Tag: analysis

Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! – Virtue in Troubled Times

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Source: Season 5, Episode 26.

I was just thinking about the season five finale.  Each alternate timeline showed us what would happen if a different villain hadn’t been defeated.  In each one, there was some sort of major resistance.  During the fight against Sombra, Equestria essentially turned into WWII Britain, complete with giant battles, railroads to safety, and a society that has pointed every ounce of its industrial weight toward the war effort.  During the fight against the changelings, ponies took to the hills, and became merciless guerilla warriors – even Fluttershy.

Nightmare Moon, however, while clearly a tyrant, continued to command the loyalty of her subjects.  It’s not a pleasant timeline.  Based on the fear, and exhaustion we see in those around her, one gets the impression that a single day of serving Nightmare Moon is like an entire chapter of The Devil Wears Prada.  Still, this segment stands out because there was no resistance movement (that we saw), and because main characters serve the villain.

Personally, I find it difficult to extract easy answers from the situation, since I think that I, personally, would fare very well in a Lunarchy.  If my job were to follow Nightmare Moon around and tell her how beautiful the night sky is, I would consider it a dream come true.  Especially if this were a world where I didn’t know that there was such a thing as good Princess Luna.

However, my own admittedly ridiculous feelings aside, the episode itself raises questions about monarchism in Equestria. Is princess worship a more deeply-ingrained value than friendship, (at least in a world before the Elements are rediscovered)?  Do ponies accept tyranny more readily from leaders that they perceive to be “of their tribe,” than they would from foreign invaders with similar ambitions?  I think a lot of us do that very thing, so long as the societal infrastructure that we are accustomed to remains familiar.

I think the most important thing that we can take away from this segment is a lesson on the nature of ambition.  The two main characters that we see serving Nightmare Moon most directly are Rainbow Dash, and Rarity – easily the most ambitious ponies in the Mane Six.  Decorating for a princess – even an evil one – is a prestigious career move for Rarity; and Rainbow Dash has always endeavored to rise through the ranks – to become a prominent Wonderbolt – to prove herself.

In seeing Rainbow Dash serve Nightmare Moon with such ferocity, and Rarity serve her so tirelessly, there is an entire backstory – a whole elaborate lesson, right there in just a few short minutes.  What we are seeing is their virtues – parts of their very souls – being twisted, and used against them. Raritiy’s generosity, and willingness to give of herself creatively – it ends up getting abused, until she is absolutely exhausted.  Rainbow is even worse.  Her loyalty, when misdirected, turns her into a savage attack dog.

There’s so much to think about in what we saw of Nightmare Moon’s Equestria – who we are as individuals, what we have the capacity to become if we aren’t careful, how troubled times can sculpt us.  I think the problem with a situation like this, is that nopony can prepare for it.  In real life, everyone has very specific ideas about what they would have done had they lived through INSERT HISTORICAL PERIOD HERE.  The fact of the matter is that none of us really know.

The paths before us are not straight lines.  The best that any of us can do is to follow our own hearts, and be sharply aware of the fact that they can be used against us.  Our ambitions can lead us to dark places.  Our virtues can betray us, if they are not guided by principle.

-Sprocket

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Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! – Circles

Source: MLP: FIM Marks and Recreation

Her passion is drawing circles.  Her cutie mark is in writing haikus.  These things are actually connected!

Kettle Corn’s circles resemble ensō, a form of Zen Buddhist calligraphy in Japan. Haiku is a form of poetry that originated with Buddhist monks in Japan.

I think this beautifully illustrates how our passions, our talents, and our destinies (as manifested in our cutie marks) are connected in ways that we can’t always see.  It gives a whole new dimension to the themes that the show has explored in post-cutie-mark Cutie Mark Crusaders episodes. Getting your flank tattoo doesn’t set you in stone for your entire life like Rumble thinks. In fact, you can have post cutie mark crises, (as exemplified by Apple Bloom, Diamond Tiara, and Bulk Biceps).  You can find whole other layers of meaning in what you do that weren’t necessarily apparent when you first got your mark!

Kettle Corn has a whole journey ahead of her.  Parts of her personality, and parts of her soul are going to become clearer to her as she explores these Zen-related interests, but she will not have the words to articulate their connection.  She will never know what Buddhism, or Japan is, even if her life’s journey is destined to be *weeaboo af.*

However, that doesn’t stop different elements of Japanese philosophy from making themselves manifest in her.

Think of the implications of that!

What if different life events, or passions that define who we are turn out to actually be connected in ways that we cannot see?  Just like this little girl will never fully be able to articulate that her personality is essentially a running gag, referential to a place she’ll never see or read about, our own lives may never fully be clear to us except in the vaguest of feelings and intuitions.

Simply put, we lack the perspective to “get the joke.”

When I posted this theory on Facebook, I got one cynical comment about our lives being “jokes.” I want to clarify. I don’t mean that we are literally fictional characters and that our lives are literally one big meaningless joke. I’m saying that perspective is everything!
We know ourselves better than anyone else does, and at the same time, only see ourselves from the inside. Those of us who are prone to guilt look at ourselves more harshly than we look at others. We don’t extend the same kind of forgiveness to ourselves that we extend to our friends in the same situations. Conversely, those who are defensive actually repaint their own actions in positive lights. They refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing in their own behaviors, even if they objectively view those behaviors as wrong in others. That’s part of what makes life so confusing. No matter what, we will always lack the perspective to examine ourselves truly objectively.

We can try, we can even come a little bit closer with every revelation, but at the end of the day, we are still viewing ourselves from the inside. There’s an old saying, “I don’t know who discovered water, but it wasn’t a fish.”

It is as tragic as it is humorous. I think there’s joy to be found in that. I also think there’s a greater understanding to be had by it. While there are some truly messed up and evil people in the world, for the most part, when folks do wrong, they are usually just doing the best they can with what they have. Simply put, we mess up because we’re human.

Once you recognize your own trappings, however – once you contemplate and appreciate just how difficult it is to try to make sense of your own life, you start to realize that everyone else is going through the exact same thing. We are all feeling around in the dark. We all lack the perspective to gain a fully objective picture of ourselves. We are all suffering because of it: our friends; our enemies; our ideological opponents. That existential question – that suffering – is at the core of all of our beings. It is the one thing we all have in common.

While we, like Kettle Corn, will never find the answers – will never fully be in on “the joke” – we can still look at one another and attempt to be compassionate, and to show compassion whenever we can, even to those whom we oppose. After all, we’re all in the same boat.
Or at the very least, maybe we, like Kettle Corn, should stop, and simply take joy in doing something we love every now and again, and do it for its own sake. Maybe that’s all the answer we need.

A girl loves circles
But is meant to write haikus.
They are the same thing.

-Sprocket

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