Kokoro Connect 08 — Living in Community

This episode goes straight to the heart of what I was saying last week— the students are not alone. It’s not just that they have each other, either. They have the entire community to lean on, but they are led to believe they have to solve everything by themselves.

Jean Vanier

Let’s take a break from Paul this week. Instead, let’s talk about Jean Vanier, who I was introduced to recently by my favorite theologian. Jean Vanier founded L’Arche, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing those with learning disabilities to live in community together. He’s also a Catholic thinker who has written much on the subject of living in community. His insights fit in quite well with the message of Kokoro Connect.

Taichi, the Hero

All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We are afraid to be children, to be ourselves.
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Taichi is a selfless freak. He cares for and wants to save everyone he meets. Yet despite Inaba’s protestations to the contrary, I am convinced that this desire to serve others is a good thing. Wanting to help others is a wonderful thing.

But the way Taichi goes about serving this desire is not a good thing. It has to be Taichi who’s the hero. Not Inaba, not Iori, but Taichi. Does Taichi actually want to help people, or does he want to be the hero? If we go back to the language of Paul, are Taichi’s actions done in service to the principalities and powers (pride and self-righteousness), or out of love?

In Iori’s words, Taichi is full of himself. As gendomike pointed out last week, Taichi suffers from an enormous martyr complex.

Being a hero is antithetical to living in community:

It is quite easy to found a community. There are always plenty of courageous people who want to be heroes, are ready to sleep on the floor, to work hard hours each day, to live in dilapidated houses. It’s not hard to camp—anyone can rough it for a time. So the problem is not in getting the community started—there’s always enough energy for take-off. The problem comes when we are in orbit and going round and round the same circuit…
A community which is just an explosion of heroism is not a true community. True community implies a way of life, a way of living and seeing reality; it implies above all fidelity in the daily round. And this is made up of simple things—getting meals, using and washing the dishes and using them again, going to meetings—as well as gift, joy and celebration; and it is made up of forgiving seventy times seventy-seven.
A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of humanity lies in the acceptance of our insignificance, our human condition and our earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of people is in the fidelity to the wonder of each day.

― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

A community which is just an explosion of heroism is not a true community. True community implies a way of life, a way of living and seeing reality; it implies above all fidelity in the daily round. Community isn’t about heroism or selflessness so much as it is about just being there.

Iori Shows Up

Ninety percent of life is just showing up. — Woody Allen

In light of this knowledge, Iori is the true hero of this episode. While Yui is hiding in her room, while Inaba is ignoring everyone, while Taichi is trying to play the hero, and while Aoi is complaining that they can’t do anything, Iori shows up. She talks to Inaba in the classroom, despite how much she is scorned. She waits for everyone in the club room, despite knowing they won’t come. She goes to visit Yui, even though she knows Yui won’t let her in. Iori is present. And everyone knows it.

“It is only when we stand up, with all our failings and sufferings, and try to support others rather than withdraw into ourselves, that we can fully live the life of community.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Withdrawing from community is hopeless and counterproductive, even in the extraordinary circumstances that Inaba, Taichi and Yui find themselves in. To live with others always includes the possibility of hurt. But to live alone precludes the possibility of holding one another up. People were not meant to live alone.

The Power of Community

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

Community “enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.”

This is best shown in the scene in the classroom where Inaba and Iori fight. Taichi wants to play the hero again. But because he is also subject to Heartseed’s curse, he simply can’t. But the class rep, being a girl, an outsider and the leader, can. Only she can welcome Iori and Inaba to reconcile in community. She performs the same role later on, when she talks to Taichi about what he should do.

The teacher also uses his unique role to welcome and help Taichi to live in community. These are all roles that Taichi and friends simply couldn’t have taken on themselves. The community enables them to grow in ways they couldn’t as individuals.

Taichi and friends can’t solve everything themselves. But they live in community. They are not alone.

Back to Paul

You may be thinking I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent after the focus on Paul for the last few weeks. So how does all this talk of community fit in with Paul?

This evolution towards a real responsibility for others is sometimes blocked by fear. It is easier to stay on the level of a pleasant way of life in which we keep our freedom and our distance. But that means that we stop growing and shut ourselves up in our own small concerns and pleasures.
― Jean Vanier

Shutting ourselves up in our own small concerns and pleasures is to worship idols and serve the principalities and powers. And it is a response born out of fear. The fear that we will hurt others. The fear that others will hurt us. But perfect love casts out fear.

The response to war is to live like brothers and sisters. The response to injustice is to share. The response to despair is a limitless trust and hope. The response to prejudice and hatred is forgiveness. To work for community is to work for humanity. To work for peace is to work for a true political solution; it is to work for the Kingdom of God. It is to work to enable every one to live and taste the secret joys of the human person united to the eternal.
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

To live in community is to tend the seeds for the kingdom of God.

13 thoughts on “Kokoro Connect 08 — Living in Community

  1. When I see Taichi, the selfless freak, a phrase always pops in my mind. “There is no such thing as a selfless good deed.” Helping others usually results in a higher moral status for the helper.

    1. I don’t know, if no one knows about your good deeds then you don’t really get a higher moral status out of them. Unless you count a feeling of self-righteousness. Regardless, I don’t think we should use this as an excuse not to do good deeds or to judge people who do poorly.

