The opening minutes of The Ancient Magus Bride‘s first episode are compelling. A young woman named Chise has apparently given up on life and decided to sell herself to the highest bidder. She’s paraded in front of creatures that are not human, a number of whom excitedly begin bidding for her. It’s a bit creepy – men’s voices offer millions of pounds to own her and apparently do what they wish with this shackled girl. Chise has given up on herself; she is literally putting herself into enslavement.
The idea that anyone would purposely throw themselves into that situation, especially with the danger and torment that is likely to come along with it, sounds ridiculous. But Chise has has herself bought into the idea that the world is hell for her; there is no way out. In a less demented way, I think we’re tempted to do the same. Various different cultures we align ourselves with tell us their versions of the truth – liberal and conservative cultures; church and spiritual cultures; progressive and old-fashioned cultures; race-based, ethnic, and national cultures. They can own our thoughts, our actions, and our hearts.
I’ve mentioned my worry about a divided nation, but I’m also worried about what the culture at large is selling us as truth. No matter what words of wisdom we hear growing up, it seems to be riches, celebrity, sex, possessions, and power that we tend to believe will make us happy. I’m there, too. My life is often focused on gaining these things. I’ve bought into these lies, if subconsciously. I often have to change course after realizing that I’m pursuing the things I decry as idols. It’s not easy to turn away from these temptations.
Unfortunately, when we pursue things that aren’t true, aren’t right, we can very easily make poor decisions. Chise does so at the beginning of the episode, and then again near the end when the Ariels try to persuade her to follow them by reinforcing her feelings of worthlessness. In my life, there are times I struggle to love even those close to me in moments when they need me most, but my lack of love didn’t start there. I ask alao lacking in little mercies here and there, looking upon my loved ones with judgment and ungrace. I realized that I had to correct my entire course. But I didn’t just show up at a crossroads; I’d taken a path that led there.
Thankfully for both myself and Chise, there is truth that shows us where our value is and what is worthy, which demonstrates to us a truth higher than what’s espoused by the culture. Elias shows Chise that she isn’t a slave; instead, she’s worth a bid of five million pounds. No, she’s worth more than that – she is an apprentice, a family member, a bride. And knowing that her worth is found in the mage gives Chise power to resist the lies she hears.
When I hear the world’s lies, I have a habit of letting them seep inside of me, of accepting them as true. But when I tune out the static and remember who I am – that I, too, am part of a family; that I am an apprentice; that I am the bride – I can push out the lies that I’m told, the allegiances I have that conflict with the truth, the desires within that wage against what I seek. And day by day, bit by bit, like Chise, I’ll learn what it means to belong to the master.