There’s a fairly famous anime/visual novel among the western anime fanbase, called CLANNAD. It’s held by a significant number of people to be the greatest story written of all time. It is a drama which encompasses the timeframe from high school and the beginning of romance to the start of a family, what some rightly consider to be the most important part of their lives. I had attempted watching it once, but I could not finish it. Being a story that had such a large scope it came with an equally deep drama… or something like that.
There was something off about it that kept nagging at me, and the deeper I got into the series the worse it got. Whatever “it” was. It was certain however that I did not fully enjoy this particular way of writing sorrow and grief.
Nagisa: “Do you like this school?”
Nagisa: “I really, really love it. But nothing can stay unchanged.”
A girl I’ve never seen before. The words weren’t directed at me. She must be talking to someone in her heart.
Nagisa: “Fun things… happy things… They can’t all possibly stay unchanged. Even so, can you keep on loving this place?”
Tomoya: “Just find them.”
(Nagisa, startled, turns to face Tomoya. They look at each other for the first time.)
Tomoya: “Just find new fun and happy things. C’mon, let’s get going.”
We start to walk up… the long… long… uphill climb.
– Opening scene to CLANNAD
Recently, the english patch for Tomoyo After: It’s A Wonderful Life released. Tomoyo Sakagami was the single completely redeeming factor of CLANNAD for me: she was my ideal woman before I realized what my ideal woman was, she kicked ass before I realized the inherent truth of strength, and to this day has the best voice I’ve ever heard. So, I started playing it. It’s rather unfortunate that Tomoyo is now voiced by someone else, but I thought that’d be fine as long as I could just have more Tomoyo. She was the proverbial light in the darkness in CLANNAD, and I thought because she was now the main character and this was a spinoff alternate universe, there’d be no more crap to deal with. None of that weird “something isn’t right” feeling I kept having in the main story.
It was there. The writers and not the story were the source, so now Tomoyo is all polluted with this mess.
This time however, I was not so confused.
The illusory feeling was no longer intangible.
The reason why I was unable to see it before was because I believed there was a difference between “drama” and “forced drama” (melodrama). Though there may be some use in differentiating between “real” tragedy and “imagined” tragedy, tragedy itself is the the same regardless: it is a mental model, and models are the only way in which we experience reality. These models are ultimately up to us to create and use. This is why it is perfectly possible and understandable that one person can have little to no feelings for some situation, but another could be depressed about it for a long time. High school drama is silly and no big deal to anyone other than the ones involved – but to the ones involved, it’s a big deal. This can be extended to anything and everything; there are no magical extra substances around September 11th or the Holocaust. There is no logically valid distinction between tragedy and forced tragedy. Whether or not something matters is a matter of what you dictate it to be. Is it tragic? Or is it not?
Once it is established that belief in tragedy is a choice, it is clear that it must also be true that any response to tragedy must also be a choice. This is a fairly important departure from the standard understanding of tragedy.
Tragedy has always been written out to be, both in fiction and reality, unavoidable. It’s a fairly interesting (read: dumb) idea – that everything must follow a certain script. The same script. Every single tragedy, every single situation. You can’t tell people that their sadness is invalid. You are not allowed to interrupt the proceeding of grief. The original event was fate, and there is nothing we can do about that, nor is there anything we can do about our feelings. That is why… it is a tragedy. By definition, this is what a tragedy is. It is a situation of no control, no stability, no order. With the prior clarification, it is clear that it is not the situation which has no order.
It is that when something is a tragedy, the people in it do not want order.
People generally understand why they find emo teenagers disgusting. They imagine up their own desolation, and refuse to budge. Any attempt to reason with them or inspire them fails, because their goal is the depression. Often it is a result of their emotions, but this does not change the view that they are being narcissists. However, when they observe a tragedy believed in by more than one person and it feels off, they can’t simply pin it down anymore. Obviously they aren’t being self-centered anymore – outside of perhaps the victim, but it’s okay for him/her to be self-centered now because… why? The question seems unanswerable.
