It’s The Journey, Not The Ending, That Counts

I have been planning on writing this post for a while now, but hadn’t found the right time to do so. A few things came together over the last week which meant that the time seems right.

As noted in a number of posts – for example, most recently Being Prepared For An Accident – one of the podcasts that I listen to is Take to the Sky. While this is a series in which aviation accidents and crashes are discussed, the hosts (Shelly Price and Stephanie Hubka) always start and end the show with some more general chat. These chats nicely bracket the darker content of most of the podcast. In the most recent episode (Episode 105: The Mato Grosso Midair Collision), some of the discussion at the beginning of the episode was about TV series and how some have a disappointing final episode.

A disappointing final episode was also something that came up in the discussions during the Fandomentals Podcast on Star Wars in relation to the final instalment of the nine main Star Wars films. My memory was that I actually enjoyed Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker. After it got a slagging off on the Jaws For A Minute podcast and as I wasn’t watching anything else, I decided to watch the final trilogy again a few weeks ago. The final episode definitely wasn’t as good as I remember it (and I’ve already completely forgotten (again) what happened in the previous episode).

While it would be nice to have our favourite TV series and movie franchises end on a high, I’m not overly concerned about it. I think part of the issue can be that by the time these series reach an end, there will be a variety of fans and the chances that all will be happy with the ending is small. Sadly, it seems that many series seem to make the majority of their fans unhappy with the ending (though I assume that this isn’t the goal of the production company and those involved).

However, the reason why, to a degree, I’m not concerned about the ending comes from the influence of Japanese literature/culture. I could go on to do a post, tying in with my research on the JL123 plane crash, and discuss how we all die in the end and so the important thing is to make the most of the bits between birth and death (and I think I made a point like this in Dealing with Disaster in Japan). However, there is another way I can express this. Just two words. Haruki Murakami.

In the last week I have been asked by some of my students about whether I have read any of Murakami’s books. This is amongst the most common questions that I get asked by students and others alike. The answer always used to be a definitive ‘no’. Technically, the answer still is ‘no’ – but I have now listened to many Audible versions of his books (to date: Norwegian Wood, Killing Commendatore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Dance Dance Dance, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, 1Q84, and Kafka on the Shore). And my reaction to all of them has been the same. When the final credits start to be read, my reaction is ‘wait, what, that was the end?’ Many times I have replayed the previous one minute to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I didn’t. Murakami books (like many Japanese novels, TV programmes, and films that I have encountered) are, seemingly about the journey rather than the ending. In this respect there may be a good lesson in life and how to live it. Having said that, a ‘good’ ending from one of his books one day would be appreciated.

On a side note, since I am on the subject of Murakami, I do find his books entertaining (using the Audible versions may be part of the reason for this). I have never done any drugs, but I do find that some of his work can take me into a feeling of being detracted from this world (c.f. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan). I have often found that after listening to one of his books for a while, doing some creative writing for one of my novels, or more recently part of my book Frankie Fans Say, comes more easily. I don’t know how or why this happens – or whether others feel the same – but because of this (and the performance of many of the voice actors), I’ve got to admit that I have reached a point where I have to admit that I do actually quite like Murakami books.

Cover image from https://www.businessinsider.com/guides/learning/best-haruki-murakami-books?r=US&IR=T

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