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If I Could Erase the Past} ?> I wouldn’t say I’m jaded, but I do have some regrets. I wish I had spent more time deepening my friendships when I was younger. I wish I had opened up more to people. It seems that every time I look back to my college years, I’m not disappointed about what I did, but rather about what I didn’t do. This especially affects me because I believe my actions have eternal consequences.
ERASED features Satoru Fujinuma, an unsuccessful mangaka (manga writer) whose mother has just recently moved in with him. Satoru is a depressed young man, mostly due to repressing memories of an event where his classmates were killed many years ago. He feels he could have personally prevented the murders and the jailing of a man wrongly convicted for the crimes. Even worse, the events of the past catch up with Satoru, as the real murderer fatally stabs his mother.
But this is anime, so fear not! Satoru has an ability to jump back in time. Usually, he is only able to move back a few seconds or minutes, but after his mother’s death, Satoru leaps all the way back his childhood. He’s given a second chance to act and maybe save everybody.
Satoru, effectively an adult in a child’s body, attacks his task of saving children with a gusto that takes everyone by surprise. He knows the future, and will do anything to prevent these terrible crimes from happening.
I am jealous. I want Satoru’s superpower. But since that doesn’t seem likely, what should I—someone who, you know, can’t travel back in time and correct wrongs—do in the here and now?
Unlike Satoru, I’m stuck with the consequences of my actions, and my inactions, too. When I avoid reaching out to people who are struggling because I’m too scared, too thoughtless, or too lazy, I have to live with my decision. When I’ve hurt someone by not keeping a promise or by uttering something unkind, I have to deal with the repercussions.
Regret becomes a huge problem for me. I could waste hours every day thinking back on what I should or shouldn’t have done. But as much as I wish I could change the way I’ve acted, I know I can’t live in constant regret. Doing so would keep me trapped in a past without hope for the future. I need to forgive myself and move forward. My faith encourages forgiveness, too. I have to remember that God forgives me, no matter how great my transgression, no matter how wracked with guilt I might feel.
And maybe that’s the point. If I could travel back in time and repair wrongs, would I ever learn anything? Reflecting on my mistakes encourages me to do better next time, while forgiveness provides the healing that I need to try again.
Though then I have to ask myself, why should I keep trying? The answer certainly doesn’t have to do with myself.
Haibane Renmei, a series that tackles the topics of sin, forgiveness, and repentance in a purgatory-like world featuring angelic characters called haibane, meets this question head on in its climactic scene. Rakka, a haibane who has recently been born into this world, is trying to help her beloved friend, Reki, who is so struck by guilt over past sins that she may not properly pass on to the next world as she should. Reki pushes Rakka away with hurtful words, and the latter retreats, leaving her friend alone.
In that moment, Rakka has a choice. She can continue to feel hurt and stay away from her friend—a justifiable response—or she can demonstrate grace and be there for her friend anyway. Rakka chooses the latter, returning to aid her friend, saving Reki physically and helping her achieve spiritual salvation as well.
Like Rakka’s decision, I believe our choices can have consequences beyond the here and now. What I do today can make all the difference for people in my life. Laziness, timidity, retribution, fear—these are the demons that pull at me, telling me that I shouldn’t reach out to those around me. But as with Satoru, experience tells me, and as with Rakka, love tells me that what I do (and what I don’t) can make an impact on others’ lives, both here and forevermore.
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