Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Daitoshokan no Hitsujikai, Ep. 3: Guided or Controlled

Episode 3 is a visual novel adaptation in all its glory: romcom hijinks, a bit of fanservice, and setup for character-specific plots are all in this one. They also squeezed in references to memetic music videos as a bonus.

As it turns out, in Japanese culture the fox does have its own onomatopoeia, making the song even more meaningless.
Throughout all of this, though, the mysterious Shepherd continues to direct the members of the Library Club to certain people, and then directs those people in turn to the Library Club. This, of course, brings the Library Club to start trying to find out who exactly this Shepherd is, and why they seem to be controlling them in this way...

Minor spoilers after the jump.

As a general rule of thumb, people don't like to be controlled. And when the Library Club finds out that not only did the Shepherd direct them towards Senri Misono, but that Senri Misono also received an e-mail from him/her suggesting that she seek out the Library Club, it becomes pretty clear to them that this Shepherd is pulling the strings to put these people together, which starts to unnerve them. This makes their efforts to discover the identity of the Shepherd even more critical, but just when they find a lead, it looks like they are left with more questions than answers.

The job of a shepherd is to guide sheep, and the job of Shepherd-like people is to guide other people. And generally speaking, people do not mind being guided. The question is, at what point does guiding move into being controlling? This question becomes even more complicated when you think about what exactly the difference is between guiding and controlling, because there really isn't a big difference. When someone is guiding someone else, they are typically in full control of the direction the person being guided is going, among other things, with very limited input (if any) from who they're guiding. If you were on vacation in an unfamiliar person and someone came up and said they'd give you a tour of the place, but they would have complete control over where you would go and when, you would probably be suspicious of them... and yet, that is exactly what a tour guide does.

For Christians, the concepts of guiding and controlling are also a part of our relationship with God. There are many worship songs and sermons in which we plead for God to take control of our lives, but perhaps we never think of that as essentially asking God to control us. And somehow, I don't think a worship song with a chorus of "Control me, God" would go over well with most Christian congregations, even if that is essentially what we are singing already. We do certainly think of God as guiding our lives, even to the extent where He has significant control of our decisions. So why do we not usually see this in the negative light we normally associate with being controlled?

The difference between guiding and controlling is something that one could write an entire college essay about, but for this relatively short blog post, I will offer one simple thought here: one of the key reasons why we generally think badly of being controlled is because we associate being controlled with being forced against our will, whereas we think of being guided as voluntarily allowing someone else to make decisions for us. In other words, the issue is not so much whether someone else is making choices for us, as much as it is whether we are willingly letting someone make those choices for us.

For this reason, I would say that right now, the Shepherd isn't actually controlling the Library Club and Senri yet, as he/she is still giving them the choice of following along with those mysterious e-mails. Notably, we see Senri make a very deliberate choice to seek help from the Library Club when she was sick, a choice that seemed like it might have been tough to make for her. Of course, there's more to this distinction between guiding and controlling; there's probably also a factor of how obtrusive the "guiding" is, how much of a physical presence the guide has, or how apparent it is that the guide is being manipulative; it's probably because of those aspects that the Library Club is feeling controlled rather than just being guided by the Shepherd.

Going back to how this applies to Christians, we can see from our relationship with God how we can offer Him control of our lives without feeling like we are being controlled; after all, we are willingly allowing Him to take that control. And God, for all that He is ultimately in control of everything, still gives us an incredible amount of choice, right down to whether or not we allow Him to reign over our lives. Understanding our own role in allowing God control in our lives is important, as is understanding how we can be guides to the people whom we are in shepherding relationships with, without making them feel like they are being controlled.

Again, this is just a peek into the subject, but I hope this post will help you think about the difference between guiding and controlling. Feel free to leave a comment about what you think that difference is. (On a side note, if you want to look more into this question, consider looking into video games, and how they are designed to guide the player while still giving them the choice necessary in an interactive medium.)

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