But only because you don’t want to answer it. It’s because you are close to the people involved, and because they don’t want you to be asking that question and figuring out why. In situations where you really couldn’t care less about the people in the tragedy, the question is easily answerable. Why do the tragedies feel off? It’s clearly because it’s about the emotion and not about eliminating the source. If a problem exists, then it must be solved, right? These people are dumb because they don’t see that. They just want to feel good about being bad. I didn’t see this in CLANNAD because the writing was good enough to make me feel close to the characters so that I doubted them not in this manner. How could I doubt them? Unlike reality and dealings with people, I have the guarantee of the narrative that these people are genuine, honest, and true about their feelings. I believed that they really did want to chase their dreams. I was unable and unwilling to attempt and discover what the source of my doubt was.
They were so kind. How could I say that such good willed people were wrong? How could such a thought enter my head?
But what has to be done has to be done. What they have is not a fundamental solution, but a corrupted one. May it be true that explicitly telling people they are wrong is counterproductive and ungraceful, it remains fact that there is a more efficient way of approaching problems and emotions than to be “kind”.
The difference between possibility and hope is courage to dream.
The difference between hope and success is discipline of skill.
It is said that frame control is everything. He who controls how he or others model reality, controls reality. Thus because frame control is equivalent to everything, those who have no frame control have nothing. Frame control is equivalent to order, and as order is simply a two-syllable callsign for the principle which puts everything in their proper place in relation to some one thing fairly permanent. Obviously permanency is a matter of scale, but the scaling applies to the concept as well – the more permanent your main thing, the larger, the more powerful, the more expansive your system becomes – thus, the more reality and the more control you have. Obviously, the West culture is actually at nothing because they are nihilistic and their only truth is that there is no truth – explicitly declaring that their frame is no frame. But what about some of these better stories? Even if they aren’t ideal, they tug at the heartstrings. They must be doing something right, right? They’re good people. Even if they’re wrong, they’ll get it right eventually. I know they will.
Whereas kindness is “You’ll feel good soon”, benevolence is “I’ll help you achieve your desires”. It is fundamentally more permanent, because the only thing that is truly permanent is yourself. No matter what the books tell you, you are the only permanent thing in your life. When you go to sleep the world is erased, and when you wake up the world is created once more. Nothing existed before you were born. Nothing will exist after your death. Because nothing exists until your perception or belief in it, it could be said that with every blink of the eyes and every ponder of the mind, you are creating the universe. In the end (or alternatively, “at the most basic level”), you are the one actor. Everyone else is simply part of the stage and audience. You are the only ones whose actions you can control, whose emotions you can decipher for certain. As benevolence is a property of your actions, it can become as powerful and dominant – thus providing stability and order – as your will to conquer nature.
Kindness relies on something else entirely. Your success and failure is not dictated by you or reality, but other people. It is not the follower, “My worth is set by me, and I declare that my worth is as much as my leader says it is”, it is the slave “You tell me what I am worth”. No longer are you focused on what you can do to help, you are now focused on whether or not each little thing is achieving your goal. Oh did that hurt? Can’t do that anymore. Uncomfortable over there? Can’t do that anymore. Rather than a goal with a finality of success, your scope has been scaled down to where everything is messy and chaotic. The complexity of the path is what you look at rather than the goal, and because you no longer have a clear sight of what you want, because you no longer have perspective, because all you perceive now is how there are so many ups and downs in everything, you are afraid. You can no longer execute. You are paralyzed, completely subject to the whims of Fortune and the winds of time.
No longer in control, your life is one of tragedy.
This is what it means to be anti-negative.
“Ah, Tomoya! This is bad!”
“I heard, so calm down.”
“As if I can calm down! Tomo’s gone missing! She’s all alone! And she’s so little! Maybe she’s lost! Isn’t that sad?!”
She’s probably alone. Yes, she is little. Indeed, she might be lost. But is it sad? There’s a problem of utmost urgency, you have my complete agreement there. It is a rather unfortunate situation. But is it sad? Let us say it is sad. What then? Just like the depressed teenager, people who say things like “isn’t X sad?” do not want order. They want something on such a transient and illusive magnitude, it might as well be wanting of disorder. I have no intention of “trying to understand” tragedy/anti-negative, because there is nothing to understand. I, on the other hand, want order. Order does not convince disorder, order orders order. Authority first, reason second.
“I know where she is. Let’s go.”
“Huh? How do you know? Is this another one of your pranks?”
“No. Think about it calmly. You’ll get it soon enough.”
