Annalyn’s Corner: Messes, Purpose, and Nanbaka

... in which Annalyn makes a confession, talks about purpose, and attempts to take a sparkly anime seriously.
Beneath the Tangles | Messes, Purpose, and Nanbaka

As the subtitle implies, my corner is a mess this week. So I’m dividing it into two parts—my mess and Nanbaka‘s relevant mess—and hoping it somehow edifies someone besides me.

Confession

I have a pretty casual approach to this column. That’s partly because when I first came on board, I was told I could write the same things here that I wrote on my old blog. And I was really casual there. Still, I strove—rather successfully—to write at a higher quality more consistently. Some posts have been better than others. Then weeks like this one come around, when my focus is even more off-kilter than during other weeks.

The other element of my casual approach? I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I won’t pretend to be all put together. I won’t pretend to be all spiritual and faithful when I haven’t been. I won’t pretend to be one of the most dedicated, geekiest otaku around. This doesn’t mean I should go too easy on myself and write poor-quality posts. It doesn’t even mean I have to let you guys know every time I’m struggling. But when my blogging style is generally personal, there comes a point when I can’t not share that I’m struggling.

So a confession: I haven’t been watching anime regularly. I haven’t been reading my Bible regularly, either. Or journaling. That combination means that I have very little inspiration. I can’t write a personal post about a relationship with a God I’ve been conveniently forgetting about most of the time. (That’s one reason I wrote about Shinto and folklore last time.)

I asked God on Sunday to help me to do better with journaling this week. His first answer, apparently, was this blog post: a reminder of how little I have to give when I haven’t been purposefully receiving from him. Thus, I stopped this post mid-draft and went off to get my journal and Bible. It was a start.

Before I move onto the anime portion of this blog post, I’d like to explain a bit more of my situation. I promise, it’ll be relevant to later portions of the post: As someone with AD(H)D, it’s nearly impossible to tell how much of my devotional-scheduling problems stem from ADD and how much stems from not valuing God enough. I’ve given up trying to figure out the exact combination. My brain wanders. If I’ve broken from a routine and haven’t successfully begun a new one, I find it difficult to balance and accomplish goals—including Bible time, anime-viewing, blogging, and fiction-writing. This is especially true when there are no externally imposed deadlines.

Ooh, sparkly! Just kidding. My ADD doesn't work like that. Usually. Anyway, this screenshot from Nanbaka ep 8 relates to later screenshots in this post. Back to your regularly scheduled confessing.

Ooh, sparkly! Just kidding. My ADD doesn’t work like that. Usually. Anyway, this screenshot from Nanbaka ep 8 relates to later screenshots in this post. Back to the confession.

None of this is an excuse. But it’s an explanation. Suffice to say, I’m a sinner who happens to have an abnormal brain. It’s comforting to know I also struggle to keep up with anime, writing, and reading—so I guess logic indicates that I don’t value those things more than God.

God is gracious, but he rarely removes natural consequences of my wandering. Those consequences include a lack of purpose in how I see and use my time. Oh, sure, he can use even my dawdling for his purposes if he wishes, but it’s not nearly as fulfilling as when I choose to actively participate with God in his purposes.

Hey, this actually leads into discussion of the only anime I’ve watched in the last couple days: Nanbaka. So let’s switch to that.

Sparkles and Purpose

Nanbaka is a sparkly anime about the inmates and guards at Nanba, a high-security prison where there are virtually no consequences for trying to escape. If you don’t have a high ability to suspend disbelief, you will spend 80% of each episode mocking the show. (During the other 20%, it’s the OP, ED, or time to catch your breath.) Between shenanigans, there’s actually an interesting plot. It just gets difficult to follow, because they’ll split important scenes into two episodes—and have a third, nearly unrelated, episode between those two episodes.

Nanbaka is a mess.

I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to take even the most serious of conversations seriously, because there are still sparkles. But I took notes during episode 9 anyway. Partly because in this episode, the sparkles and colors actually have purpose!

[Spoilers ahead for ep 9, if you care]

Jyugo is the only interesting character in this show. I thought it was because he had a more significant purpose than the others—after all, he’s searching for the man who put unremovable shackles on his neck, wrists, and ankles. And these shackles, as we now know, are responsible for his ability to transform his limbs into essentially swords. He’s been turned into a monster, he thinks, and he wants to find the man responsible.

Basically, he has the more depth than 95% of the wacky characters in this show.

Or at least, that’s what I thought. Hajime, the guard in charge of Jyugo’s cellblock, disagrees. He says Jyugo is empty. Why? He lacks greed. He’s never wanted anything before.

Note that Jyugo has no sparkles around him for a change, but Hajime does. Sparkles may or may not represent desire, greed, and purpose. (ep 9)

Note that Jyugo has no sparkles around him for a change, but Hajime does. Sparkles may or may not represent desire, greed, and purpose. (ep 9)

What follows this is an apparently serious discussion in which Hajime indicates greed is an essential human function, but pursuing self-satisfaction in a single-minded yet half-hearted manner is distasteful.

