I am watching the anime Naruto at the moment. There are lots of things to NOT like about the anime. Stupid kids, boring teenage love and angst, one dimensional characters and the list can go on. However, there are a few things shown in the anime that makes you think. One such thing is the character of Orochimaru.
To give a brief background, Orochimaru is one of the main villains of the series that I have seen so far. Watch his theme song below to get an idea of the pure evil that he radiates in the series.
Now before we get into the reason why Orochimaru’s character is interesting, we will digress a little. Read the below article on Absurdity of Life by Rivka Weinberg, written as an opinion piece in NY Times.
The article is a take on the philosophical theme of Absurdism. Absurdism talks about
a) the human urge to find meaning and inherent value in life
b) but the inability to find any.
The inability to seek value where none exists is what makes life Absurd. In the beautifully written article, one of the idea that Rivka posits is that Life is made absurd because of its short duration. By the time we find something that may give meaning to our life, we are already too old to do much about it. If we were to live a much longer life, we would have the opportunity to search for more things that can give value to our lives as well as have sufficient time to explore them more thoroughly. Not everyone can be a polymath like Leonardo of Vinci or Sir Isaac Newton to do so much in a small life. Albert Camus’s view on how to cope with an Aburd life was to emulate the mythical Sisyphus. Like Sisyphus, we are bound to roll the stone up the steep hill of life for it to crash back down again. Even though this task is meaningless we should find joy in the task rather than in the goal. As Krishna says,
Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani – Do not let the fruit be the purpose of your actions, and therefore you won’t be attached to not doing your duty.
There are however, characters like Orochimaru, who have found a different solution to the absurdity of life.
Orochimaru is one of those rare individuals who have realized what gives meaning to his life. In his case, it is knowing all the Ninja techniques in the Naruto world. In this fictional world, different individuals get some kind of powers through genetics, some secret techniques that can be taught and some that you develop because you have monsters living inside you. Orochimaru would require hundreds of years to master all the Ninjutsu techniques and hence it is an impossible task in a short life. He realized that life is too short for it to have any meaning the way he understands it. He embarks on a drive to become immortal by any means possible. All that he does, the people he manipulates, the murders that he commits are all geared towards this goal. Now you may say that there is nothing new in a villain looking for immortality, even good ol’ Voldemort aims to do that. There is a big difference though. Voldemort’s strive for immortality does not have any meaning. He does not have an aim that he wants to fulfill if he doesn’t die. He just doesn’t want it to end. Orochimaru however does not want to die because it is a stumbling block in a specific goal that he wants to achieve in his life.
One of my favorite quote is from the novel, Lord Of Light by Roger Zelazny
An army, great in space, may offer opposition in a brief span of time. One man, brief in space, must spread his opposition across a period of many years if he is to have a chance of succeeding. ~ Yama to Sam
Orochimaru understands this.