Moving Backward, Forward
Writer: Grace Noh
“I’m just trying to live my life, but it seems as if sadness always piles itself up around me. It’s in my bed, the toothbrush in my bathroom, and the memory of my cellphone. Over the past few years, I’ve wanted to move on, I’ve wanted to take hold of something I couldn’t reach. What that is, I have no idea. Not knowing where such obsessive thoughts were coming from, I simply drowned myself in my work. Then one day I realized that my heart was withering, and in it there was nothing but pain. And one morning, I realized that my beliefs, that I once held so passionately, had completely disappeared.” - from 5 Centimeters Per Second
There are moments in life that are simply so precious and unforgettable that give you nothing but great joy and happiness. You constantly smile and feel delighted every moment that is happening to you. What happens when those moments are gone?
Presenting a realistic view of the struggles many face, 5 Centimeters Per Second, an animated film by Makoto Shinkai, tells a story of a young man named Takaki Tono. Takaki meets his love as a young boy, but with time and distance, he and his love slowly drift away into their separate ways of life. 5cm/sec is the speed of falling cherry blossom petals where the falling petals are the constant visual reminders of past memories and temporality of life. The character builds up a habit of sending text messages without a recipient; over time, he is trapped in his own memories of the past.
Often, the short-lived moments of happiness haunt us, as those times seem to quickly pass by. Many struggle, not able to overcome the sadness like Takaki. Perhaps it is the realization that such moments never return accumulates sadness. Is Takaki a victim of spontaneity of happiness that happened to him at such early age? After all, happiness is not something that can possibly be planned or set as a goal. Rather it is something that happens unexpectedly and unexplainably.
What was my reaction to watching the film? Was I sad?
I was hopeful.
I also had moments that brought me great joys. I once thought it was a pity that those moments were gone to the past, like a train that leaves the station and everything quickly disappears from your sight. Yet, I came to a realization that I had to accept the sadness of short-lived moments of happiness and that gave me hope for the future.
I often read one particular interview of Felix Gonzalez-Torres on his work. “I wanted people to have my work. The fact that someone could just come and take my work and carry it with them was very exciting. Freud said that we rehearse our fears in order to lessen them. In a way this ‘letting go’ of the work, this refusal to make a static form, a monolithic sculpture, in favor of disappearing, changing, unstable, and fragile form was an attempt on my part to rehearse my fears of having Ross disappear day by day right in front of my eyes. It’s really a weird thing when you see the public come into the gallery and walk away with a piece of paper that is ‘yours.’” As his partner Ross was dying of AIDS, Gonzalez-Torres created a work that represented the process of letting go of his love. Although the stack pieces disappear as the visitors grab one after another, the prints return in their endless cycle of presence and absence unlike the inevitability of Ross’ death. The artist found a way to face his fear of sadness through his work while it held new meanings to the public.
Good memories are like pleasant dreams that make you smile even if you don’t exactly remember what you dreamed of. As our memories are different from facts, we put our emotions in them as we think of those moments. At the same time, it is inevitable that we eventually, slowly forget the same amazing feelings we used to have. Yet, we still smile, because whatever we remember as great memories are the results of perfect timing of everything. As great joyful moments happen unplanned, sadness also come without a warning. If happiness and sadness happen unexpectedly, then shouldn’t we more hopeful for the future? After all, it is also full of unexpected possibilities.