Leg cramp and baseball anime


Japanese school girls around 1985. For some reason nobody is cheering like that for me…

Such was my day.  I woke up early in the morning – really early – from a bad cramp in my left leg.  This is interesting because it was my first leg cramp that was not in summer, to the best of my knowledge.  In fact, the substitute doctor once aired the theory that they come from dehydration. I see on Wikipedia that there is still some support for that theory.  Also I get enough potassium from the milk in my diet.  And I even exercised twice yesterday, first a long brisk walk outside and before going to bed I spent some time on my exercise bike, so it is not lack of exercise either.  I even warmed up!  I seem to have reached the age when even my warm-ups need warm-ups.  But I did that too.  I did not stretch out afterwards though. Science has debunked that myth.

The reason for my sudden increase in aerobic exercise is my marathon viewing of an old baseball anime.  Baseball is for some reason really popular in Japan, but even so there are few anime dedicated to it.  There are two popular series, one from the 1980es (and it shows – actually the style looks ancient even for that, probably because it is based on an even older manga) and one that is still running, I think.  The old one is called Touch and is the one I am still working my way through (it is 101 TV episodes and five movies!).  It is about two boys and a girl and baseball, except one of the boys die during the series.  That does not make him less of a rival, though, quite the opposite. As one player says:  “It is impossible to win against a dead guy.”

The newer anime, which I only saw the beginning of so far, is called Cross Game.  It is about a boy and two girls and baseball, except one of the girls die.  The story is also like 25 years newer, and this shows, especially in the gender relations.  I don’t think you can really accuse the mangaka (the creator of the comics) of plagiarism anyway.  Not only because he develops the plot very differently, but also because it is the same guy. Somehow he has lived to make two immensely popular, high quality baseball-themed anime one generation apart.  That is really impressive.  Banzai! Banzai!

In case it wasn’t obvious, my novel writing has stalled.  Well, actually it has reached its logical conclusion.  There is a bit that is missing, but most of the content is in, and I have a good conclusion.  But it is not long enough for a novel, or even for the 50 000 words that is the goal for NaNoWriMo.   I could get that by developing a romance subplot, but I really suck at romance and besides it would detract from the story even if it was good.

So I am rounding out November by watching baseball anime.  Except it makes me want to exercise.  Seeing people run around has that effect on me.  Not sure why – most people seem to be content to sit in the couch and watch people run around, and evidently feel that this accomplishes something.  Me, I get the urge to move around myself when I see things like that.  I am probably not properly immunized by television.

And look what happens.   At least there won’t be any exercise today.  I don’t know about you, but my leg cramps leave the leg so tender and stiff that it can’t support my weight for some hours.  Even when I take non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (which also prevents stiffness) right after I get up, it still takes all day before I am pain-free and have nearly full strength back.  By then it is bedtime.

Myth as transformative serial art


What is a myth? Ideally, something that lifts you up toward the light and shows you something greater than yourself, leaving a residue of a higher world.

I’ve watched The Laws of Eternity three times over the last week or so.  That is extremely unusual for me.  I have mentioned this before, that I hardly ever watch a movie twice, or read a comic twice, or even a book, because I have a very strong memory for stories.  The exception, I said, was religious or spiritual works.

It may be over the top to compare The Laws of Eternity with Holy Scripture, although I suspect the actual members of “Happy Science” probably regard the book that way.  The movie is not the same as the book. The movie is set in the world described in the book. Or at least that is the impression I get from reading scattered pages of the book online thanks to Google Books.  I may well order the books too, but not because I believe in them in a literal sense.  Or at least not the story part, about the civilization on Atlantis and Mu and other continents that supposedly rose from the sea and fell back into it over the last 100 000 years.

That is not to say that it is a bad thing to take it literally. Well, it is a bad thing in that it is not true.  But the purpose of a myth is not to be true in the scientific sense, but to be true to the soul. The myth exists in a higher world.  Remember what I use to say here?  “We create lower worlds, higher worlds create us.”  And that is why I watch the movie over again, because it creates me, or recreates me, just a little.  You may say it concentrates me, so that after watching it I find it easier to resist thoughts that are harmful and pull me towards Dissolution. Conversely, it becomes easier to think thoughts that are helpful and pull me toward the Light.

I had not expected that from an anime, to be honest.  And after watching it, I find it hard to enjoy the other anime, even those that don’t glorify extramarital lust.  (Japanese manga and anime have a somewhat undeserved reputation for perversity.  Not undeserved in that the ecchi does not exist, but it is not as dominant at home as in export to the west. In Japan, there is manga for the housewife, manga for the salaryman, manga for the small kids, sports manga and educational manga.  But many westerners want to look at the panties of high school girls, and there is manga for that too.  But enough about that on such a beautiful day.)