Frame control is everything, and Tomoya has it. He ignores all of Tomoyo’s irrelevancies and gets more or less straight to the point. While Tomoyo has no focus, our main protagonist attempts to calm his girlfriend in the minimum amount of time possible so they can get to actually doing something about the missing kid.
Or at least, he has focus in this scene. Sometimes Tomoyo gets the right idea and takes control, but all of it seems fairly transient. Not much surprise though; the writing itself is afflicted with the anti-negative perspective. It is a drama, after all. And drama can’t happen unless you lose sight of the main thing.
I tell her about the scene I saw earlier. A living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one room, and nobody living there. No trace remains of anyone; a deserted room.
“I wonder what Tomo would think… if she saw that room with her own eyes… Isn’t it so cruel…? Isn’t it heartbreaking? Tomo didn’t know anything until today! Why has she been treated like this…? Isn’t this terrible?!”
There is nothing wrong with emotions; I am not so indecent to suggest that rationality and calmness is the highest form of existence. But emotions are tools, they are resources to be used. When your toys play with you, then something’s off. Something is where it should not be. In other words, a better system exists, and a better reasoning exists.
And then, after hesitating, she opens her mouth. She says the words that need to be spoken the most. “Tomo, let’s go home.”
…They are cruel words. Tomo mutters in a low voice, “I can’t return home.” There’s nothing left for her there.
And then, Tomo opens her mouth while crying aloud. The dam holding back her emotions bursts, its contents gushing out. Tears flow down her face as she weeps. I wonder if Tomoyo wants to do that, too. Her cheeks quiver many times. However, she doesn’t cry. She lowers her chin and tightens her expression.
She approaches her, crouches down, and puts a hand on Tomo’s still trembling shoulder.
“I’ll… protect you, Tomo. Okay? So don’t worry.”
She says it gently like that.
On the smallest of scales, they are indeed cruel words. On the largest of scales, they are indeed the words that need to be spoken the most. So, which one wins? Which option takes priority? Should one be saying those words, or not? Is it more important to look towards the light of the future, or try and save what’s left over from the past? Picking one does not throw out the other. But as the law of reality is opportunity cost, one of them must be chosen to pursue as the main thing. It is the privilege of art form that both of these usually mutually exclusive perspectives show up simultaneously. The narrative adapts the immediate, and poetically illustrates the intense emotions from every moment. But Tomoyo’s actual dialogue is the complete opposite. Tomo, let’s go home. Tomo. I’ll… protect you, Tomo. Okay? So don’t worry is completely based on the longer view. It is not based on what someone else feels right now, but what Tomoyo is doing and will do.
Tomoyo exerted her frame. Fundamentally, it does not particularly matter what it is – any frame is better than no frame. She could’ve barked out orders like a drill sergeant and it would’ve been better than being sucked into the nothingness of sadness. More broadly, it is the nothingness of seeking approval: the void which exists when you are waiting for confirmation. What we have today are people among people who have this “slave morality“, all waiting for the next guy to either do something or to confirm what he himself is doing. They are all seeking a master. The fact that Tomoyo is nice says nothing about whether or not she is kind.
No answer. However, Tomo must be lonely. I look at Tomoyo’s profile. She seems uncertain as to what to do. Watching her, I can’t help but smile.
Tomoyo, after a moment of confusion, smiles too. She then hugs Tomo from behind.
“I love you, Tomo.” It’s more reserved than my performance. “I’ll always be by your side, okay?”
Infinity is only achievable by the greatest of the great. Or, in other words, it is the first, the simplest, the best, and the final kind of person people want to be led by or comforted by. It is commonly used as the initiating line of romance in any story, and as the final line to any scene or flashback: “We will be together… for all eternity.” I won’t say that the eternity doesn’t exist. It certainly exists for those powerful enough to convince others (or alternatively, those weak enough to be convinced). Can you say to a couple in love that they won’t be together for all eternity? They will only believe you if your frame is stronger. In the end, it is all about the ability to control those mental models.
If you have no control, you will be controlled, if not by other people then by Fortuna. You will wait to meet your soul-mate. You will hope that she is the one.
You will grasp for the next thing.
“Are you awake?” Tomoyo asks me as she strokes Tomo’s hair. I nod, as if to say yes.
“This has been one horrible day… as far as Tomo is concerned.”
