What does it mean when X is a friend to Y? It means X feels what Y feels. “Two minds with but a single thought.”

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In this scene, the fox spirit and the boy are both feeling despair, but the boy wants the fox spirit to go and the fox spirit wants to stay with the boy. On one level, they feel the same way, and yet on another level, they feel very different desires.

A lot of times I know how the people around me are feeling, but I don’t feel the same way.

That does not make me a friend, although perhaps it’s a good example of “empathy” or at least “insight.”

You can be surrounded by people who know how you feel, or even by people who want to help you, and still feel isolated when they don’t feel the distress that you feel.

So it’s actually asking a lot when you’re overwhelmed by distress and you want a true friend, because you don’t just want help; you want someone who feels just as overwhelmed by distress as you feel.

If my definitions hold, then when we are overwhelmed, we should ask for a helper, not a friend!

And how does this relate to religion?

In episode 4 of Gingitsune, we see a lot of isolation and teenaged angst.

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Religions demand a lot of work from their followers and priests. Religions depend on a very fragile relationship between the prophets and the spirit world. If the prophets abandon their duty to look into the spirit world, the religion will do nothing good on a spiritual level. It might persist as a kind of empty social organization, but that’s not the purpose of religion.

Religions need priests who are friends to spirits.

And if you don’t believe that spirits are real, then religion is not for you, and you can take up some dogmatic belief that doesn’t involve spirits.

(Don’t even try to argue that you can construct a non-trivial philosophy that is free of all dogma. Atheists are even more dogmatic than the Pope.)

In episode 5, we see some scenes that resonate with just about anyone who has experienced selfish religious emotions.

AmIGoingToDisappear

People who enjoy being alive feel sad when they think about the inevitability of death.

People who love long-lasting human institutions feel sad when they realize that all human institutions eventually vanish. (Think about all the historians who weep over the destroyed Library at Alexandria.)

Even people who wish for death can feel a horror of personal annihilation.

IamsorryIcouldnotkeepmypromise

The angsty flip side of personal horror is the attempt to atone. We say that we are sorry, even though we may not have the emotional maturity to be properly contrite. We know that we have not been a true friend, and yet we still feel too weak to be a true friend.

These are hard themes for any writer to tackle, and I shouldn’t complain too much if this show is sometimes annoyingly angsty. The pacing is so slow and the angst is sledge-hammer-ific, so I sometimes I have pause the show and just take a break from the contrived drama. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad show.

I just it doesn’t show us a “death by Newbery Medal.”

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