At the end of Bakemonogatari, this is what Senjoughara tells Araragi while they both look up at the night sky (spoilers):
That’s everything I have.
What I have is no more than this.
What I can give you, Araragi-kun, is no more than this.
No more than this… and everything.”
This scene touched my heart. Her honesty and vulnerability transcended the narrative and became a part of my own experience. Fictional or not, Senjoughara’s actions were a beautiful display of humanity and love.
Since watching this scene, this idea of giving my everything has been on my mind. In anime, we often hear the ubiquitous term がんばって [ganbatte], which translates to “do your best”. While there is, of course, a limit to pushing yourself, I don’t think I hear this notion enough in western culture, and so I find this to be a good reminder on how I should live my life — by doing my best.
In the Bible, we are told to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Whether you believe in God or not, I think it makes sense that love should be given with all that we have. And I would expect nothing less from God. Even in our relationships, we should strive for love and kindness; we should try our best.
Now the problem is, doing your best becomes increasingly difficult to do as you age. Gradually, it becomes harder to care about things. Things become boring or difficult, and I certainly admit to easily losing motivation. Basically, it becomes impossible to care about things in life without getting hurt or being taken for granted — or even worse — be taken advantage of. We often hear that the way to happiness is to “not give a shit about anything”.
But when it comes to love, at least, I think it’s necessary that we should try to love with our whole being. Otherwise… it’s not love. And I learned that by limiting my giving, I’m also limiting my receiving. Now just to be clear, there is a clear distinction among infatuation, dependence, and love. I am not advocating that your partner should be everything, because they’re also human beings with brokenness and flaws. But nonetheless, we should be striving to give without the fear of losing. The popular Bible verse about love comes from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
And when we witness real love, it transcends time and culture. And it necessarily changes us because when we experience something good, we won’t accept anything less. It’s that simple. This idea of love is all around us, and we can see the passion of love appearing in pop culture:
“Cause all of me loves all of you” – John Legend
“Give me your all and nothing else” – Selena Gomez
And these are just from a quick Google search. But although the love here is love too, it’s not the complete picture of love. Love is not dependant on time or based solely on physical desires. Passion is indeed a part of love, but I think that our pop culture’s idea of passion is often mixed in with sexual desires. And in many ways, this only limits our understanding of how amazing the fullness of love can be. But wait — if love is so amazing, why are we all so broken? Why is it so difficult to find real love?
I’ve mentioned before that I was a camp leader at RockRidge Canyon during New Years. The main theme of this camp was this: we were made for relationships. And as I spent 5 days getting to know a group of high school boys, I soon realized that they, too, have trust issues. Not that this was surprising — unfortunately — but at the same time, it’s really sad to see brokenness in kids. Trust is a necessary component of love, and if trust is broken for a person, it leads to them breaking future relationships with others.
I don’t mean to romanticize kids like they’re perfectly innocent human beings, but I would be lying if I didn’t call attention to the fact that they’re different from adults in that they still have a spark of light in them. Maybe this is a generalization, but I think I have some integrity to speak about this, as I’ve been working closely with two kids on the spectrum for the past 3 years.
Speaking of kids, high school is the most common setting in anime. Even if you’re saving the world, you still have to go to school. I appreciate the fact that in anime, the time of adolescence is not trivialized. The challenges that kids face are very real, and let me acknowledge that it is not easy being a kid; their pain and their suffering can just be as overwhelming. And I think it’s important to have this compassion for kids because we were all once kids. It’s widely known that the anime director (and co-founder of Studio Ghibli) Hayao Miyazaki has a passion for kids, and his work in the anime industry is regarded as one of the best. This is what Charles (TWWK) had to say about Miyazaki’s work in his post, Hayao Miyazaki’s Common Grace:
“[The] theme of children understanding and demonstrating love better than the adults surrounding them is frequent in Miyazaki’s works.” … “He taps into truths that cross the lines of culture, and conveys them with the signature lines of his proverbial brush.”
Charles then goes on to mention Luke 18:16, where Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. From being around kids, it’s clear to me that kids’ still have an innate willingness to trust that many adults have lost (understandably, to be fair). When bad things happen to kids, their mind naturally floats rather than sinking into depression. These trusting and joyful tendencies are needed to love fully.
On the last night of camp, the boys and I were able to have a great discussion. It was amazing to witness what can happen when you love kids for who they are, even in just 5 days. As I talked to the kids, they seemed to have been inspired by love, and so was I. And it became painfully obvious that somewhere down the line, I had stopped trying my hardest in relationships, and that this was the norm of our culture.
So how can we establish and maintain a culture of kindness, love, and respect? A culture where asking for consent does not needed to be taught because it’s so obvious that consensual sex is better. A culture where it’s obvious that relationships are more important than wealth and fame. A culture where it’s obvious that money doesn’t bring you happiness. A culture where real love has inspired us to not want anything less than the best.
And perhaps even more so, for Christians, how can we strive to reconnect with our ability to trust and give everything? To pour ourselves into the relationships that we have, with such love like 1 Corinthians 13?
I urge you to all find the answer to these questions. I found my answer in Jesus, but that’s just me. In my experiences, it’s worth finding the answer because having the ability and the capacity give your all can be incredibly satisfying and fulfilling. You deserve this. You deserve love. Because you were made to be loved.
I have a lot of respect for those who come out of brokenness and is able to put faith back in love. And obviously, this is never easy. The fact that I was able to do it is a blessing and a privilege. When I look back at Senjoughara, I see what love can do. Coming from a broken family and a history of sexual assault, she said that she didn’t have much to give. But the remaining “treasures” in her life, she vowed to give it all to Araragi. What more can us humans do? What more would God ask for us? This is all He wants.
And for those of you in darkness, suffering a loss, or feeling the weight of this world, let me say this: there will be things in life that will make you believe in love again. Such beauty is still present in this world.
So my thank you goes out to God. For His glory, for His redeeming of my ugliness into beauty, for His healing of my heart into trusting again, and Him giving me His everything first.
Image is a screenshot from Bakemonogatari E12