Today I wanted to take a closer look at the famous quote by Haruki Murakami from his novel “Kafka on the shore”. This quote can teach us a lot about how the things we go through actually happen for us, not against us, and how we can use fate as an anchor to go through difficulties in life. Let’s look at the first chunk of the quote:
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.Haruki Murakami (“Kafka On the Shore”)
So at this part in the novel, a boy named Crow, symbolising a wiser version of Kafka, makes the analogy that fate is in fact like a sandstorm. Although Kafka is leaving home, to escape his fate that has been imposed on him by his father, he can’t run away forever. Eventually, his fate will catch up to him ultimately leading to him having to confront his fate, or really himself, and embrace what is inside him. Himself is exactly the part which one should make an emphasis on, because in reality, every time you run away from fate, you run away from yourself. Whatever you do, you will always be reminded of what you need to do or where you need to go. In my opinion, that’s how the universe works. Everything you send out in the world, whether good or bad, ultimately comes back to you. Just like a boomerang. Andy Weir wrote about this too in his shory story “The Egg”: “Every time you victimized someone, […] you victimized yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself.” We may not know right away where we are going or what we are doing (“There is no sun, […] no direction”), we only feel that this storm the thing we need to go through to grow or move forward in life. Now we see what the storm is trying to tell us:
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.Haruki Murakami (“Kafka On the Shore”)
No matter how long it takes us to realize what we need to do, we will have to make it through the storm to emerge on the other side of it. “The only way out is in” (Junot Díaz), right? We may get hurt along the way, we may hurt other people, but that’s not because the storm is cruel by nature or because you have done something wrong. Pain is an essential part of life. Of course it isn’t pleasant to go through a loss, abuse, failure, an injury or letting someone down. It is human nature that we want to avoid pain. We afraid of it, afraid of being crushed, of being stuck in it forever. If you look back at your life, have you ever not been afraid of being hurt? But this avoidance can very well lead to down the wrong road. When there is no pain, does one really live? The movie “The Spectacular Now” tackles this topic in a great way: Because at the end, the protagonist Sutter Keely comes to a profound realization: “I screwed up. Not only did I shut out the pain, I shut out everything. The good and the bad; until there was nothing” (The Spectacular Now, 2013). Maybe we have to go through this numbness first, to realize what we are missing out on in our “shoving away of pain”. It is only when we get tired of our own fear of pain, that we begin to allow it in.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.Haruki Murakami (“Kafka On the Shore”)
So, what happens, after one has given in to the storm? If you allow yourself to be hurt, it can teach you what you don’t want in life and also grow you as a person. You realize that pain is part of life. Just like Sleeping At Last said in his song “Pluto”: “The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity”. On the one hand, you turn your back on intentional hurtful behaviour like abuse or mischief and maybe even have the courage to stand up for it. On the other hand, you embrace pain in a new way. You don’t sugarcoat it as much, instead, you are a more honest person who is grown and emotionally mature. You may think you’re hurting other people with the truth, but I can tell you that these people will be thankful for you later. Being honest doesn’t make you cruel. Because what you told them is what they needed to hear. Unlike before that “journey” of yours, you also now have the strength to allow the pain that is useful to you and which one cannot avoid, like loss for example. It’s what we are here for in this life, right? To grow as a person. This storm, and most assuredly some more in your life, teach you to embrace the uncomfortable truth instead of a pleasant lie. Think of that one cartoon where there is a way longer queue in front of the “comforting lies” stand than in front of the “unpleasant truths” one. Be bold and be the one person who goes to the “unpleasant truths” stand. Accepting pain in life sounds awful at first, but when you look around at all of the people around you and listen to what they have lived through, you realize that you’re not alone. This can bring people closer together. What’s important for you most of all, is that you don’t compare your journey to someone else’s. Every journey is different. It may take you longer than others, but that’s okay. In the end, it seems that the only way to conquer this fear of change or being hurt in life is to live with it, to go through it. To stare it in the face.
From episode 5 of the video game “Life Is Strange”
– Murakami, H., (2002) A quote from Kafka on the Shore. [online] Goodreads.com. Available at: <https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/50675-sometimes-fate-is-like-a-small-sandstorm-that-keeps-changing> [Accessed 17 August 2022].
– Weir, A. (2013). The Egg – by Andy Weir – Paul Lowe. [online] Paullowe.org. Available at: <https://www.paullowe.org/the-egg/> [Accessed 17 August 2022].
– The Spectacular Now. (2013) [DVD] Directed by J. Ponsoldt. Athens, Georgia.