It is my loathing to mediocrity that has made me a miserable man. It drove me ascetic. A cerebral negativity, as I like to coin it. My alibi to be reluctant to do things in which I cannot possibly set the bar very high. I dream an egoist’ megalomaniacal wet dreams, almost strikingly similar to Haruhi Suzumiya‘s rants about insignificance. I want to be big, and the wisdom of the happiness of the small fries sounds often too scary for me. Verily, it is far too easy to mistake a mind that had found enlightenment with the one that just did a funeral for its skeptic side, but I plan to bet on it. I trust its darkness, its sorrow, and its fury.
When I tried to read Zen some time ago, I was kind of turned off to its seemingly negative tendency to lower one’s standards in order to achieve peace. It’s basically auto-hypnosis, or so it looks like from an amateur’s point of view. And it’s everywhere. The attempts to seek for gems in mediocrity. To seek lessons in tragedies. This novel is no exception; it is just another sermon. Only that it didn’t sound like a lullaby. For me. I can now, perhaps, honor mediocrity more.
A Pleasingly Heretical Paradise
Most of the scenes withing The Five People You Meet in Heaven takes place in… heaven. You bet, it’s not a conventional kind of heaven. But then again, heavens ought to be heretical for them to be good; for the Biblical heaven is arguably the most tedious place ever existed (or imagined, depends on your belief). God is somehow wiser in this alternate universe; He put the departed souls into five stages, meeting five different people in their own personal heavens that are somehow connected to their past lives, and learn lessons they have not learned— then they could go to their own heaven.
Meet Mr. Edward-something, a war veteran whose last name was never revealed. Born into the 1920s, he suffered from the antics of his cold father in his entire boyhood until joining the army. Alas, he was sent back home in his 24 due to disability; his leg was shot and never recovered. He fell into deep depression afterwards and started a fight with his father, who never spoke to him again ever since. He then married and eventually inherited of his father’s job before his forties. It was a tedious job, as a maintenance staff for a local amusement park. Some ten years later his parents and his wife passed away. Like a loser, he kept working on the job he hated until he was 83, then he kicked the bucket. It was tragic— he tried to save a girl from an amusement ride in malfunction.
Then the heaven bits. It’s about seeing events in different perspectives, something I just love. The five lessons were wise. All in all it’s more about the implicit denial of the conception of fate (well I did say something about it being heretic). It’s about everything that happened were all the resultants of many many free wills, a conception that I held long ago. It observes the details of living; how little things have their significance, how something that’s seemingly beautiful might be actually hideous, and vice versa. It’s your usual sermon, but with a twist; i.e. somehow it doesn’t sound like a lullaby that turns you down and drives you sleepy. It has made my ego less mighty and more vulnerable; and perhaps finally get around the fact that being a commoner… Might not be infinitely bad after all.
It’s honestly not about the sermon, but how it’s preached
Novels are just words stacked together, see. In this case there’s no illustration whatsoever, too. Ergo, unlike when you can easily portrait the scenes in Harry Potter in your head, this book would be all about your *own* visualization. I don’t know about you, but I visualize everything that’s not visualized. For personal use, of course. And now that the novel retells the stories of a man who lived through the 1920s all the way to the 2000s, it, for me, evoked no less than a recollection of a wannabe writer’s romance about the hauntingly beautiful vibes of the past decades. And hello, I’m definitely not a moviegoer but I have some affairs with the gaming world. So, what came to me is the arresting flavor of the Shadow Hearts series. The smell of the early 20th century Shanghai, Belgium, London, even New York. So close yet so far. The cold and the silence, almost so very warm and noisy at the same time. The opera. The hideous haircuts. The deliberate anachronisms. The jazz. Everything. And let’s not forget the cold corners of town as presented in the Shadow of Memories; something that’s so strangely came to mind when I was reading the novel. Or one of the Devil Summoner release. It was like discovering a way back home; I got back to something I adore from the wilderness of gloomy philosophy I pretended to enjoy for a while back. Edward’s mother’s birthday cakes, his comical romance with his spouse, the aftermath of his demise, all pictured so beautifully in my mind, synchronizing with several related memories (including my boyhood years in a harbor town) that lingers within my realm of ideas; arguably dormant, from some time ago, until just recently.
There is an ecstasy so good that it feels like you’re immortalized. In a split second, when you feel it in you, you’d wish you’ll live forever— but would not object even if you’d cease to exist in ten seconds, no remorse. I feel it in these kinds of things. The virtual omnipotence I gain whenever I govern a virtual existence.