The Merry-Go-Round of Life
Updated: Mar 29
Howl's Moving Castle has got to be one of the greatest cinematic animation works of art to ever be produced and it inspires this blog entry and its title, particularly this week when I celebrate my 42nd orbit around the sun.
In a world where magic exists, one would think it would be the perfect and idyllic world, but Hayao Miyazaki shows us that even in such a world of wonder, greed and power hunger will turn it sour, making life unbearable and unlivable. And yet the people who are incapable of magic, like in our world, they too can have a beautiful and worthy existence if they free themselves from those sentiments that bring suffering.
Miyazaki wanted to convey through Howl's Moving Castle, that life is always worth living if we make it so, even if it is not as interesting and magical as Howl's life.
When you think of how we measure our life in years, it's nothing more than this - measuring the length of the journey by the time it takes for the 'vehicle' we are on to travel a certain distance around the sun. I find it incredible that so far, since I was born, I have travelled for 6.28 Billion kilometers around our star on the planet we call home.
It is a long journey indeed, powered by terrible and vast forces and energies that we can only comprehend in the world of mathematics. It is in times like these, when I am reminded of this cultural notion of "age" by number, that I reflect on this journey.
We are not really going anywhere, right? All that distance travelled within my lifetime and our planet is still fixed in an orbit around the sun, for possibly another 5 billion years after which it will be destroyed. As a planet and as a species; a young species for that matter (that has been around for maybe 200,000 years, merely a blink of an eye for the age of the universe), where has this journey taken us?
Why do we run on a treadmill at the gym? We do not actually go anywhere when we do. But we are always in a better place afterwards.
Are we making sure that as the revolutions around our sun are happening, without going much anywhere, we are always ending up in a better place afterwards? And by "ending up in a better place" I certainly do not mean dying. How do you know that people who died "are in a better place"? Stepping off the merry-go-round doesn't mean you're still on the merry-go-round.
The merry-go-round of life can keep on spinning around this sun of ours for another 5 billion years and our life is not even the equivalent of a blink of an eye in that grand scheme. We step on it, spin for some time, and step off. Make sure you spend some time looking at all the beautiful ornate decorations, the lights, the coloured horses and the spinning view around you, or you'll miss it all. Savour every instant.
The merry-go-round is also a metaphor for our own lives, after all we mimic the universe as we too are part of it all. We each have our own merry-go-round on which people step on and off; some with good intentions, some with bad ones. Some wanting to stay for long, others to visit for a short while. But you are there always spinning on that horse and going up and down with not much choice in it, looking at the visitors as they come and go.
As long as we remember that in this journey that goes nowhere, we can always end up in a better place anyway, the visitors don't really affect us as much as we think they do. They come and go. Get back on your horse and keep riding, keep smiling and keep enjoying the lights, the colours and the wonder of the view like a child does, perhaps with the music from "The merry-go-round of life". This musical theme from Howl's Moving Castle, written by Joe Hisaishi; a playful, yet majestic waltz for Orchestra reminiscent of the music one hears on the merry-go-round, is a great soundtrack that reminds of the hope that Miyazaki wants us to have, even if life may depressingly be not much more than a merry-go-round of revolutions around the sun.
Hisaishi plays with the dynamics of the piece up and down, just like the merry-go-round horse bounces up and down. It's not by accident that the music has a crescendo, becoming more solemn and more majestic as it progresses. It too is a metaphor of the journey of life on the merry-go-round, from childhood, to youth, to adulthood, to the climax and apex of our lives and careers, all the way to a soft and harmonious closure, which however comes after yet another final crescendo. Life has to always be a crescendo, a growth that leaves us in a better place, even if we are not doing much more than circling around the sun on this merry-go-round of life, until it's time for us to step off.