Management: While my opinion of the show is positive overall (I’m sounding like a broken record, aren’t I?), this essay, by no means, is meant to serve as a comprehensive review, but rather, as an articulation and analysis of some of what I feel is this series’ most integral and interesting themes. This essay, in particular, is a breakdown of Episode 7 of Sound of the Sky. I recommend clicking on the link provided in the essay whenever you get to it.
There’s Fear, and then There’s Spirals
Probably since mankind has perceived conflict, and especially as long as humanity has perceived war, people have suffered, physical wounds as well as psychological ones. So long as people have endured traumatic experiences, they have also endured stress in the form of anxiety.
Anxiety’s different from fear. Fear is something natural and recommended for people to have. In response to situations of fight and flight, fear produces within our bodies biological hormones which, in acute, or momentary instances, activate our reserves to achieve robustness of energy and sharpness of thought. Stimulation in moderation is beneficial, necessary even, for one’s good health.
Anxiety is unnatural. It is not acute or momentary. Something about our psyches tricks our bodies to keep tapping our reserves, which, by the definition of “reserve,” is a counter intuitive process. Our regulatory networks fail to work as they normally should and our life-support systems become taxed. There are few, if any, secondary reserves for our primary ones. Our mental states deteriorate, our immune responses weaken, and the liveliness that might have characterized our previous lives are sapped to exhaustion in our current ones.
Rest and relaxation would be enough for the average office worker to find respite from his or her malaise, but the same cannot be said for a soldier who’s seen shit. There are situations found on battlefields that are so stressful that such stress ends up embedded deep in one’s subconscious. Anxiety becomes a disorder. The fight and flight of shell shocked warriors never truly end, even when the need for fight and flight has ceased. The pain of the experience. Perhaps even the guilt of surviving it when so many others didn’t. The malaise from the physical strain may be sapping enough, but the mental debilitation of reliving traumatic experiences over and over until the past begins blurring against the present is enough to drive a man or woman into a seemingly damning spiral.
Shell shock is an antiquated term. A more appropriate label for a common anxiety disorder among soldiers would be Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD for short, and it’s a disorder that a Felicia Heideman deals with in Sound of the Sky Episode 7: Showing Sound of Cicadas: Spirits Down the River.
________ of Light
The date of what is known as the Fiesta de Lumières approaches in the quiet, euro-rustic town of Seize in Helevetia, apparently another name for Switzerland. It’s the observational equivalent to the Japanese Obon Matsuri, which is kind of like Dia de Los Muertos or All Souls Day, a celebration as well as a commemoration of the dead. Of the cultural traditions that constitute the “Fiesta” is one of numerous individual lanterns bearing the names of deceased loved ones are set adrift through push and prayer down the river, hence “de Lumières.”
The days leading up to it have the normally genial and composed Second Lt. Felicia Heideman uneasy and distracted until one day, she cuts herself on her hand. As blood gushes out of her knife wound, memories flow out of her war ones. We get official acknowledgement of her suffering from flashbacks, in-and-out, glimpses to her and the audience of a still festering war wound wound that confirms she’s a soldier that’s seen shit.
She’s seen shit.
The tank that she was assigned to was set ablaze during the chaos of battle, her comrades were immolated alive as they scrambled for a minutia of relief from the burning wreck. Both her blown up right before her eyes. And as if the plot couldn’t accentuate her fall into despair further, she literally falls below into what appears to be the shattered remnants of an underground city, a city that was once above ground but was now under. She comes across the corpse of an unknown, unnamed soldier from another war long past, and suddenly, the soldier begins talking to her, apologizing to her for the shit her generation had to live through and the shit the world’s become despite his generation’s best efforts.
Humanity’s regressing in the direction Albert Einstein once predicted it would descend, with a slight twist. From the spider tanks and spring-powered assault rifles of then to the walker tanks and bolt-action rifles of now.
There’s nothing for it all. You should just give up
The world’s going to end anyway. Might as well resign yourself, save yourself the extra trouble.
A melody of light, The Sound of the Sky, snaps her out of her hallucination. As though that form of salvation wasn’t enough, Helvetian reinforcements arrive to rescue her.
Recovering From War Wounds
Present day, Felicia manages to snap out of her PTSD and set her own lantern adrift, the names of her deceased crew mates as well as a mention of the unnamed soldier adorned on paper mache and emblazened with candle light.
PTSD, anxiety disorders, anxiety, and even depression in general are debilitating and difficult for any one individual to overcome on his or her own, and even if that individual succeeds, victory isn’t likely to be permanent. People who suffer from panic attacks or bouts of severe melancholy are likely to suffer from them again, and it’ll feel, every time that occurs, that all progress that’s been made to overcome them have been reset. Rest, relaxation, and therapy helps. Especially therapy. Especially.
But what also is as important is the support of the people around them. People with PTSD may confuse the past with the present, and that might lead them down a dizzying spiral of trying to decide what’s real and what isn’t. Woe betide them if they resign themselves to their pasts. People live for something, regardless if there’s any absolute meaning to this wide world. Meaning brings certainty, and if there is no objective meaning to be had, then it is up to friends and family to support them in their quest to make one for themselves.
For example. If they were to successfully communicate through their support that love, a powerful anchor, or rather, their love right now is real, then they’ll know for certain their present lives are real. Through that realization, maybe, just maybe… the confusion will eventually cease.
If there be not external peace, let there be peace internal. And perhaps peace eternal… and light.