Back to myth and the higher and lower worlds. This is important. There is a science that relates only to the material world, and it is a good thing for its use.  But the human mind is free to travel to both higher and lower worlds, and indeed will do so virtually every hour of the day in normal people.  Mostly lower worlds, again in normal people, in the form of dreams and daydreams.  The deeper of these are the daydreams of wish fulfillment, in which the imaginary world exists to gratify and glorify the ego of the dreamer.

The myth is the opposite of this. The myth is NOT all about you.  It is about something much greater than you, something that dwarfs you and fills you with awe.  (If it does not, then it has to some degree failed its task as a myth.) “Myth” is not a synonym for “lie”, as it is perceived by some superficial people.  A myth may even be literally true, but its power lies in its ability to create something in us and fill us with conviction of something higher, greater and ideally better and more noble.

Note that what is a higher world depends on your starting point!  We all live in the same physical world, but we don’t all live in the same mental world or the same cultural world. For instance, the mythology of ancient Greek or Scandinavia may seem crude by your standards, but they may have been an ideal to reach up toward in the crude and cruel world of the Bronze and Iron ages.  To take another example that illustrates this: The law of Moses institutes the rule “an eye for an eye” (and a life for a life).  This is seen today as harsh, vengeful, even primitive.  But in the culture of the Bronze Age nomads, it was a big improvement, because the rules of the blood feud was more like “a life for an eye”, since both sides considered themselves more worth than their opponents, and the conflict escalated until one side was eradicated or both were so weakened that a third faction conquered them both.

So when I refer to Happy Science movies as “myth”, it says a lot about myself.  If I were a saint, I would be above that level, and it would be a waste of time at best.  But despite all my accumulated knowledge, I am no saint.  I have the wisdom of Solomon, but mostly before or after I need it.  (I always have it when someone else needs it, of course!) I despair of ever becoming a saint (your name for this state of being may vary) without the company of saints, but saints are not only few but also have better things to do than babysit me. And even if they did, I wonder if I could tolerate it, for I love freedom and aloneness.

Anyway, myth as serial art.  You know that there was no manga in the Bronze Age, or even a few centuries ago.  For most of known history, even writing was rare.  Instead we had stories.  The bard, or just the old crone of the village, would be surrounded by people longing to hear a story.  And then the old one would recite a story that had been told many times before, a story they knew from their own childhood, about the clever Hermes or the lovely Aphrodite or any of the thousands of other old stories.  But then like now, there were also many coarse and dirty stories that the menfolk told each other when the children were asleep (or pretended to sleep, at least) – stories that pulled the mind down in the gutter. In that sense, not much has changed with the arrival of the printing press, and manga, and anime.

So when I talk about myth, I mean a story that is transformative, in that it lifts the human spirit up toward something greater, grander, more permanent, and hopefully more noble. The myth would ideally leave a residue of the higher world and a kind of longing for it.

The opposite could also be called transformative, I suppose, but I prefer to call it dissipative. The self is dissipated, weakened, and find it harder to tolerate reality and the challenges of life.  This, I believe, is what causes the stereotypical otaku that lives in his room and hates all things that are not part of his hobby, and who cares nothing for the feelings of others.  But  this is not something new, and certainly not Made in Japan. It is a risk we run all the time, to sink down in a darkness of our own making. We need the help we can get, to move toward the Light.  But what helps one is not always what helps another. And I am as “other” as you are ever likely to find, so I won’t say you will get anywhere by following in my footsteps.  But at least you can see them at all, in a world where most people are like shadows, just shadows in the fog.

The Laws of Eternity (anime)


Get on this spiritual elevator…  I think that is what the movie was meant to be too. But like this contraption, it will probably not work for everyone.

This animated movie is beautiful, preachy, thought-provoking, and made by a religious organization that encourages selfless service and high technology, thus their name “Happy Science”. The movie, as a good spiritual elevator, starts at the bottom, assuming that you know nothing about Happy Science. For most non-Japanese (and probably most Japanese too) this is a pretty safe assumption. In fact, the movie does not require more than the most cursory idea about religion at all.

It starts in New York, as three friends visit the Edison Museum. They read a newspaper article from when Edison was alive, claiming that he was working on a “spirit phone” that would let people talk to the dead. (Evidently this was a joke Edison really pulled on reporters, not just in the anime.) The three friends are the Japanese Ryuta, his blond Caucasian friend Patrick, and their dark Hispanic friend Roberto. Given that this is a Japanese movie, feel free to guess who the main character is. When they come home, they are joined by the girl Yuko, a friend of them all but particularly Ryuta. (She is Japanese as well.) But before that, they have met a Native American shaman with a message from Edison: How to build the spirit phone!

Through hard work and genius (and a little prayer from the girl, who goes to a religious school), our friends complete the spirit phone and make contact with Edison. He congratulates them, but fades away while saying something about trouble, danger and help. But how will our friends help someone who is in the other world? Luckily, the machine activates again and brings a message from an ancient Incan shaman, God Eagle. After Yuko teaches them basic meditation, God Eagle is able to take their minds to the spirit realm without dying first. This is where the adventure really takes off.