Wait, what?

Basically, Jyugo wants to find the man who put the shackles on him not because he wants the shackles off, but merely because he finally has an objective, a purpose. So when that goal meets a significant obstacle, he has no real motivation to continue forward.

Hajime pushes Jyugo to figure out what he wants—and wanting a desire or purpose doesn’t count as an actual desire or purpose.

By the end of the conversation, Jyugo finally knows what he wants: a chance …to figure out what he wants. He breaks his chains and becomes colorful again as he seizes this chance.

Moral of the story: purpose (greed?) brings color and sparkles into your life. Without a greed-motivated objective, life is colorless and depressing.

I don’t completely disagree. I do, however, disagree with the implication that desire must be colorfully present in order to live with purpose.

The word “greed” doesn’t seem quite right, either. It brings to mind unscrupulous, selfish actions. I’d argue, instead, for desire and related purpose. The idea is that true desire motivates people to push through the hard times in pursuit of a goal. It gives purpose to a person’s life, whether that purpose involves pursuing meet-and-greets with seiyuu (like for Nico, Jyugo’s cellmate) or revenge (like for Musashi, Jyugo’s acquaintance/rival/opponent dude).

A common Christian version might be this: a desire to know and bring glory to God gives us a sense of purpose, leading us to pursue a relationship with him and act in a way that honors him. If your desire is strong enough, this will happen on a fairly daily basis, though of course pure habit and duty will have to get you through the days when passion’s not enough.

But now I’m talking about something I don’t completely understand, because I have a documented problem with motivation. Namely, my desires aren’t often strong enough to motivate me. In my case, it’s not so much a depression thing as an abnormal brain thing. Desire doesn’t bring color to my life (and greed definitely doesn’t). It doesn’t sustain me, because my focus is driven less by desire and more by brain tricks (that is, either tricks I play on my brain or tricks my brain plays on me).

Jyugo has an existential crisis when Hajme basically tells him he only has this goal because he has nothing else to do. Incidently, he looks the way I felt back when I judged my love for God based on my lack of burning desire or motivation. (I've since learned better how mental and emotional disorders do and do not effect spiritual state.)

Jyugo has an existential crisis when Hajime basically tells him he only has this goal because he has nothing else to do. Incidentally, he looks the way I felt back when I judged my love for God based on my lack of burning desire or motivation. (I’ve since learned better how mental and emotional disorders do and do not effect my spiritual state.)

Here’s my version, on a good day: I notice not only a desire, but a deep need to know and glorify God. I remember that this is my purpose in life, and that pursuing this purpose is even more important than food and sleep. Moved by a combination of  responsibility, vestiges of habit, and a sense of obligation (not only to God, but to my spiritual and mental wellbeing), I get out my journal and Bible. Ten to fifteen minutes into my journalling time, I am finally fairly focused on the process, thanking God for dragging me back and meeting my deep need for fellowship with him.

On a particularly good day, I journal, pray, and study my Bible for several hours, not because I’m on a spiritual high, but because I’ve unlocked the same kind of hyperfocus that motivates anime marathons. (Thank you, Lord, for putting strange brain functions to good use.)

On good days, application (aka honoring God in actions and words) flows from both habit and desire to serve God wisely and joyfully.

On good days.

It doesn’t sound so colorful and sparkly, but I assure you that this quiet desire and action is still fulfilling.

But like Jyugo, I sometimes feed off of the obsessive desires of others. Or I affect excitement and motivation I don’t actually feel. I want to be a part of that colorful, desire-oriented world. I want that kind of tangible purpose.

Also like Jyugo, I feel more human, more alive, when I feel a strong sense of desire and purpose.

But usually, desire—even desire so lofty as to know God—doesn’t have a bright, sparkly influence on my life. My desires and purpose in relationship to God definitely make my life fuller. Every day—even during the less colorful or efficient days—I am grounded and reassured by this. But this often isn’t so much a grand motivation as a quiet, pulsing, even nagging feeling.

Basically: life and brains are both messy sometimes. Sometimes, finding motivation isn’t as simple as feuling desire. Yes, desire brings color and purpose to your life. But that color and purpose has to be fueled by something more sustaining if you want to accomplish anything. I’ve found, for me, that means a deep belief in God and his purpose for me, a belief he sustains in me and that I cling to even during my many wanderings—during both colorless and distractingly colorful times.

Also, Nanbaka is still a mess and I promise never to try to take it seriously again.

Jyugo seizes the chance to act like a human with true desires, thus becoming colorful and sparkly again.

Jyugo seizes the chance to act like a human with true desires, thus becoming colorful and sparkly again.

