Shinji and Me: Up and Down and Up Again

I relate to Shinji Ikari more than I’d like to admit.

A friend of mine is diving into Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time, and I’m sure she’s discovering what I saw in my first viewing, that Shinji Ikari has great highs and great lows, and not necessarily with the latter first and earlier last.  His experience does not lead to linear growth in character building.

Such is me.

Art: “Beautiful World” by はち@ついった

A few months ago, I shared how I’d grown a lot spiritually during my time in the hospital.  And for days and weeks afterward, I was a new person.  Unfortunately, that lifestyle hasn’t lasted.  Like a high school kid at a church retreat, I’d lost my momentum and returned to my normal self – my often grumpy, generally impatient, and usually hypocritical self.

Like Shinji, who receives praise after annihilating an angel, even after reaching a high, I still find a way to sink low.  This, even knowing that becoming a better person is within reach.

I guess that’s human nature.

I admire the people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become great people or do great things.  They can look to the future and forget the past.  They move forward and grow, no matter the circumstance.  We as a society adore such people, because they show us the best we can be.

Sometimes, though, I think that they (and we) are hiding behind a facade.  Knowingly or not, we’re putting up a false pretense.  It looks as if we’ve hit a pinnacle in growth, when inside, our supporting structures for this tower of strength may not be so strong.  We can (and do) fall back, even if others don’t see it.  It’s kind of like, well, all the girls from Kanon, who put forward an enchanting, strong face, when they all have flaws and pains that tear away at them.  Or, if we’re lying to ourselves, it could be like the brothers from Frasier, who play the role of psychologists while they need quite a bit of psychoanalyzing themselves.

For me, if I want to recapture that truth I found in the hospital and grow from that point, I must find an anchor – otherwise, I’ll remain adrift at sea forever, growing and regressing as the tides change.  I can’t rely on my own strength.  I can’t rely on momentum or emotion.  I can’t rely on others.  All these things are temporary and changing.

In my attempt to reverse course once again, I focus on response.  I attempt to put the “cross before and the world behind,” remembering what the gospel means as often as I can.  The message is never changing.  And when I meditate on it, I find my response remains the same as well, and in that, God will do wonders, even through someone unworthy as I.


11 thoughts on “Shinji and Me: Up and Down and Up Again

  1. This is really encouraging TWWK. It’s so easy to detach ourselves from the vine and then wonder why thing fall apart on our own strength.When things are going good we start to think we can handle it all on our own and need reminders. Even in the world, no one gets anywhere completely on their own.

    1. Absolutely. That’s a huge function of community, right? To keep us accountable and to help us remember that it’s all about Christ, when we might be drifting away (intentionally or not).

  2. SPOILERS (I think??)

    I’ve always liked Shinji (even in the End of Evangelion, where he does something really shameful and is pretty well useless for the first half of the movie), because he’s very /human./ He’s more like what a “real person” would be if they were actually thrown into a life-and-death conflict involving giant robots (and had also been abandoned for much of their life). A lot of people hate him, but I think that’s because we can all see ourselves in him. He represents some of the lowest depths a person can reach. In the end, however, he /did/ learn to move forward in life, and I believe that you’ll be able to do that too.

    I know that I still have a long way to go before I can say that I’m the kind of person that I want to be. One very strong component of achieving that is never giving up, even when you fall on your own strength — you have to “just keep swimming,” to quote the Pixar fish movie. 😀

    1. *spoilers too, I guess :p*

      Yes indeed so. We are just ordinary humans, we aren’t gods. Because Shinji is such an ordinary person, it’s easier to relate to him. It’s human to cry, it’s human to sulk, and it’s human to scream, when you had to pilot a huge robot, fighting against wave of other giants, and when you had to make such a big decision of forcing human evolution upon humanity.

      1. It’s interesting how Shinji’s changed, just a bit, in the newer Evangelion movies. He’s more “fun” to watch now – a little less whiny, but perhaps he’s a little less human. Still, I can see humanity (and myself) in the “Rebuilt” Shinji as well as the original one.

    2. Ah, Dory! Wise words from a forgetful fish! On a side note, my son sleeps with a stuffed Dory doll.

      Thanks for the encouragement. When I originally watched Evangelion, it was kind of in a vacuum, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized how disliked Shinji was. But I agree, he is a realistic figure, particularly at his age. I wonder how people would react if Evangelion was released today, when flawed heroes are more common in films and television.

  3. Very thoughtful and pleasant to read, TWWK.

    Although for many “great” people that are consider great or consider themselves great, I doubt they forget they past so easily. I would say they rather reflect it upon than harp on it, using that as a device to accomplish what they wish. Looking back to how you were, where you are now, and where you are going are very essential to human nature. After all, we all want to do something meaningful with the time we are given. I know that is something I want to accomplish even if it turns out to be one person. However, accomplishment means different things to different people depending on where they are at in life and how they view themselves. Considering Shinji their is much to be said about this…

    As much as I admire such tenacious and spirited people whom get what they want, sometimes you only do what works for you and not try to replicate the success of others. Looking at the world around me, people are different for a reason and I think looking at each individual who has something to share (like you) to just brings up another lesson and point of consideration. Simply put, we make each other better. Like with your anchor analogy, for the point that I am in my life, drifting is not a completely bad thing, what is though is haphazardly sailing along without consideration and leading myself to crash into obstacles hidden below whether that be poor decisions, given in to be lead astary, etc. Life changes and never remains the same day to day and such as the sea, a turbulent waters always end up leading to the calm ones again. Just depends on how the person navigates the rough waves to make it back to the calm ones.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

      I like the wave analogy you brought up. I think almost all “successful people” (in whatever way one defines success) find a way to grow through storms. Certainly for Christians, our faith is made or broken through storms – we often find ourselves growing away from God as we distrust Him because of difficulties and pain, or we grow closer to God as we cling to Him and understand that He is with us even as we suffer.

  4. Soooo. Have you seen 3.33 yet? Let me tell you man that’s Passion of the Christ levels of painful to watch.

    But what makes it even more painful it’s just how it kind of destroyed all of the Goodwill in the first two movies that built up.

    I don’t want to spoil it but if you ever get around to seeing it you will be so depressed after seeing it.

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