Rejoicing in Being Defective

For a while now, the old anime Saber Marionette J has excited my curiosity.  On the one hand, the show exudes mediocrity; on the other hand, I’m an avid enough fan of 90’s anime to pass over many flaws in anime from this era.  The basic premise for this show lies in a space ship crash landing upon a deserted planet, killing all the female crew members.  This necessitates the population of this world to come about through cloning (somehow, their best efforts to clone women from male genes failed); yet, the memory of the fair sex is kept alive through creating androids or marionettes in the form of women.  These androids are inferior to real women in many ways, especially because they lack volition and emotion.  (You can tell this anime is a commentary on the state of women in Japan, and you might expect an article from me in this regard by a certain point.)

SaberMarionetteJ6

However, our hero, Otaru, discovers a marionette named Lime who has both will and emotions.  His neighbors initially deem Lime a defective product and attempt to destroy this rambunctious robot.  (She does kind of rob all of them of their breakfasts.)  However Otaru saves her by begging for her life.  Afterwards, the neighbors come to a good opinion of Lime, claiming that sometimes the most defective products are also the most lovable.  At which point, Lime knuckles her forehead and says: “Ha, ha!  Yeah!  I’m defective.”

SMJ

In a similar way, we ought to consider our own defects with good cheer.  Rather than letting these bring us down, we ought to laugh with Lime at our own defectiveness.  St. Francis de Sales does aver that we should “rejoice in our abjection,” but few find their own weaknesses as something to rejoice in–especially if these happen to be sinful proclivities.  Yet, even more than Otaru’s neighbors finding Lime lovable in her crazy antics, Our Lord loves especially those who are weakest and most in need of His mercy.

Jesus - Lost Sheep

We seem to have more cause to weep over our defects than to rejoice over them; but, our very mourning becomes beatitude when seen in the light of Our Lord’s Passion: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:8).  Sorrow over sin inevitably raises the mind to the Passion of Christ, of Our Lord who suffered for the forgiveness of our sins.  When we look at God, God looks at us.  In seeing our confusion and sorrow over the wounds our sins inflicted upon Himself, Our Lord presents His wounds for the healing of our souls to God the Father.  The greater our sorrow and focus upon God, the purer our heart becomes and the greater God refines our souls from the dross of sin.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque receives the vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque receives the vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

As such, we ought to view our sense of abjection as a gift from God.  If we felt that we were alright, we would not seek God.  Because we know that we are broken and defective, we focus more on the Great Physician, who heals us the more as we bind ourselves to Him by remembering Him always.  Even though conscious that the wounds we see upon Christ Crucified represent our offenses and sins, we become yet more conscious that God took these wounds upon Himself of His own free will out of love for us.  And so, the more we focus upon Christ’s wounds and sufferings, the more apparent God’s infinite Love becomes to us.  Indeed, the most sinful, weak, and defective become the most beloved of God.  As Jesus told the Pharisees: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matt. 21:31). 

St. Matthew, one of the tax collectors whom Jesus saved.

St. Matthew, one of the tax collectors whom Jesus saved.

But, I suppose that the knowledge that God appears to love those who caused Him the most suffering more than those who live decent lives is not enough for us.  We want to be just!  We want to cease being the thorn in Our Lord’s Sacred Heart!  But, have we not fulfilled the fourth beatitude in our desire for justice even if we see ourselves falling often every day?  Our very abjection fulfills the first beatitude.  Our knowledge of human weakness and our own poverty lead us to be gentle towards our brothers and sisters, fulfilling the second beatitude.  Our sorrow for sins and seeking righteousness increase our purity of heart or single-mindedness on God.  Our focus on God reminds us of the constant need we have for mercy, and so we become merciful to our brothers and sisters–desiring them to be happy even if we suffer temporal losses.  Our focus on justice, mercy, and purity make us excellent peacemakers, by which virtue the children of God are known.

St. Longinus at the Crucifixion

Then, once we have been filled with such blessedness, we shall be worthy to be persecuted along with our Lord and thus fulfill the highest and eighth beatitude.  Such a soul is so conformed to its Lord and filled with God’s Spirit that, as in the case of St. John Vianney, someone might exclaim “I have seen God in a man.”  All the saints have meditated often on Our Lord’s Passion and drawn strength from it as well as from the sacraments.  Though grace so wonderfully perfected the nature of these saints according to the image and likeness with which all human beings are created, they never forgot their utter need of God, their sinfulness, and how reliant they were upon His sufferings.

All this from knowing our utter misery, wickedness, and need of God!

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Black Bullet and the Difficulty of Expressing Noble Sentiments

While watching Black Bullet last night, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines in episodes three and four struck me.  Don’t get me wrong: I find the show very enjoyable.  It boasts likable characters and some brilliant animation, especially in the way they draw the characters’ eyes.  Seitenshi has some of the most brilliant blues I’ve seen anywhere in anime.  (Yes, I’ve fallen in love.)  Still, the hackneyed quality of some of the lines and impossibility of surviving certain wounds bother me: having both kidneys pierced and a hole as wide as the Grand Canyon made in one’s abdomen are lethal even in most other shonen anime.

Kage_confronts_Rentaro

Which brings us to the question of the difficulty of showing noble deeds and sentiments in a way which does not strike the audience as corny.  The difficulty is actually quite extreme: authors must be as noble as the ideas they wish to express.  Otherwise, these ideas come across as trite–rather than the writer being an authority on nobility, he thieves from the annals of heroes.  For example, those lines and scenes concerning the ostracism suffered by Enju, Rentaro’s insistence on her value and the value of other cursed children, and the gratitude for Rentaro’s acceptance shown by Kayo struck a chord with me.  Those times where Rentaro exclaims his zeal for saving the world, his condemnation of Kagetane’s actions, his perseverance in suffering through essentially mortal wounds, and risking transforming into a giant monster did not.

I had to fit her in somewhere. :)

I had to fit her in somewhere. 🙂

Everyone would like to write an epic; but those who have not suffered agony, strove nobly, or found their hearts aflame with great ideals cannot be expected to produce epics.  Emperor Augustus asked many poets to write an epic for the glory of Rome, but most excused themselves.  This developed into a tradition where Roman writers would publish their first work of poetry with an apology for not writing epic.  Only Virgil undertook the task, painstakingly composing an average of two lines per day.  And then, as Virgil lay dying, he begged his friends to burn the manuscript, because he thought that the manuscript lacked polish and stood as an inferior work–Virgil’s magnum opus, the Aeneid!

Rentaro

Virgil’s self-doubt points to the second thing necessary to generate sublime thoughts: humility.  As we see Rentaro shrugging off mortal wounds or ripping off an artificial arm bound to his nervous system without hesitation, we become vexed at seeing the unreality of these actions.  These heroic acts lacked the aura of heroism because Rentaro does not display human weakness.  A good shonen anime does show that its characters struggle to overcome human weakness whether it be Kenshin’s temptation to give up living toward the end of his duel with Shishio, the doubts constantly assailing Kiba’s mind, or Inuyasha’s self-hatred and thirst for power.  And we cannot forget the hero of the greatest modern epic, Frodo Baggins, whose determination would have been vain had he not been supported by so many and Providence saved him from his own folly at the critical moment.

Rentaro_tries_out_the_item

One has difficulty identifying with Rentaro as a warrior.  He’s at his best while he supports Enju; but, in combat situations where he should have to struggle with human weakness, he proves to be an Übermensch having no weaknesses to overcome!  Would that the authors have added their own experience of physical suffering into Rentaro’s battles!  They would have been far more moving!