Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rewind: Gargantia

I've been meaning to write about Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (aka Suisei no Gargantia) for a long time. It was never a candidate for my All Time Fave list, but the visuals were beautiful. In fact, when I watched the first episode, "Ooo! Pretty colors!" was one of my first reactions.

Of course, I wouldn't still think about Gargantia a year later just because of the colors. It stirred thoughts about the value of human life. In fact, it already inspired one post about what it means to be human.

But there's more. For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on the fourth episode in this post. Maybe, someday, I'll write more about episode ten, which really stirred me up.

You see, Ledo, the main character, grew up in the Galactic Alliance, where a person's worth is decided by his ability to move the society toward its goal: eradicating the enemy. In Ledo's home in outer space, individuals and their activities must be efficient, and that extends to relationships. Families are considered "inefficient" and "unnecessary" and no longer exist. So he is doubly surprised to hear his new acquaintance, Amy, talk about her frail little brother, Bevel. "In the Galactic Alliance, frail humans are eliminated and disposed of," Ledo tells her. "Humans who cannot participate in battle are useless."

Such a cold, cutthroat society sounds horrific, as it's supposed to. Humans' worth should not be judged by their usefulness—most of us can agree on that.

Bevel examines, then plays, the flute Ledo made, reminding Ledo
of the reason he makes these flutes. For the first time in years, he
remembers someone who made these flutes, but who was weak, and
thus eliminated.

So, what does make a person valuable?

Bevel does not believe he is unnecessary, even though he cannot do much. His big sister needs him, he says. And more importantly, he needs himself. He isn't needed because of some objective—rather, he is needed because of his relationship with others, and because he values himself.

That answer is more palatable to us than Ledo's. But, as Ledo points out, it's unclear. And, frankly, I don't like Bevel's answer myself, although it's certainly better than the philosophy running the Galactic Alliance.

When you think about it, Bevel's answer—that people are valuable to each other and themselves in rather intangible ways—is almost as scary as what the Galactic Alliance says. It still pins a person's worth on their usefulness to someone. If no one loves or needs them, and they don't love or need themselves, then they have no reason to live. Their life isn't worth fighting for.

When I see Bevel, I don't just see a wonderful little brother—although he is that. I see a precious human being. Even if his sister died, and even if no longer felt he was necessary, he'd be precious.

I'll ask again: what makes a person valuable? What makes a human life worthwhile?

Contrary to Ledo's belief, a person's abilities don't define his or her value. Contrary to Bevel's beliefs, other people's emotional attachments don't define a human's value. Nor does one's self esteem.

Human beings are inherently valuable because of God.

He created each one of us. We're not mass-produced, either. Our Creator knows every detail of each of us, body and soul (see David's words on this in Psalm 139:13-16).

God created many other things, too—from the biggest star to the tiniest micro-organism, everything originates with him. But only humans are made in his image. Now, this doesn't mean we're self-portraits. As far as I know, God doesn't walk around shape-shifting into people with brown or blue eyes, frizzy or tame hair, or inny or outy belly buttons. God gave each of us far more than just his looks. "In his image" isn't just about the visuals; we have a bit of who God is in each of us. We reflect God's personality (when sin doesn't get in the way and muck things up). Don't misunderstand: we're not all part of God. He's a separate being. But he made us a little like himself. That's an incredible honor—and part of why every person is so precious.

Of course, we're still not God. Compared to him, we're utterly useless. Relatively speaking, none of us have any power, we're always encountering pain, and our lives are extremely short. That doesn't matter. God still cares for each of us. Our lives are valuable to him, and he wants us to get to know him and love him. He gives us value in relation to others, too. We have opportunities to bless others, even when we don't see what we're doing.

It doesn't matter if we're healthy and can work. It doesn't matter if we're old or young, or how long we have left to live. Some of us can climb mountains, and others can't even get to the bathroom. All of us have value to God, and he has given us value for others.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees this. Not everyone takes the time to sit with people like Bevel, to listen to their wisdom, or to simply enjoy the presence of another wonderfully created being. Ledo's Galactic Alliance isn't as far from reality as we'd like to think. Already, we judge people's worth based on a synthesized "quality of life" we think they are capable of having. Already, those with disorders like Down's Syndrome are deemed less worthy of birth and loving care. A culture is developing where life is not always worth fighting for… if I had time, I'd dive into more examples.

For now, I'll just state that we need to see the inherent value in each human life, to come together, much like Amy, Bevel, and others in their fleet do. We can't just create our own criteria for what makes life worth supporting.

Gargantia makes statements about humanity and the value of "unproductive" things like beauty and kindness. Ledo learns more about the identity and value of people, and it's downright heartwarming at times. This anime shows that people are precious, and I applaud the creators for that. But they couldn't explain why every individual human is important. And how could they? It's rather difficult to grasp the full value of created beings without talking about their Creator.


  1. Gargantia's been on my radar for a while but I haven't quite gotten around to watching it yet. Guess this is another reason to give it a go!

    1. Like I said, it was never going to be a top favorite of mine, but it was definitely worth watching. I hope you enjoy it!


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