Sunday, February 5, 2012

Zen and the Art of Manga Maintenance

A short essay on my own life and moments surrounding the emotional mess I am

Time has slowed to a halt for me as of recent days. My position in life has degraded to a point in which I have to take pause and pick up the pieces again. During this time I try to relax and keep my mind at ease with a few creature comforts that I surround myself with, all the while shutting out the rest of the outside world. This isn't a healthy thing to do normally, but I felt as if I needed it for a bit.

While my slump was just getting started, I began listening to all the stand-up comedy albums I own. I can remember now that just a few years ago these were new and fresh to me. They gave me a sense of preservation in times of heartache or sadness. Gave me a sort of look into my own future through the lens of what information and metaphor I was garnering from my favorite comedians. Unfortunately I fell further into the slump, knowing that these things have passed before but always under better situations.

Then I went into video gaming, a house for most of my demons as a youth. An outlet for most of my troubles and tribulations growing up in the manner I did. Controller in hand I was ready to destroy the problems before me, but with the return to constant gaming came the same creeping thoughts I've had before. The same crippling and dangerous thoughts that force you to confront them. The feeling of not contributing anything to your life, the feeling and overabundance of sloth, the constant nagging that this is only a distraction from a real problem. That final thought was the breaking point, and so I stopped gaming.

With only one more crutch in my life ready in the wings, I was more than ready to lean on it. It was the only thing keeping me from shutting out the world for who-knows how much longer.

One day after work I walk upstairs and contemplate whether or not it was worth staying awake, as sleep might be the easiest getaway of them all. It's then I noticed my manga collection. It made me take pause. I usually pride myself on taking an orderly approach to my manga collection; every volume lined up together, each book following in correct order, each book in alphabetical order. Today though, today it needed a change. I tipped my bookshelf over.

I stood over my rough mass of paper and inc. Slowly I reached down and picked out a manga, one that I haven't read since I was fourteen. Ranma ½ Volume #1. I glanced over at my digital clock and noted the time (9:44 P.M.), and then started to read the manga. I expected a sort of rush from nostalgia, the same sort of feeling associated with my earlier attempts to bring me crawling back from this depressive pit, and in a way I did feel that emotion. Nostalgia engulfed me for a brief, burning second but was almost immediately replaced by a new emotion. Happiness.

It took me several pages to realize, but this one manga alone was giving me both the nostalgia from my gaming past and the humor from my stand-up past in one swift deliverance. It was a mix of my childhood and it's best and worst moments, a dab of my teens and the uphill battle waged every day against an enemy I never knew. But more so that reminding me on these short bursts of emotion concerning my past feelings and trials, It made me look into the future. Perhaps not in the same way someone looks into a future made for them, but a future with this moment in mind. A future when this memory links all the other's I was experiencing with ease, care and consideration.

I had just built a moment, in the moment. A moment I will look back on. A moment I will remember as being a hard point in the life of my young adult self, but a moment non the less to remember and cherish. A moment to look back on, shared with a manga. My first manga. Thinking of me while older made me realize that this slump is exactly just that; a slump. It won't last long, and I will overcome it easily. Thinking of me while older in a way I've never done before; not imagining what I would look like, or what I'm doing, nor whether I am rich or poor. The fact of the matter is much more simple; I am there as I am older.

Closing the last page of Ranma ½, I set it in the now-empty bookcase. I look over at the time (12:02 A.M.) and smile. I pick up Azumanga Daioh, sit down on my bed, and happily prepare for a slow night of reorganizing my manga collection. One book at a time.


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