Naruto and Gaara

This was going to be a Tweet, but the rant was too long. Besides which, our Internet at the Sheraton’s pretty slow, so this gives it a chance to buffer on Hulu…

Naruto’s sympathy for Gaara is stupid. They keep showing him comparing himself with Gaara, them both standing alone when they were kids, crying while an angry mob mocked them, and we are to believe that they are “the same.” They both have demons sealed inside them, so they both got treated poorly when they were growing up because people were afraid of them, and since Naruto understands Gaara’s loneliness he’s all like, “Aw man, I totally get that guy! We’re the same so I want to be his friend!”

We are to understand that Gaara’s hatefulness (in Naruto Shonen Jump anyways–he’s a nice guy by the time of Naruto Shippuden) is because he remained lonely. While Naruto eventually had friends who supported and approved of him, Gaara never did, so Naruto presumes that he would have turned out the same as Gaara if he had been left alone.

The story to this point simply doesn’t support that though. Gaara became a murderous bastard because that’s just how he was. While Gaara grew to hate and want to kill everyone, Naruto fought for respect and did his best to always stay in good humour. His personality is dramatically different from Gaara’s, even though their circumstances were identical. Both had assassination attempts on them, both were largely alone, and both had terrifying power. But while Gaara decided to use his to hurt people, Naruto decided to work to earn everyone’s respect.

And since Naruto always worked towards this honourable goal, people began to appreciate and support him. He earned friendship and trust. Meanwhile, Gaara remained a jerk until Naruto beat him in a fight and Gaara discovered that Naruto’s strength was because of love. During that fight scene, by the way, it really gives the impression that the only reason Gaara became a decent guy was because Naruto proved that love gives more fighting power than hate. Dude’s screwed up.

Naruto keeps getting all worked up about this guy, but he really should just let it go. I get what the writers were going for, but I think they took a misstep along the way. I would have found it much more powerful if Naruto had just said, “Gaara, we’re different. Where you’re an asshole, I keep working to help people. It’s not that you don’t have friends because you have a demon inside of you. I’ve got a demon too, and I’ve still got friends. No, you don’t have friends because you keep trying to kill them all. Seriously man, either quit’cher’bitchin or get over it.”

Christian Culture’s Obsession with Negation

When I first began watching Naruto, the anime disappointed me a bit. Character progression or development seemed non-existent in that the characters simply never changed. The main character in particular didn’t seem to mature, grow, or learn. You knew exactly what he would do in every situation because he always did the same thing. You could rely on him to say the same things in the same way.

Over time this characteristic began to appeal to me, though. He was by no means perfect–in fact, it is an important trait of his character that he’s a bit of a screw-up–but he held powerfully to some core ideals. Where other characters submitted to moments of weakness and failure, he never did. When he made a decision, he followed through without balking. You can’t get him down, and he doesn’t give up.

As a Christian, I feel that there is a great deal of pressure to eliminate the aforementioned flaws and weaknesses, the parts of us that make us a screw-up, and it is a terrible temptation. Not because the elimination of flaw and the pursuit of virtue is a negative, but because we often become so obsessed with the flaws that we fail to find virtue. We focus so much on cutting parts out of ourselves that we wholly fail to add anything. In the end, we are left with something less than human.

When God built his temple on earth through Solomon, he filled it with consecrated items of silver and gold, but it was men that carried them in and maintained them.

What I suppose I am wrestling with is this: I think it is more important to hold to our positive and virtuous ideals than to excise our negative flaws and weaknesses. Too often I am caught up in self-surgery rather than self-healing. I expend too much energy trying to cut things out and have nothing left for the carrying of holiness.

In Naruto, I see a character who simply doesn’t worry about his flaws. He recognizes them, though he doesn’t pay them much mind, and spends his energy in devotion to his friends and training. Rather than trying to cut out his weakness, he works to become stronger.

I think that this is a wise and holy path, but I feel so wrong pursuing it. I do not, however, feel that this sense of wrongness is from God. Rather, it is instilled in me by a culture of Christianity that is likewise focused on cutting rather than healing. The years of attending churches that pray for exorcism or elimination rather than for the growth of strength has affected me mentally until I have trouble perceiving that extreme focus on cutting-out as harmful.

And I do think it is harmful, this obsession with negation. Over time it led me to believe that I was wholly weak, worthless, and incapable of positive change. Even with this recognition it is difficult to feel different. I can think and logically realize that working only at cutting things out of my life is bad, but it’s hard to translate that thought to my heart. When I try to focus on positive change rather than cutting flaws, I feel like I am failing. Like I am copping out of my responsibility as a Christian: to feel like crap about myself and beat myself up for every mistake.

It is important to remember the tenets of original sin and that we must continually combat our negative inclinations, but I wonder how things would be if we focused more on the positive than the negative. It seems like everything we do as Christians that deals with our flaws has a negative spin on it. We don’t pray for strength to do good things, but rather strength to fight against the bad things in our lives. We constantly focus on our sin, on our stumbling blocks, and when we pray for ourselves or others, it is usually for aid in dealing with those flaws. We don’t find positives to strive for, but rather obsess ourselves with negatives.

Does this make any sense? Am I completely wrong? I want to focus on positives and worry less about negatives, just to see how that goes. I want to live my life with God, rather than thinking all the time about my sinful nature. What do you all think?