Murakami and Darkness


On the day of this election and the eve of the next four years, we are finally coming to the end of a campaign of hateful national discourse that has stirred up the darker sides of our humanity and country alike. Haruki Murakami, perhaps Japan’s most prominent working author, was recently awarded the Hans Christian Andersen literature award, and in his acceptance speech, addressed this shadow that must accompany the light in our individual selves, our society, and our country. The Guardian has an excellent article here that touches on quite a few topics, but this addressing of darkness seems the most relevant at the moment.

Murakami states that “no matter how high a wall we build to keep intruders out, no matter how strictly we exclude outsiders, no matter how much we rewrite history to suit us, we just end up damaging and hurting ourselves,” a sentiment that opposes segments of both American and European politics, which call for anti immigration measures and to reject refugees and people in need.

In 2009, when he was awarded the Jerusalem prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society in the face of opposition from pro-Palestinian groups, he said that “if there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals.

“We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold,” he said in Jerusalem. “To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us – create who we are. It is we who created the system.” (Guardian, 2016)

In a divise and tumultuous age which has separated us in our connectivity, we need to understand our common humanity and seek to address our darker sides and foster the light and warmth within each other and our human connection. Humanity is not partisan, nor binary, and to reckon with a full human being is to recognize the darkness and the light inherent in everyone, but this is the only way to truly connect and progress as a society. The cause of humanity must force us to look at each other, despite differences, and care.

Photograph: Henning Bagger/EPA at


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