“But I think time will heal us from now on. It’s heartbreaking now, but… I’m sure we can get through it… If we can, then only happy days await us.”
“I hope it turns out that way…”
“Yeah… I’ll make it so it does.“
Fundamentally, it is true that we are all grasping.
No one truly knows what is going to happen tomorrow. Electricity may stop working. Gas pipes could explode. Your car could have leaked all its oil out. Your parents could get cancer, your children kidnapped, your friends murdered. Whoever is doing the geopolitics has gotten lazy and has simply stated it in its most basic form now: “terrorism”. You don’t know. So if you see something, say something. Worry. What was that? Oh my god that could be. And so on and so on. It’s part of the “human condition”. Any fiat – knowledge, truth, absoluteness – is not a given.
“May those Who Accept their Fate find Happiness.
May those Who Defy their Fate find Glory.”
And yet, certainty is indeed created by those who seek greatness and order. It is sought by those who wish to fight the endless tides of entropy, who want a place, who want things, who want a body to call their own while they are here as simply a blip in the galactic dust. Chance, mistake, occurrence, catastrophe, the great do not dwell on how they fucked up or how there’s nothing they can do. They do not worry that there’s a social storm tomorrow or a psychological minefield ahead. They are simply obstacles to the goal. The goal is something they will reach eventually. Not because there’s any particular reason to.
It’s because they believe it.
I mentioned earlier a three part path, from possibility to hope to success to mastery. I put benevolence last because it comes last, it is where it belongs. It is not as important as, nor can it come before courage and discipline. As is the law of reality there can only be one first, it should be the one that is most important, the one which puts the rest in their place.
Drama – chaos – is what happens when you put benevolence first. Benevolence as first is not benevolence, it is kindness. Fear and tragedy, serious and not just in a book or on the TV. Though punctured by instances of hope and luck, the fabric of your life will be stress. Whether or not you can see further than your nose is not the problem, it’s that you don’t. Worrying about immediate feelings of yourself as if you couldn’t control it and about the immediate feelings of others as if they were the most important thing, you actually can’t be certain of what will be “true” in the next five minutes.
But when the truth, the order is moved further away, to the heights of the sky, scaled to the size of the gods and the stars, suddenly it is clear. It doesn’t matter how strong the monsters are, how mind-wracking the puzzles are, or how long the quests take. You now must look at things larger than they were, to emphasize more on how they fit in amongst other things rather than being whipped around at their every nuance. Of course there will be larger bumps in the road than normal from time to time – but normally it will be normal, and normal smoothes out and becomes easier with skill and experience over time.
A misunderstanding is that this “order” view is strict. It’s said that it is too cold, too calculating; too harsh, too evil. Fundamentally, it is the ideology of power – do what needs to be done. This can indeed be brutal, but fundamentally it is only brutal because that is the nature of our brief existence here. No matter how much civilization progresses, someone has to progress it and someone has to maintain it. There is an outside and as long as the outside exists – it always will – this will always be the best ideology because it is the one which encompasses the most and dictates the least.
It dictates nothing but those three principles and the order in which they come: Courage, Discipline, and then Benevolence. Just because being nice and feeling good and falling in love doesn’t come first doesn’t mean it’s not important. The goal of all great people are to be part of something greater, whether this is the most simple of families or the largest of brotherhoods and alliances. In these, people do not constantly second-guess and doubt each other. They are together because they trust each other, because they respect that each is attempting to achieve a goal similar to their own, because they understand that Fortuna may not always smile upon them and any of them may need aid.
This, not the feel-good smiles-for-everyone, was and is the essence of hospitality and benevolence. The historic image of warriors fighting one season (or even selling/hunting) and merrily drinking in another is an example of what it means to have things in order. It’s not as if everyone outside the hedonist level are just madmen masochists. It is possible to have benevolence last and yet still pursue fraternity to its fullest. However, first things will always come first. It is the first thing which allows the rest to exist, to function as they do. It is why benevolence is not, though at first glance may seem to fulfill the same function as, kindness.
Because we know not when Fortuna may decide to test us next, it is necessary to always keep things orderly. Though at times it may be sad, what needs to be done must be done. It’s obviously optimal if being nice can stick around, but if it can’t, that’s that.
Order dictates that the first thing must come first.
All Else Is Halation.