Ceteris Paribus, luck is the most important thing that we have. The prologue of this show, also titled “The Beautiful World” starts of with a heading “The World is Not Beautiful.” This implies that Kino would be a successful traveler, because her view of the world will profoundly change. It is the story of her journey.
In the beginning her companion, the sentient motorcycle Hermes tells her that the most important thing that travelers must have, may they be green or veterans, is decisiveness. If Kino were in the self-help publishing business, I’m inclined to think that she’ll make more of that piece of advice. But Kino’s humility speaks to me strongly:
The most important thing for a traveler is what saves the traveler after struggling to the bitter end. That’s luck.
I love this. It is one of the truths of my life, and this show is going to reflect on it.
Go down your local bookstore or library and check out the business section, or the self-help books. So many of these books tell you what to do in order to be successful. They have neat and simple to communicate theses. 4 rules this, 7 habits this, 21 irrefutable laws that… if followed, will make you successful in life, in business, or whatever it is your endeavor. Sure some of them will have small print-style caveats and disclaimers, but at their core what these books offer is the simplification of a complex world.
They simplify things for you so that you can take specific actions, and as if governed by causality, the effects will be success. “If I think positive and attract warm thoughts, I will get quality comments for my blog posts.”
These books either claim to solve complexity, or that the world we live in is a world of abundance where competition is really just a matter of redistributing infinite successful results to people (buying the books).
Success is not infinite because time and resources are very finite per person. The major problem with success steps thinking (particularly if the referenced result is extraordinary, or “breakthrough”), is that these testimonies rely on a statistically problematic sample. It implies that those who aren’t successful did not follow the steps, practiced the habits, execute the plan, obey the rules. However, the testimonies do not cover those who followed all the advice given, and yet did not succeed. This falls within the thinking tendency called survivorship bias.
So what separates the successful from the unsuccessful if they did all the same right things, followed the rules, had similar talents and given the same resources? Among travelers, Kino says it’s luck. It’s the circumstances – meeting the kind of people at the best time to make the most difference. It’s like meeting the right person at the right time in both your lives, when any other time you’d be terrible for each other.
Faced with critical thirst in the middle of a desert, Kino’s journey is met with fortuitous rain.
I find Kino’s own rules interesting: never stay beyond 3 days in a destination; you’ll learn all you need to about it within that time.
I can never agree to this. My travels are limited to Southeast Asia, and even within the Philippines I can’t make that claim. However, a traveler is different from a tourist, or a historian, or a cultural anthropologist, or just someone uniquely interested in a place. A traveler’s needs are very simple – to know how to get around, where to acquire survival resources, and what threats to avoid and how to avoid them.
In this light, I agree with Kino’s rules. After three days in a destination, one starts getting bored – but this boredom is the beginning of deep curiosity if one indulges in it. This isn’t how Kino planned her journey – if she stays too long she may indulge too much a desire to settle down.
“The Land of Visible Pain” to me, works as an excellent criticism of one of the major themes of robot anime. At the forefront of this is Tomino Yoshiyuki’s concept of the Newtype in the Gundam franchise, whose abilities to empathize telepathically is suggested to be the difference-maker in the evolutionary path for humans to become space-farers. It is paid homage to by Macross Frontier’s Kawamori Shoji, through Richard Bilrer who imagined the Vajra network to make a breakthrough in human communication, and by Neon Genesis Evangelion’s Anno Hideaki who envisioned the Human Instrumentality Project as an evolutionary destination wherein the walls of conflict set around the ego disappear.
Here in Kino’s journey, a man who at first was terrified by Kino’s approach became curious when he could not read Kino’s thoughts, and was then surprised to find out that she couldn’t read his. The Land’s advanced technology at some point started transmitting everyone’s thoughts to everyone else. The intention is good: if we empathize with another’s pain, we would not be so eager to harm such a person.
However, it produced a terrible effect. People couldn’t control their thoughts. Thoughts come to us first, and then we think through them. We make meanings of our thoughts after their initial arrival. This is how thinking works, when you think about it. The light bulb flashes first, then you make out what it means.
This device they made, exposed all the light bulbs flashing to everyone else, before the owners of the thought could even think them through. This caused much pain to everyone involved, and since they weren’t malicious to begin with, their solution was to distance themselves from each other as much as they can, so they can protect each other from their thoughts.
Soon enough, no more children were being born. The humans will die out and only the machines remain.
Before Kino left the man who told him the story of the land, her gaze lingered on the gardening device that got broken when the man was initially surprised at her arrival. Kino wasn’t there to solve the land’s problems, but this gaze told me that the inhabitants can break the machine that generates this misery.
Can they really? I think the machine can be destroyed, if they’re lucky. This show doesn’t seem interested in solutions, but rather in the impressions we make having traveled through a country.