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the leper's speech

In Princess Mononoke, Ashitaka tries to stop the assault Lady Eboshi is making on a primeval forest and the gods who live there. He's been cursed for killing a boar god who, maddened with pain and anger after Lady Eboshi shot him, turned into a demon and threatened to destroy Ashitaka's village. His cursed hand twitches uncontrollably when, upon hearing Ashitaka's story, Lady Eboshi mocks the boar god.

"Does that right hand of yours want to kill me now, Ashitaka," she asks.

"If it would lift the curse, I'd let it tear you apart, but even that wouldn't end the killing now, would it?" he replies, and she says lightly and mockingly, "No, it wouldn't. It would have to kill all of us to be at peace."

And then a bed-ridden leper speaks up. (Lady Eboshi has taken in the people whom society has rejected: lepers, prostitutes, and other outcasts--they are her strength.)

He says, "Forgive me, milady. You must not make light of the boy's strength." Then, to Ashitaka, he says,

Young man, like you, I know what rage feels like ... and grief and helplessness. But you must not take your revenge on Lady Eboshi. She is the only one who saw us as human beings. We are lepers. The world hates and fears us, but she took us in and washed our rotting flesh and bandaged us. Life is suffering. It is hard. The world is cursed, but still, you find reasons to keep living . . . I'm sorry. I'm making no sense.


I feel such intense empathy with the leper's last lines and with his attempt, weakly and without confidence, to speak up.

Ashitaka's mission was to see the world with eyes unclouded by hate, but the curse gives him supernatural killing power. Later it manifests as a twisting snake around his arm, and he shouts out,

Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like. This is what it does when it catches hold of you. It's eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster.


The truth that Princess Mononoke recognizes is that anyone can turn into a demon, even if they don't want to. Rage, pain, hatred, despair can do it.

I see this all around me. There's no one who isn't embracing a good hate (myself included, sometimes). But we have to, somehow, pull away from that, because when we become demons, everything goes down to destruction. Anyone can bandage lepers--even Lady Eboshi. Anyone can kill a god--even Ashitaka. I want us to be more in the bandaging mode. And if that sets off your alarm bells (band-aid solutions), then put in a different metaphor. Gardening mode, meal-preparing mode, coat-offering mode, stranger-welcoming mode ... but with that last, remember that we don't get to pick and choose our strangers. But who am I to speak this way. No one. I'm sorry. I'm making no sense.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
amaebi
Apr. 4th, 2017 06:45 pm (UTC)
So with you.

Let us garden together.
asakiyume
Apr. 4th, 2017 08:25 pm (UTC)
gardening
I'd like that
roseneko
Apr. 4th, 2017 10:03 pm (UTC)

It occurs to me that one of the primary things an adversarial framework robs us of is the ability to consider mutually-beneficial options. If you're convinced the world's out to get you, someone proposing that you give others the benefit of the doubt probably won't make much sense.

Here's to more opportunities to demonstrate that more conciliatory mindset, in the future.

browngirl
Apr. 5th, 2017 06:40 am (UTC)
A wise response to a wise post. *saves both in my heart*
asakiyume
Apr. 5th, 2017 11:34 am (UTC)
((hugs))
asakiyume
Apr. 5th, 2017 11:33 am (UTC)
There are lots of things that are zero sum in our lives--people make demands on us for time, and yet there are only so many hours in the day. It's hard to remember that love is something that breeds *more* of itself, and that actually, time spent in loving, friendly actions has a way of increasing even the amount of time you have.
roseneko
Apr. 5th, 2017 04:32 pm (UTC)
Amen.
galestorm
Apr. 7th, 2017 03:52 pm (UTC)
Making perfect sense.
asakiyume
Apr. 12th, 2017 04:21 am (UTC)
Thank you--and apologies for taking so long to reply!
galestorm
Apr. 12th, 2017 08:43 am (UTC)
No worries on that, as it follows in the so-little-time-to-do-so-much vein. Or maybe it's just a capillary at times, not a fuller vein.
dudeshoes
Apr. 14th, 2017 03:05 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. I need to order the film from Netflix again.
asakiyume
Apr. 21st, 2017 10:17 pm (UTC)
I was slow to answer this--apologies!

I always feel a bit self-conscious about my love for this movie: I think it's one of those cases of a person and a movie clicking very intensely. I recognize the movie has flaws, and yet it speaks so strongly to me.

... This is all to say that I recognize that other people can watch it and not have anything approaching the same experience.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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