Heeding my Hedonism (Locked in Bittersweet Euphoria), Part 1
“You know what’s sad about reading books? It’s that you fall in love with the characters. They grow on you. And as you read, you start to feel what they feel - all of them - you become them. And when you’re done, you’re never the same. Sure you’re still you, you look the same, talk in the same manner, but something in you has changed. Something in the way you think, the way you choose, sometimes, even the things you say may differ. But it all comes down to the state you go to after a nice novel. The after-feeling. It’s amazing, but somehow, you feel left alone by that world you were once in. It’s overwhelming. But it makes you sad. Cause for once you were this, this otherworldly being in… Neverwhere, and then you suddenly have to say goodbye after a few weeks from when you read the last page. When you’ve recovered from that state it’s just… quite sad.”
-Suzanne Collins,The Hunger Games
Ever since I started reading and enjoying assorted media, I thought that the feeling discussed in the quote above was unique to me; I never imagined others would know it and embrace it. Thus, it was with great joy and adulation when I posted about the above feeling on Facebook and people understood what I meant. After all, I am a philosopher who wishes to teach people; seeing that other people “get it” brings me the greatest joy imaginable. Furthermore, after discovering the above (thanks, Aaron), I find myself impeccably happy to be able to relate to so many others.
This feeling—the “bittersweet euphoria,” as I affectionately call it—is the second most powerful feeling I know. The only more powerful one is romance, as love is our life force. However, they truly are almost one and the same. When love becomes channeled through other characters in stories, we experience that torn feeling once our love is separated—at the end of the series. “Bittersweet euphoria”—or “after-feeling,” as Mrs. Collins calls it—is the by-product of a romance accepted when a story begins and forfeited once it ends. While you will never forget the feeling and your love will transcend the confines of the ink on the pages or the grains in the art, you can never experience it the same way ever again. That’s the saddest part of it all; the revocation occurring after an end. You must realize that the story is over with and gone, yet your memory remains. The spirit carries on.
I’ve known this feeling for quite some time now and am only recently beginning to realize its power and potential. As such, I want to re-explore my most memorable experiences, including the only documented occurrence of me weeping (there is another yet documented, though I suppose mention of its existence in a document just documented it… anyway). As such, please note that there will be spoilers discussed and I would really regret spoiling something potentially extremely powerful. Read at your own risk, please, and heed the topics at hand (which will be announced in the beginning in decent topic sentences, of course).
Perhaps the earliest recollection of this feeling would be after I finished reading “Watership Down” by Richard Adams.
It was the novel assigned to the entire 8th (or maybe 7th…) grade class for a big project, and I was one of the very few who liked it (and the only one who loved it). While the details of the entire book exist in foggy areas of my mind, I’ll never forget the moment where Fiver seemingly became possessed. He screeched and cried out in agony as the war between the wardens reached its peak. Reading this section, I could hear the ringing in my ears as if I was there to truly hear and experience what was happening. I locked myself into a trance as I poured through the rest of the novel, eager to reach the satisfying conclusion.
And did I ever. Tears formed around my eyes as the back of the book reunited with the front. I recall finishing the book at the barber shop as my dad was receiving his usual flattop haircut. Being a maturing young man who wished to be strong, I fought those tears back in public while pondering the culmination of the events of the book. In the end, connections had been severed with the characters, but memories would remain forever. And I still had not cried.
That would change merely a year or two later with Clannad.
WARNING! I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH THAT IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED/READ/PLAYED THIS BEAUTIFUL SERIES, YOU MUST NOT READ ANY FURTHER. SKIP AHEAD TO THE PICTURE OF A SMILING COMPARTMENT THAT WILL FOLLOW THIS SECTION. I DO NOT WISH YOU TO HAVE THIS SERIES SPOILED FOR YOU.
LIKE FOR CEREAL. DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED/READ/PLAYED CLANNAD. HERE’S A PICTURE SHOWING HOW SERIOUS I AM RIGHT NOW NOT EVEN KIDDING:
In research conducted well after my conclusion of the anime (coughafewmonthsagocough), I discovered that the series was meant to be a “nakige,” literally “crying game.” It’s meant to make you cry, and seriously, if you don’t, there’s something you need to have checked. However, not knowing this prior made me all the more unprepared for the feels I would be feeling.
