So, I’m editing the final draft of my final paper, and besides the usual formatting, grammar, spelling and all that, I keep coming across the “one last thing” issue. When I decided to do my paper on otaku culture, I had one idea in mind on how it would turn out. To me I thought it was going to be this, I don’t know, decorative narrative of anime and manga culture, how it fit into my life and why it wasn’t what people thought it was.
It turned out, that it wasn’t what I thought it was either, in a good way. Just the research alone for my project pushed me to expand past what I knew to be otaku culture. I mean, anime and manga helped bring me out of isolation back where I was from, and here it has helped me push the boundaries I had kept for myself for so long.
Like, religion and spirituality. Nothing in particular, just not being fearful to actually learn about and actually understand other cultures beliefs without that colonial fog in the way. And not just in the scope of my own project with Shinto and folklore such as yōkai, I already lean more toward Buddhist practices personally, but in this class.
If I hadn’t taken this class, I don’t know if I would have thought on my own to view the beliefs, I’m using the term broadly, that before were always presented to me as false or wrong in the church I was made to go to growing, to view them as true. Not just acknowledge that others have different beliefs but comprehend and, I don’t know what word to use but, that feeling, that thought where you go, I get it. What this person or group or culture, what they think and feel and believe is just as real, maybe even more real, and just as important as what I think and feel and belief.
To connect the idea, what used to just be words about these beliefs to my own feelings that tell me what I believe, the words that describe my own ideas, is real too.
I don’t know if I’m explaining it right, but before, like with the yoki, it scared me the thought of these spiritual creatures, good or bad, just being everywhere and I couldn’t see them and colonial church it’s false, evil, yada, yada, yada, I think we’ve all heard those sermons enough to make our ears, and for some their eyes bleed.
But now, starting with Studio Ghibli’s work, mostly “Spirited Away” (not scared about the pigs anymore lol) and “My Neighbor Tortoro”, then doing some of my own research, the books we read in class, notably “Forgotten Country”, and then finding the manga “In/Spectre” and Korean webtoon “S.I.D.”, it still feels, new to say, and I’m still breaking apart the old fear driven habits, but I find it much more comforting for myself no longer jumping to the “this is bad” conclusion and instead, “where are some of these friendly yōkai?”
It’s like, that scary sense of being alone and there’s only spooky things out to get you and divine things to protect you at night and you just lay there trusting that everything is going to be OK, with all this stuff you can’t see are are supposed to believe is this way and only this way, is gone. I feel peace at the thought of there being things I can’t see that aren’t in an endless battle between good and evil. Some are just existing on this world in a different way or are just good, not fighting all the time.
There are other ways to believe and acknowledge that there is a higher power than heaven and hell. And even if it turned out to be only heaven and hell as I’ve been told, whose to say that interpretation is completely accurate or whole? I mean, most forms of Christianity I’ve come across are so heavily Westernized, they don’t acknowledge that it is a religion that originated over thousands of years in the Middle East.
It was never based in Europe or America and was spread to the Mediterranean, Roman Empire. That’s why I call it colonial Christianity, there no way it’s the same Christianity it was originally, and how far warped some of the text and its translation is, I don’t read ancient Greek and Hebrew, I can barely read a Medieval English recipe book in the rare books section of the library. I have no clue what has been left out, misinterpreted, accidental or deliberate, lost and lost in translation due to there being no translation or multiple translations.
And the thought that what I was brought up, told was true, not actually being true, is freeing. And not just with, spiritual, religious beliefs, but the world around me. It feels really good. It means there is more to discover and to learn and to grow.
And this remodeling of my own beliefs has helped me view my God without it being the “angry God in a box” thing. It lets me actually believe in a God and savior not constrained by churches, bibles and the minds of men. It lets me believe that if God is all powerful, all knowing, benevolent, just, good being, then whose to say all these other beliefs that colonial churches condemned were wrong at all?
I mean, I’m talking about the concept of an all-powerful being would not, could not, it would be impossible to be restricted and boiled down to only one set of, I guess misappropriated beliefs based on the harm the Crusades did alone, as being representative of an infinite being. That’s not even something humans can, literally, comprehend beyond the symbols used in math to represent the different levels of infinity.
And with Jesus and salvation, heaven and hell, why can’t it be viewed like saying you’re sorry to a friend for screwing up and you know you’re not perfect but you’re going to do your best not to do, whatever it is you keep screwing up on and they totally get it and tell you not to worry, it’s water under the bridge now and no matter what they’ll always be your friend and just want to make sure you’re OK and turn out OK. Oh and going to church isn’t a requirement and is like on a case by case basis whether to go to one or not. Cause sometimes, or a lot of the time, they give you the completely wrong idea, they can be kind of sketch.
Jesus really seemed much more outdoorsy, talking by a tree, a lake, a mountain, walking, traveling around, fishing, does some anti-establishment stuff now and then, like tossing over tables and making a whip to drive out a bunch of crooked merchants from a temple. Free food and wine. Wears sandals and a robe everywhere. I don’t think he wore a sash or looked like Obi Wan Kenobi like in all those Renaissance era paintings.
Not like this dramatization to illustrate the way most people I hear talk, and present, Christianity, all fear, doom and gloom, a lot more fear plus guilt, based stuff:
Enter scary, creepy looking old preacher on stage.
He walks up to an old wooden pulpit where a crowd has hesitantly gathered in a rickety old church.
*Scary noises echo in the old church*
Preacher: “Fire! Brimstone! Accept Jesus or got to HELL!!!”
Person in Crowd 1: “…Uh, are there any perks?”
Preacher: “I don’t know! But you won’t go to HELL!”
*more scary noises*
Person in Crowd 2: “But, what did I do that was that wrong?”
Preacher: “SIN!!! Accept him or pay the price for all eternity in HELL!”
*Preacher hisses, eyes glowing and fire shoots out from behind*
Person in Crowd 1: “…Yeah, I’m going to go now, cause there’s a guy handing out free food down the street and seems a lot nicer.”
Person in Crowd 2: “Yeah, and it’s nice day…uh…bye?”
Preacher: “NO! REPENT! PAY YOUR TITHES OR GO TO HELL!!!”
*More fire spurts out and crowd runs out as the building catches fire*
Person in Crowd 1 to Person 2: “Yeah, I think we just escaped going to hell.”
There were and are actually still are preachers who used gun powder, fire crackers and the modern equivalents like smoke machines, red lights, super loud, scary music and stuff like that at children’s camps to scare kids into accepting Jesus. I’ve been to those fake haunted houses and they are less scary than these performances I’ve had to sit or stand through on more than one occasion. It is messed up.
Anyways, back to what I was trying to say is that this class, this program, the materials we read and what we all talked about, listened to and watched, helped me a lot to break out of the cultural and social shell I was in stuck in and helped me to learn how to see both the man and the rabbit in the moon and I experienced this the most when challenging my own personal spiritual beliefs and I’m happier and more at peace because of it.
And ready for more, after I finish my project, get some sleep and play “The Legend of Zelda” on my Switch some more.