They arrive in the fourth dimension, which we may call the first heaven. People here get used to living as spirits. Because they can now move freely along the time dimension at all, the people here have much more freedom than those on earth. However, not all are found worthy to get here. Probably the most disturbing part of the movie is the judgment of the recently dead. They are required to watch a movie of their lives, with their thoughts in life as soundtrack, together with their deceased friends and relatives. After that, the audience advises them on whether they should go to Heaven or Hell. O_O This is where I think the movie loses its otaku audience: If you’re an otaku, you know quite well that your dead great-grandma would tell you to go to Hell, if she saw you spending your days watching anime instead of studying. You would not feel inclined to take her advice though.

Actually, you don’t need to. Because the afterlife is entirely maintained by the mind, you can go to Heaven and still end up in Hell if that’s where you fit the best. This is shown on two occasions. First, right after arriving in the fourth dimension, Patrick and Roberto get into a quarrel, and the ground opens beneath their feet. They are snatched in the fall by God Eagle. However, having failed to learn their lesson in full, they eventually get jealous when their Japanese friends get through The Narrow Gate to the seventh dimension and they don’t. This time they go to Hell proper and are captured by Nietzsche and later chased by Hitler and an enormous, evil armored elephant. Hey, it’s an anime after all!

Unlike Dante, however, this movie is much more interested in showing off Heaven than Hell. So before this problem with Hell, all our friends move on to the fifth and sixth dimension. They find a place of striking beauty and a heavenly laboratory where scientists continue making inventions and artists continue making art. To get to the world of the angels and bodhisattvas, however, they need to do selfless service. This is where our foreign friends fail: They do their service, but they expect to be thanked and rewarded. They could have stayed in the pretty sixth dimension (that would be the third heaven), but they just could not get over being snubbed by God. They grow evil inside and utter blasphemy. Down they go!

Meanwhile the angels in Dimension 7 explain the meaning of many things to our main characters. Trying to improve the lot of others through selfless service is what angels /bodhisattvas do. (In this movie, angels are treated as former humans, rather than separate creations. Actually they correspond more to the Catholic and Orthodox notion of saints. But again, this is translated from Japanese, so give them some room. Even many westerners don’t know the difference.) These holy beings may choose be born on Earth to make some difference here. Some of them even go down to Hell to rescue the damned who have had some time to reflect on their present condition.

This is borne out in the movie, and we have some high drama and action. Ryuta turns out to have unsuspected spiritual powers, and his girl friend (who is by now starting to realize that she is also his girlfriend) seems to amplify them. They defeat Nietzsche, then Hitler by the power of their love and escape from Hell with their friends, an army of demons on their heels. Luckily the angels have been warned and stand ready to defend Heaven from the dark incursion. Order is restored, and Ryuta and Yuko are rewarded with a ticket to the the ninth dimension, the home of the world’s highest humanoid gods: Jesus, Moses, Confucius, Newton, and the big boss himself, El Cantare, formerly known as Buddha, Hermes and several others.

Unfortunately, this is where the movie goes downhill in my eyes. Not that the 9th dimension is not impressive, but our hero goes there specifically to learn the reason for the world’s existence and secrets like that. In the end, however, the secret knowledge he is given, is unlocking his memory of his incarnation in Atlantis, and finding out that Yuko was his girlfriend already then.

Perhaps I am just crazy, but if I got an appointment with GOD in Heaven, I would not be interested in who my soulmate was, but rather something more cosmic, please. Then again, this may be because I don’t have a soulmate. Or perhaps this may be why I don’t have a soulmate… Anyway, Ryuta and Yuko seem very satisfied with the revelation, and vow to live lives worthy of the truth they have seen in the spirit realm. They seem to also have gained the ability to see the radiance of angels that are incarnated as babies. After a long love song, the movie ends.

This review may sound cynical, but the truth is that I found the movie surprisingly uplifting. Part of it is probably that its worldview has so much in common with my own, what with the successive layers of reality being ever more luminous and powerful, but also ever more demanding of those who would visit them. I have written a lot about this already, have I not? I was around 20 when this notion started to burrow into me, and pestering me to write a novel about it. I still haven’t managed to write that novel, but now I have realized that we all visit other worlds with our mind, that the body can not follow. As such, the plot of this movie hits home.

I don’t see myself bowing down to worship El Cantare, honestly. But I feel that I have gained an added respect for my own religion, and many other. This would probably not have happened if I was at the “science must die so Noah can live” stage of religion (the Blue level in Spiral Dynamics), but at the “Adam & Evolution” stage (Yellow level) I am willing to try everything and keep what is good. And that, frankly, is what one should do even if not religious at all. If it makes you feel like you want to do good to people and be impressed with the universe, it is probably worth watching. And watching again.