As you should already know before I explain, since I know you’re not reading this section without having already watched/read/played Clannad, once Nagisa died, I was crushed. My body, my mind, my soul… all crushed to smithereens. I couldn’t begin to imagine how the rest of the series would play out, especially since, by that point, I was unknowingly watching a marathon to the end. In the next few episodes, the aloofness and abandon Tomoya felt from his daughter and wife… I could feel it, too. Though I knew it was wrong to leave Ushio’s upbringing up to Nagisa’s parents, I couldn’t blame the poor guy after losing the only woman for which he truly cared, the woman who only wanted to bring happiness to others, the woman who gave her life so that Ushio could have one. How is he supposed to live now?
Apparently, by smoking and drinking his problems away under a mound of everyday life. As time progressed, Tomoya buried his problems away as he continued life. He wasn’t thriving though; he was merely surviving. How he even managed to do that much, I will never understand. But, he kept on keeping on.
And to what purpose? After a day out and about in the town, Sanae convinces Tomoya to finally visit his daughter. I’ll never forget the wellspring of joy erupting from within when Tomoya and I laid our eyes on his daughter. She was so beautiful, just like her mother. While things remained awkward at first, with Tomoya’s rye sense of humor and Ushio’s childish abandon, after that dinner they had together, I knew things would be alright.
The true first feeling of acceptance and understanding did not come until Tomoya reunited with his grandmother, who told him the troubling tales of his father, who dedicated all the time he could to trying to make Tomoya’s life worth living. The obvious conclusion was this: Tomoya had become that which he hated the most (or, at least, thought he did). Here in the story, Tomoya was presented with basically what his life was, is now, and is becoming: a hollow shell of a man who drinks himself drunk every night just to fill the void within his soul carved out in the shape of his since deceased wife. Once Tomoya saw how much his dad cared for him, and how he had to avoid the same fate as him, the tears truly started forming. To understand that this whole time, Tomoya’s dad has been living every day under the burden of his unfortunate past, only trying to make things right and always failing, while being treated like shit from his son… that’s incredible. While I grieved for Tomoya’s father, at the same time, I realized that Tomoya had the power to prevent this from happening. Now that he realized what happens when you never face and overcome your past, Tomoya has two options: remain oppressed, or rise above it all.
And Tomoya began to rise.
Everything began to change for the better. Tomoya and Ushio were inseparable. They both loved each other wholeheartedly. We even get reunited with Fuko and Kyou, hinting at a very bright future… or so it appeared.
Bam. Ushio’s fever. The feels, they never stop. Around this time, time slowed down to a standstill; every second that passed while Ushio was suffering slashed my soul. Tears were visibly falling down my face; I had to run and get another box of tissues. And all this time, Ushio just keeps talking about going on a trip. Who are you kidding, kid? You’re not going anywhere! You’re going to stay here and heal, and we’re all going to live happily ever-after. I’ll take you on a trip once you’re better.
Winter comes. Ushio’s condition hasn’t improved. Tomoya had to quit his job to be by Ushio’s side. Again, she asks to go on a trip. Tomoya can’t handle it anymore; he can’t break his promise. As he picks up his daughter and they head into the winter storm, that moment happens…
Every emotion I could possibly feel swirled within me in a miasma of sadness. I couldn’t see the screen anymore due to the volume of the tears falling from my face. I just bawled. I couldn’t control myself if my life depended on it. That last whisper of “I love you,” the look on Tomoya’s face… it brought us back to the moment Nagisa died, when Tomoya had originally lost it all. He had just gained it all back… just to lose it all again.
But… going back to where it all began proved to be the best possible thing in the history of best possible things. In that spirit realm, that parallel world always hinted at since the very beginning of the show, we see that fortune has finally smiled upon Tomoya, Nagisa and Ushio. Time is rewound and we see the birth of a healthy baby and a healthy, yet exhausted, Nagisa. No more dying; no more tears… at least, of sadness. All of the tears in the world were brought out of darkness and into light. Everything was right with the world, and they all lived happily ever after.
END OF SPOILERS! YOU MAY NOW RESUME READING!
BUT I’M GOING TO PUT SOME MORE PICTURES TO DISTRACT YOU FURTHER DOWN.
To this day, I have never experienced the amount of emotion as I did that fateful day. It was immensely bittersweet and euphoric. I recall waking up every day for the following week, just thinking through everything I had witnessed. It felt so satisfying, yet so empty. Yet, I had to move on.
Listen, this post has been in the making for quite some time; I’ve had it in my drafts section for over a week now (which, to me, is pretty long, seeing as I almost always finish anything I write the day/night I begin it). I’m going to at least publish this short bit now and save Part 2 for another time. I begin my new job bright and early
tomorrowthis morning, and I’ve only got about 4 hours remaining until I should wake up.
I’ll say it bluntly: Part 2 will be about Avatar: The Last Airbender. Look forward to it.
Cursed with knowledge,