 

Side note: If you’re going to give me advice because of the first part of this post, please leave the word “just” out of it. I’ll try to be humble enough to accept advice from you, but if you attach the word “just” to anything like “make a schedule” or “get up early” or “try harder,” I will be tempted to glare disrespectfully at your comment and refer you to my Tumblr post on the matter. Seriously, I doubt you’ll come up with any suggestions I haven’t already tried to incorporate into my life. I’ve been struggling with this for a very long time. 

Annalyn, known as Alexis to the outside world, is a lifelong lover of fiction. Growing up, books kept her attention, but anime stole center stage halfway through high school. If she isn’t consuming, writing, analyzing, or thinking about some form of story… she’s probably distracted. But she might be editing, dancing to K-pop, or hanging out with family.

5 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • Foxfier
    6 December 2016 at 5:28 pm

    *reads side-note*

    *laughs*

    But don’t you see? Everything is easy! Immortality– just don’t die! Tired all the time? Just sleep more! Over weight? Just burn more calories than you bring in! Too short? Just grow taller!

    I have the best luck– not to be confused with “good luck”– in doing more devotionals by making it so I can do them on impulse. If you have an android smart phone, Amazon has a very sweet rosary app written by a guy for his grandmother that I am trying to train myself to reach for when I’m in the “argh, don’t feel like reading” mood. There’s a bunch of different Bible apps, too.

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      6 December 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Ha! “Immortality—just don’t die!” Oh, so THAT’s the secret? I’d never have known!

      An overabundance of unsolicited advice about managing ADD symptoms may or may not have made me overly defensive. And I know others have had it (both the advice and the ADD) much worse than me. >_>

      Ohh, reaching for a phone app is a good idea. It’s great that you’ve found a way to make your impulses work for you! I’ll think about how best to do the same. Sometimes, I have this “all or nothing” perspective—like I have to set aside 30-60 minutes of my day for Bible/prayer/journal time. But with that pressure, I end up not doing anything at all (thirty minutes of concentrating sometimes sounds like forever). Whereas if I tell myself “just for a few minutes” or impulsively start reading or praying/writing, I often end up continuing for longer.

      Leave a Reply
      • Foxfier
        6 December 2016 at 10:58 pm

        Repeating in your mind “they mean well” and otherwise being pleasant has got to count as penance.

        “Oh Lord, for the souls of the dead I offer up four ‘if you would just do its,’ five ‘you just need to’ and a half-hour of ‘if you would only’…..”

        *******
        I always find something else I “need” to do, so the other trick is to set things for right before bed.

        Needless to say, using this too much results in rather dire sleep dep. -.- Other than evening prayers before I fall asleep– and sometimes I fall asleep during them– I don’t recommend this for God Time. Likewise, the “woke up in the middle of the night, do it now” trick won’t work for Bible reading or journal time, although it can work for prayer.

        Leave a Reply
  • anon
    7 December 2016 at 11:38 pm

    You could make a custom bingo card with quotes of what people have said to you regarding your ADD. And each time you hear those sayings, you can say, “Yay I filled another square on my bingo card!” 😀 http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/custom-bingo-cards/photos

    I saw your tumblr post. Regarding the analogies, another analogy I thought of was someone being asked to sing a song well outside their comfortable range.

    I too, turn out to have ADHD (most likely inattentive type). And I realize it isn’t just a “switch” you can just switch on and off. I have the tendency, if I don’t like to do something, it’s hard for me to pretend I like it to trudge through it. 🙁 It seems like some people are good at that “pretend” though. I also read an article on Executive Functioning Disorder, and I think that describes me even more. I hesitate to make plans/declare a specific purpose for myself because “What if something happens and everything gets thrown off?” It’s like being in a car, but the wheel can’t steer in the proper direction.

    Some things I’ve heard: “Your problem is that you’re lazy!!”
    “Everybody can find a job! Everybody can drive!”
    People mean well, but I feel like a freak sometimes.

    Maybe all this mindless wandering highlights that unless I pursue God, none of what is going on is gonna make sense yet.

    Leave a Reply
    • Annalyn
      8 December 2016 at 1:19 am

      Goodness, I’m surprised I haven’t come across a bingo card like that on Tumblr yet. I spend too much time in the ADHD tag there.

      Singing outside one’s range is a great analogy!

      Executive Functioning Disorder! Yep, yep, yep. A lot of ADDers have executive functioning issues, I among them. So I, too, often prefer not to make plans (or commitments of any sort), because I’m not confident I’ll follow through. (I used to hate To Do lists because they’d become failure lists. Now I just move whatever I didn’t complete to the next day, lower my standards, and try yet again to get a routine in place to help me.)

      Ugh, thankfully no one has called me lazy… but I’ve suspected they thought it. And I’ve tried (and given up) figuring out how exactly to tell when I’m being lazy and when my brain’s just being annoying.

      I agree with you on that last point. It’s really, really reassuring to know that no matter how offtrack I get, God remains the same. He doesn’t wander. That, at least, brings sense into my life.

      Thanks for commenting, Anon!

      Leave a Reply
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