few years before I came to high school, a kid made an election speech focusing on a twinkie, and overall no one respected the student government. But I didn't help matters, at least in the respect of student council respectability. The changes we want to make are often very different than the changes we make.

That's not to say don't try to change the world. Heck, I'm still trying, I manage at any given time 4 or 5 side projects, most of which amount to nothing, but all of which aim to become part of something grand. Besides, the world has a lot that needs to be changed. War, hate, apathy. And we can fill the world with love and hope and faith and grandeur and dreams. Heck, I love big dreams, just like Haruhi.

But like I said, there are limits to her approach, which I think she finds as well in the show. Despite forming her club, she finds that she can't get enough members or attention. And although she herself is actually quite extraordinary with the ability to shape reality to her will, the changes she inflicts can often be quite destructive to those she cares about. In fact, by the end of the season she comes quite close to destroying the world.

Yet, if changing the world is a messy, unpredictable, and immensely slow process, a truly melancholy person can often find even in extraordinary times, things aren't extraordinary enough, despite all his or her trying.

And I've felt that too.

But the show and I can agree on two other replies. First is the reply of people. While Haruhi's club doesn't change the world, and while she never (at least so far, there's another season being produced and more books (the series is based on some books) being written) realized that she is in fact secretly surrounded by aliens, esp-ers, and time-travelers, she does acquire friends. And if friends don't make you truly extraordinary, it does allow you to feel extraordinary for moments, and it gives you relationships where each one is uniquely shaped. It's not everything, but sometimes good relationships are better than even an extraordinary world. That's the show's primary answer.

The show has a secondary answer it visits upon more briefly. If you can't become extraordinary everywhere and for all time, it is still possible to become extraordinary in certain moments and certain times. But it requires working through the ordinary. And thus something as simple as a fun band to play in on the side can become an opportunity for a moment of truly extraordinary thrill. Even if there's a lot of normal in this universe, if you look hard, you can find there's a lot of spots of extraordinary as well.

These are, as far as I can see, the show's answers to Haruhi's melancholy. To that I would add the thing that saved me more than anything else from my melancholy (not to say I'm entirely cured of it, but I can handle it, and I couldn't before, and besides, a little melancholy (mind you a little), isn't so bad).

God has always been there for me. Having His light shine down on me, having Him love me, having God, the most... that's something extraordinary. There's your unique. He will hold you close for your every moment, and to Him you are something absolutely precious.

What's more, understand that the world's in His hands gives you a different perspective. You don't need to save the world... I mean you can't really, the world's far too big for you, but not for God, and He's doing the best He can. Now the world's still got problems, and there are reasons for that (the need for free will, the need for individuality, the need for diversity, etc.), and there are mysteries involved as well. Yet even though you still might want to change the world, you don't need to worry about it not being made good enough, God's still out there, and if you trust Him, things will be all right in the end. That's not to say tears are something bad or wrong, but out there waiting is a joy so profound it defies all melancholy.

Yet even if you're not religious, perhaps you can find a taste of that profound joy in the taste of love. For God's spirit moves through love, and perhaps in a kind world, a hug, or... a kiss... one can find that a bit of that absolutely... extraordinary... presence and find that even melancholy can be defeated.

Although I doubt The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya will echo my religious thoughts, I do think it believes in the power of love, and maybe that will be enough to save Haruhi too from the depths of her melancholy.

Anywho, just to remind you guys, I gave the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya a 8/10 and I look forward to seeing the next season whenever it comes over to the English-speaking world.

So take it to your head, take it to your heart and remember Rand rocks. Goodnight Folks!

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