  2. What I’m kind of wishing for now is another look at how these kids were before Heartseed came along and started playing God with them. I’d really like to have a side-by-side look at things to see just how much each of them have changed, for good or ill. When I say this I have Taichi in particular in mind because I’m fairly certain he was nowhere near the over the top “selfless freak” he has become at this point.

    I’m sure he had those desires, but the events of this show have given him a veritable feast of opportunities to act on them. The “white knight” persona has been gradually drawn out of him so much that he’s now so accustomed to it that he doesn’t even need the loss of self control as an excuse to let it take the ugly turn of egotism we saw this week.

    Which leads into what I found to be one of the most pivotal moments in the episode and perhaps the entire series, at least as far as Taichi’s character is concerned. When he lost control this time, in response to someone standing up to him and not letting him get his way, he lashed out physically against someone he cares about deeply. Nagase put it best: his desires were unleashed. So I think it’s more than reasonable to believe that such capacity for violence has always been a part of him. That being the case, what we saw this time around was actually the darkest “unleashing” yet, and I hope more time is given to its ramifications in the future.

    1. That’s an interesting question, I wonder how much Taichi’s white knight persona was drawn out by Heartseed as well. Based on what Inaba has said, he was always like that. Just now he has the opportunity to act on it more.

      Taichi’s desires this time were the most harmful so far. But I’m not sure I’d consider this as a desire to do violence. Taichi had a desire to get past Iori to get to Yui, clearly. But did he have a desire to hurt Iori? I don’t think so. I think he was overwhelmed by his desire to get to Yui, and he lost rational control over how he accomplished this goal.

      So he did have a capacity for violence, but I’m not convinced that in this case he had a desire for violence.

  3. Taichi is learning, the hard way, that his personality is essentially that of the imperialist and colonizer on a small scale. The violence—which he visited on Iori—is usually unintentional, at least at first, but it ends up happening anyway and usually in the service of what the person thinks is good. It comes from being so goal minded and, as Aoki and Iori both say quite explicitly, this need to do something now that gets so problematic. (One writer has coined this impulse as “wretched urgency,” and it’s endemic among a lot of religious cultures, including the one I was raised in. Ardent social activists also fall prey to this mood.) It takes humility and patience and, yes, faith, to stand back and give people their necessary space. Wretched urgency is, on the other hand, proud.

    I love the Vanier quotes, I actually think they work better than some of the quotes from Paul's Epistles to be honest 🙂 It really speaks to the lessons the kids are learning in this arc, about how to build a real community within themselves and to recognize the others who are around them too. Honestly, despite their issues right now, they're not nearly as dysfunctional as real communities can be yet. I've seen even more toxic situations characterized by conspiracies of silence and a total inability to acknowledge any problems. I'm struck that while all the characters are deeply flawed, especially Taichi, they're still really decent people at heart. Sadly, not all people are.

    Thanks for the shout-out. This is your best article on the show yet 🙂

    1. his personality is essentially that of the imperialist and colonizer on a small scale

      That’s a fascinating way to look at it. He wants what’s best for everybody. But he thinks he’s the one who knows what’s best for everyone, and he’s the one with the power to see it through.

      That’s an excellent essay, thanks for sharing.

      Glad you enjoyed the quotes, I saw the long one in that article I linked you to on Twitter and thought of Kokoro Connect immediately. Taichi and friends really are good people at heart, I’m sure they’ll be able to get through all this as well.

  4. I second Mike’s comments on this being your best post on Kokoro Connect yet! 🙂

    I love how the show is following the kids as they uncomfortably learn what community is. It’s almost painful to watch, but (depending on how the show concludes), the results are going to be gratifying. Instead of continuing to live like the status quo, hiding their pains and just talking to each other like normal anime kids would, the group is being forced to answer the question of “how do we love when loving is hard”? In a community, it means DOING, even if doing is just being present (as you mention), instead of ignoring. Iori knows this; blonde guy feels this, even if he doesn’t know what to do; Taichi has perhaps just learned this; and Ianaba has a ways to go.

    It’s a lesson that teenagers can’t normally be expected to learn, and one that many adults never really take to heart either.

    1. Thanks!

      This really is my favorite show of the season, and I feel one of the most meaningful. We as anime fans tend to have this notion that the “deepest” shows are those that wax philosophical like Mushishi, and then this show about cute moe high schoolers comes along with a message like this.

  5. I was quite shocked by Taichi hitting Iori. In religious terms he’s close to an extremist. If Heartseed basically lets the students act out on their true intentions then I wouldn’t want to marry Taichi if I were Iori. But then again, Iori seems to be used to such treatment. At least she wasn’t really complaining.

    I’m glad that Fujishima is there to keep Taichi and the other students in check. I also think she would look pretty cute w/o the glasses. Fujishima should end up w/ Iori as a reward.

    1. I don’t know, I wouldn’t want to read too much into Taichi’s push. I don’t think his desire was to hit Iori, but to simply get past her to go help Yui. My understanding is that Heartseed is making them act out their desires, not making them act out a specific means of achieving their desires that they desire. So I think Taichi wanted to hit get past Iori, but not necessarily that he wanted to hit her to get past.

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