Podcast: Radio of Resistance, Episode 1
Hi, my name is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance. With each episode, there will be a little bit of strength to fight against whatever life throws at you. After all, we are all fighters, aren’t we?
So, without further ado, let’s get straight to business. Featured in this week’s episode is Kenzaburo Oe’s “The Silent Cry.” The story started with a scene where the protagonist’s friend committed suicide with his face painted crimson and a cucumber up his anus. The protagonist, who is struggling with his son, who is put away in an institution, and his alcoholic wife, chases down the root of everything within him.
Mitsusaburo Nedokoro – growing up in the valley, obsessed with the 1860 farmers rising and his brother’s death – what is left within him but a stranger to his own hometown? He stands at the crossroad as he watches the people he grew up with passes him by and his disabled son staring blankly ahead without any emotion, screams, “I deserted you.”
Who deserted who?
Mitsusaburo deserted the valley, the people, his younger brother, his wife, and his sons, among many other things. Is it his fault? Is it not? Mitsusaburo don’t know. Nevertheless, the guilt keeps on rising and the shame keeps on burying whatever that is left within him.
But is it enough to kill him? To kill his will to live, even if he has to live a life of the rat?
Let’s recalled Kenji Miyazawa’s “Night on the Galactic Railroad,” where the protagonist, Giovanni, asks, What is true happiness?
Campanella chooses his true happiness when he arrives at his station and reunites with his beloved mother. Giovanni chooses his happiness when he wakes up by the riverside and leave the Galactic Railroad.
Mitsusaburo, too, also chooses his own happiness in being a rat. In deciding to keep on living.
See, the thing is there will always be a consequence for whatever choices we make. Should we feel guilty because of that, though?
By staying with his mother on the Galactic Railroad, Campanella abandoned his father to his own solitude. By choosing to leave the Galactic Railroad, Giovanni is reunited with his long gone father and his sick mother. Which is the right choice? And which is not? Is Giovanni a better person by choosing to stay alive? Is Campanella a coward for choosing to die instead?
The answer is not for us to decide. Only the person who makes the choice can decide whether their choices are wrong or right.
The same goes with Mitsusaburo. He decides to stay alive as the rat that he is. And maybe later on, he can dig a hole next to Gii the hermit’s hole to shelter himself from whatever life throws at him. By so doing, he decides to leave behind the nightmare of the farmer’s rising in 1860, as well as the brutal death of S, who acts as the sacrificial lamb for the village youth.
In short, he decides to not participate in the cycle of violence and the madness, as his mother puts it, that is a trait of his family. Does it make him braver than his younger brother, who decides to stay within the same cycle? Does it make him a coward?
That is, of course, up to the readers to decide. But to the Mitsusaburo on the paper, he has acquired his calmness and peace. He has come to the tranquility as the rat that he is, and there’s no shame in being alive, despite being a rat.
Let’s talk about the absurd, then. If we take Albert Camus’s point of view, Mitsusaburo, his younger brother, and his dead friend, all experience the absurd. And thus, there’s only two choice: to fight against it or to commit suicide. Takashi, Mitsusaburo’s younger brother, chooses to fight against it, while his dead friend chooses suicide.
There’s no guilt to judge, and there’s no punishment to hand down. The only thing left is this immense void filled with melancholy and solitude.
But we are not Mitsusaburo. Nor are we his friend and his younger brother. We are not haunted by the farmer’s rising of 1860, neither are we haunted by the death of a brother, who is beaten to dead as a sacrificial lamb.
And the ideology stays the same: to live, or not to live.
My therapist once puts this choice in different terms. She says, If you die, that’s the end. But if you keep on living, there’s a chance for change. Whatever the changes that you wish to make, as long as you’re alive, you can make it.
And be it Mitsusaburo or Giovanni, they both choose to stay alive. Can Mitsusaburo change the fact that his son is disabled? Can Giovanni ever get rid of the solitude that grows immensely within his heart? Perhaps they can. Perhaps they cannot. But by choosing to live, they are resisting the absurd – the pains and the sufferings of the living. The silent cry of solitude and guilt echoes louder and louder both from within and without. But does it even matter?
There are many things in this feeble life on Earth. Among them, pains and sufferings are the most prominent. So prominent that they make us forget about other things.
See, life is not always about losing. Sometimes, there is a spring where your beloved flowers finally bloom. Sometimes, there is a summer where the sky is so blue and the ocean is peaceful. There are laughters amidst the tears. There are lovers amidst the haters.
Find the flowers. Find the laughters. Find the lovers. Hear the silent cry within you, and forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. It does not matter whether you have deserted someone in the fight to live, or whether you have chosen to abandoned your beloved ones to a deep abyss of solitude: let yourself off the hook.
And most importantly, while looking at the sky, be it grey, white, or blue, choose to live.
My name is Thanh Dinh, and you are listening to the Radio of Resistance.
If you have an interesting story to tell, send it to the mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in next week’s podcast episode.
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Thank you for listening, and thank you for being here.