I was reading James Hillman's Dream and the Underworld, which is about the relationship between dreams, soul/psyche, and death. Heavy stuff, even for someone in his field. I was just thinking how Final Fantasy X illustrates, mythically, the points he's trying to make with argument, discussion, and talking-about-the-subject in an academic way.
Let me toss out some ideas which only a few of you will find interesting.
First, myth and symbol. In modern life, we tend to try and analyze, dissect, and rationalize the world, and anything that doesn't fit in math, science, and nice neat equations and laundry lists gets tossed aside as irrelevent. But there is a big pile of stuff -- personal experience, emotions, the supernatural, the wonderful, the terrifying -- which is not material, physical, or logical, any more than the part of you that is "you" can be defined, analyzed, and broken down into its molecules. That stuff-- the emotional, the psychic, the experiential -- can't be explained literally. Instead, it works through symbols (images and poetic concepts that mean more than they are), and through myths (stories that don't make rational, logical sense, but which stick with us, which feel "true" in some poetic and emotional way we can't put our finger on, can't pin down).
Final Fantasy by its very name is engaged in that world of myth. The "finality" is an interesting concept. The word "final" comes from the Latin word finis, for boundary, not just end. Fantasy ("imagism" in Greek, related to words for showing, light, imagination, images, seeing, and speaking) crosses that boundary.
The linear storyline of FFX drives people bonkers, but if you look at it as a story, as a fantasy, as a dream, it's fascinating.
Set aside the whole storyline of a rotten and corrupt religion, which is a thoughtful story too.
At the heart of this story is a very big paradox: pyreflies.
They can show you dreams and memories, the residue of the unconscious, all that stuff in your soul which can't be defined, touched, analyzed, or dissected in our world. They make the invisible, the indescribable, the intangible, quite visible, and even (in the case of Zanarkand and Tidus) alive. Dreams walk, speak, and have autonomy. Jung would have a field day with that, since after many years of studying psychology he came to the astonishing conclusion that there are parts of us that our conscious, ego-based center is NOT in control of... feelings, intuitions, dreams... which are, essentially, other entities inside of us, or beyond us.
Behavioral psychologists think Jung was off his rocker, but obviously I've found some value in what he says. Have you ever had a story write itself, as if you were taking dictation? Who the heck is writing it? What draws us to certain characters in fiction and compels us to make icons of them (in every sense of the word)? That's not our rational, conscious mind deciding to be Auron-obsessed.
Back to Hillman. Hillman is pointing out that in the mythology of Greece, India, and many places, death and dream are brothers, both born of the underworld. He's tired of people using dreams as tools to solve problems, predict the future, or tell us about ourselves: he's tired of using them as Rorschach tests. Like Jung, he says that dreams are dreams, and they have their own life. But here's the part I'm having trouble figuring out, in this book I'm reading. He's talking about how they are like death. He talks about how the very concept of soul, of being alive, is so intimately connected with death and not-being, yet we shy away from that. He talks about how death is the path we're all headed towards. He talks about how in mythical conceptions of the afterlife, what survives in death is this psyche, this soul, this image which comes out to play in our lives in dreams. That in descriptions of the afterworld, the souls of the dead are described as moving and acting like people in dreams... they are the same exact thing.
I don't know if I buy all this literally, and with James Hillman, one should never take him literally. Rather, I take his idea mythically. I'm still tasting it and trying to understand it. But at any rate, he's arguing that the dreams and the souls of the dead are very akin.
In Final Fantasy, the pyreflies do two things.
They make dreams and memories visible and tangible.
They make the souls of the dead, the Unsent, visible and tangible.
In the Farplane in Guadosalam, these two concepts appear to fuse. Rikku argues the images seen there are generated from our own dreams and memories. Or are they the autonomous spirits of the dead given temporary existence in the living world again? Or are they both?
Both the dreams and the spirits of the dead bite back, in Spira. Both teach us. Both walk and breathe and love and live with us, even though they don't really belong with us.
And at the end of the story, we have to let go both of the dead (the unsent, the Fayth), AND dreams.
What does it mean to banish both the dead -- which one really assumes don't belong with us -- and dreams? What is left when we say that dreams are dead? What is left when we dismiss both dream and death from life?
I don't know, but I find it extremely telling that the party members consist both of a dream-person, and a dead soul.
That is really an amazing thing that Square did, with the characters of Auron and Tidus. Beyond the bad voice acting, monster whumping, and the archetypes of the Young Hero and the Wise Old Samurai, we've got death and dream...the brothers... born of the underworld, Sin.
I can't believe that Square managed to hit on all that by accident. Except that myths keep popping up of their own accord, from somewhere down deep in our psychology, the breeding ground of dreams, stories, and myths.
Also, if this sort of thing interests you and you missed my earlier post, check out my quick explanation of What the Heck is an Archetype?