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At first glance, Light Yagami doesn’t seem like a murderer. He’s a thoughtful honour-roll student concerned with straight A’s, family, friends—
Oh, and the rapidly rising crime rate in the world.
Understandably, then, when a Shinigami (death god) drops its killer notebook on the earth, Light picks up the tool of mass murder and begins doing away with the world’s worst criminals. All it takes is a name and a face, and with one inky scribble in the fabled Death Note, Light can kill anyone—even more quickly than he kills his own conscience.
Like most would-be-heroes-turned-villains, Light believes he’s creating a utopia where “honest and hard-working” people will be safe beneath his reign as god. But in doing so, Light fails to account for his own human nature and strikes his death blow with a single word: “I.”
“I will become the God of this new world.”
“I will begin my reign from the summit of victory.”
“l will change the world!”
This single pronoun is full of arrogance and happens to be one of Light’s favourite words. Listening to Light’s self-righteous ramblings, it’s easy to consider another villain whose obsession with the word “I” led to his demise.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah writes about the fall of Lucifer—an archangel cast out of heaven for similar “I” statements:
“I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.”
“I will be like the most High.”
It’s no coincidence that Lucifer’s downfall originated in pride. Self-obsession is at the root of every sinful act, whether lying to cover one’s guilt or murdering to satisfy one’s vengeance.
Like Lucifer, Light’s initial desire for power leads to a barrage of moral crimes—lies, betrayal, thievery, manipulation, and plenty of murder. By the time Light’s self-confident pride leads to his own demise, the would-be god has walked over the corpses of thousands of victims—from purse snatchers and serial killers, to his own father and only friend.
In retrospect, it’s easy to judge Light—to call him overly-ambitious, selfish, and psychotic—but his pride is the one trait that dogs us all. Perhaps we don’t seek to be literal gods of humanity, but every one of us has held to a certain amount of self-worship—I know I have, especially during times when I’ve believed my ideals to be superior and tried to force others to adhere to them.
When Light picks up the Death Note for the first time, he suddenly sees a way for the unattainable dream of his ideal world to become a reality. Whatever good intentions he originally possesses are quickly corrupted, however, when pride takes control.
In an iconic scene, Light outlines his plan to Ryuk—the Shinigami who dropped his Death Note on earth:
“I’ll make this world inhabited only by people I decide are good.”
The devilish Ryuk answers with surprising insightfulness, “Do that and the only one left will be you.”
It’s easy to take short-cuts, even toward good things like justice, godliness, and peace. If I had discovered the Death Note, I, too, may have believed that forcibly removing evil people from the world was the only way to save it. However, I hope I would realize that I can’t conform people to a perfect world without first fitting them into a perfect mold. Otherwise I would be forcing them into a painful and uncomfortable place, breaking and twisting whatever doesn’t fit naturally. Nobody would be able to live up to my expectations and, in the end, I would be the only one remaining.
Light, in all his straight-A mastermindedness, is unable to realize this simple truth because his pride blinds him to it. From his perspective, he’s the only one able to save a world that has lost its way; furthermore, it’s his duty to nobly sacrifice his mind, soul, and body to achieve this perfect existence. More so, he expects the world to respect his authoritative decisions without question.
In short, Light sees himself as the ultimate—the only—authority.
I’m also guilty of living life as my own ultimate authority, but trusting my own judgement—judgement fueled by my pride—usually leads to failure. When I turn to God for direction, I am always able to find it.
Often overlooked is the fact that, in the anime, Light has knowledge of God. In his introductory scene, Light reads from a foreign textbook—one that is implied to be of Christian origin (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). His first line in the entire series is this:
“Follow the teachings of God and receive His blessings and so it shall be that the seas will again become bountiful and the raging storms will subside.”
In Light’s final moments, mortally wounded and running for his life, he passes an apparition of himself—an apparition coming home from school, reading from the foreign textbook, thinking over its truths. It’s in this moment, perhaps, that Light has a realization—that he’s pursued a hopeless endeavor and that the real answer to world peace was always before his eyes.
In his quest to become a god, Light had forgotten God.
Light saw the guilty as unredeemable, believing that he couldn’t change those who had chosen a path of sinfulness. And I believe he was correct, despite his skewed perspective. I can’t save myself from pride. In my opinion, salvation of that standard can only come when I allow God to be the ultimate authority over my life.
Dying to pride is hard, but I don’t want to be broken and twisted to fit a perfect mold; I want God to transform me, as only He can, so I fit in naturally. And that transformation can only come when the Greater Power within me shines through… the power of a God Who will bring about a new world.
This article is part of an article swap with Geeks Under Grace. Visit their website at www.geeksundergrace.com.
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