“My point is, everybody dies, son. Some now, some later. From brothel girl to emperor.”
– Jigo, Princess Mononoke
Well, now that’s a rather morbid quote for my… two hundredth quote?!
Wow, I’ve actually been doing this blog for two hundred weeks, now? Coming up on four years. Huh. Cool.
So, that seems like an unusual quote to pick for such an auspicious number, doesn’t it? Well, as it happens, this is one of my favorite quotes of all time, and it touches on something rather dear to me.
When Jigo says this to Ashitaka, he’s trying to console him about how he killed two samurai thugs in a battle earlier, he having stepped in on behalf of unarmed peasants. Death rather abounds in this movie, including where the two are camping at that moment: the ruins of a village that was peopled not so long ago. It’s a brutal, unavoidable truth: everybody dies. It doesn’t matter how, or when, or where, or how good or bad we are, or how afraid we are, death will find us all eventually. It’s simply a fact of life.
But I take a little something more from these words. However scary death might be, it’s also the ultimate equalizer, I think. As Jigo says, it doesn’t matter where we are on society’s ladder. From the lowest to the highest, we are all mortal. We all die.
So, how much does that social ladder really matter, hm?
If we are all equals in death, are we not all equals in life as well?
Now, I don’t mean that the circumstances of life either could or should favor all of us equally. No, certainly not. I’m saying, no matter how one might cry about how great they are, or how much they have, or how much they’ve accomplished, they are just as mortal as everyone else. There is no “low” or “high” that matters in the long run.
People talk about being “special” in this way or that way, but there is no “special,” I think, which truly matters. “Special” might seem like an innocent enough word, but I’ve yet to hear it used in such a way that does not involve stratifying our society, putting things, and people, above or below one another. And that is abhorrent.
How much wrong in our society is rooted in the idea of “special?” Racism, sexism, supremacist ideologies, ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, imperialism, the division of classes as “upper” and “lower,” and so on, heck, even spoiled children, it’s all based on this idea of someone being “special,” and therefore somehow worth more than another person, which makes the other person worth less, which makes them worthless. It is an obscene idea and the root of division and devastation, the ultimate of which is the corrosion and destruction of that greatest of human capacities which we call “compassion.”
After all, if one is “special,” then how much compassion can one truly have for one’s “inferiors?”
Compassion is, at its root, an acceptance that another person is as valuable as oneself.
And thus the great division of humanity.
But all such divisions crumble and shatter in the face of death. Why? Because it makes us all absolute equals.
Death is the reminder that no man stands above another in eternity.
The emperor is not truly above the brothel girl. They are equals.