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Not Afraid of Falling Up} ?> Understanding someone else’s point of view can be difficult when I’m stuck looking out from my own. It’s hard to see the world from the eyes of someone from a different culture, religion, upbringing—or even someone who’s just not me.
In the anime film Patema Inverted, the world is divided by two different polarities of gravity. Half of the population are subject to one and the other half to the other. If someone from one side enters the other half of the planet, they are still affected by their polarity of gravity and are in danger of “falling up.”
Age’s teachers have taught him his entire life that Inverts are unholy pests. When he stumbles upon Patema, and she’s deathly afraid of falling into the sky, it’s hard for him to empathize with what she’s feeling. Falling into the sky? It sounds ridiculous. To him everything looks right-side up. Not until he journeys to her side of the planet does he finally understand how she feels. He experiences the sensation of falling up and has to rely on her to keep himself grounded.
I can’t always experience what other people are feeling or step into someone else’s world the same way Age enters Patema’s. And sometimes I don’t want to; I feel like dealing with my own problems is difficult enough without adding someone else’s to the mix. When I visited a close friend while her father was sick with cancer, I felt like I’d been turned upside-down, though it was her normal. Pushing him around in a wheelchair and going on weekend trips to the Mayo Clinic three hours away were common occurrences for her, but they felt so foreign to me.
Age had never thought about what the world would look like from upside-down, what walking on the ceiling feels like, what worrying about falling into nothingness feels like. When he sees Patema’s side of the planet, her home, he understands what it’s like to be like the “bat people” and feel like he doesn’t belong. Ultimately, he understands her point of view and, in turn, understands Patema on a deeper level. As a result, their friendship grows deeper too.
Because I’ve seen my friend’s world from her point of view, I feel like I can connect with her in a way I couldn’t previously. Seeing her world up close brought me to an understanding of what she is going through. When I step into someone else’s life and let myself feel what they do—when we share an experience, understand opposing points of view, or relate to each other in another way—our relationship is changed. It is made into something beyond surface-level interactions.
Age and Patema grow to discover that Age’s father and Patema’s friend, Lagos, were also good friends. They learned to live with each other despite their different polarities, their different points of view. They even worked together to build a machine that would allow them to reach the sky. Instead of focusing on each other’s differences as barriers, they used each other’s differences to learn from one another and better themselves. Lagos’s ability to be upside-down even became handy while building the machine; similarly, Patema and Age learn to use each other to reach formally unattainable places. Seeing through another point of view allows me to reach a level of understanding and wisdom that I can’t on my own.
The more I see of the world and the more people I meet, the more I’m able to understand and empathize with those around me. I still believe that remaining grounded in my foundations and not forgetting my roots is important, but I opening my mind to what the world has to offer and not just what I’m comfortable with has allowed me to appreciate more of creation.
When Patema is trapped in Aiga, Age coaxes her to look out the doorway at the stars despite her fear. She does so. Instead of worrying about falling up, for a moment she enjoys what the sky has to offer. I don’t want to be too afraid of falling up, too afraid of looking through another person’s eyes, that I don’t see the stars.