Leading up through Easter Sunday, Beneath the Tangles will be running a series of posts based on a theme with the hopes that it will lead our readers to consider the meaning of this week and especially of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our theme this year is loneliness.
I’m fascinated by communication. It seems impossible to me how humans can develop speech, with all its intricacies and complexities, and then convey often very subtle meanings to one another. The failure of speech, then, seems a more plausible outcome, to see that we have trouble understanding what others are trying to tell us or that we inadequately impart the full meaning of words within a text message or email. Is it not remarkable that our lines don’t get crossed more often?
In A Silent Voice, the wonderful anime movie about the repercussions of bullying, there are a number of scenes where Shouko, who is hearing impaired, and Shouya can’t fully express themselves to one another (spoilers ahead). One of the scenes is kind of funny, actually, when Shouko tries to confess her feelings toward Shouya by speaking with her lips instead of her hands. Shouya misunderstands, confusing two similar sounding words, moon for love.
As any teenager girl would be, Shouko is frustrated. All this is compounded by how Shouya received a gift earlier in the conversation, not really understanding what the gift is or why she’s giving it to him. At home, Shouko jumps on her bed and kicks her legs up and down. It’s typical teenage angst, the kind where her world totally feels like it’s ending.
That scene is cute and funny, but later, when another misunderstanding occurs, the result is tragic. Shouko, feeling that she’s the reason that Shouya cannot move forward, and certainly carrying many more burdens besides, pulls the surprise of all surprises when she tries to commit suicide. Almost successful, she’s only saved because Shouya leaps to her rescue, leading to his own terrible accident.
It’s a gripping scene, and even without the understanding of how lines were crossed, which we learn more about and digest later, the visual of segment emphasizes miscommunication—Shouya enters Shouko’s apartment and can’t comprehend what’s happening. He sees her on the patio, about to leap, but moves to her slowly. Silently inside my head, I was screaming, “Ishida, go rescue her!”, but for him, the whole scene didn’t make sense. And when he finally understood, his body was still slow to respond. Such was their miscommunication that Shouko committing suicide was never even an option to him.
We can all understand how loneliness can lead one to depression or suicide—and that’s precisely how Shouko and Shouya (who plans to kill himself as the movie opens) feel, even though they’re surrounded by loved ones. Yet, no one understands their immense sadness and guilt. Shouko even moreso can’t communicate her feelings like she wants.
In the simplest and most heartbreakingly profound way, miscommunication very nearly leads to what Shouko’s already feeling—the end of her world.
What’s tragic is that while the feelings are totally legitimate, including Shouko’s lesser “end of the world” belief after her confession failed to land properly, the idea that “no one understands me” is never accurate, not entirely. We may be lonely, but we need not be, for we are never truly alone in our fears, guilt, and sadness.
I often fail to do the things I want to do, in being the man I want to be. There are times of profound failure in my past, where guilt builds up and I feel I can’t really share with anyone else, can’t really convey how I feel or even have a person to whom I can communicate this distress to. And in those times, I hear whispers that try to destroy me: You aren’t loved. You are the worst person in the world. No one understands you. You are unforgivable.
But scripture tells us different. It tells us we are loved, so much so that Christ died a tortuous death for us; we aren’t the worst people in the world, we’re all the same in our sin and propensity to do evil; we are understood, for Jesus experienced the loneliness, isolation, and sadness we do; and we are forgivable, for the entire story of scripture, the entire breadth of its narrative, speaks this truth: all the mistakes we make, all the bad things we do, all the hurt we heap on others, all that may be true—but the creator of the universe thinks we’re special enough that he would die in our place anyway.
And that’s a truth we must not ignore, misinterpret, or forget. It rings loudly to us, and speaks love and belonging, even when the world, including the people to whom we speak, communicates anything but.
A Silent Voice is now available for purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.