One of the most primal fear within human mind is the fear of the unknown.
When I said fear of the unknown, it doesn’t have to be Lovecraftian fear of an existence far beyond human comprehension that makes us question our place in the universe. It can be something closer to home, that is to say, fear for our fellow man, fear for what darkness that might lurk behind the seemingly benign mask people (strangers, friends, or family alike) put on in their daily live.
Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Thief, among other things depending on your interpretation (as the unreliable nature of the narration offers variety of view), is an exploration of this theme, or to be more precise, how an act of crime can cause doubts and distrust within a certain community.
(Warning: In order to talk about ideas present within a work in a meaningful way, you more or less have to dig in to the overall plot of the work. So….Spoiler and such)
Communication is, and always will be, hard.
When it comes to social engagement with another human being, it’s fair to say we have certain expectation to a relationship. Say that you’re on a relationship with a friend. The word “friend” can mean different things to a people and with it, a certain social baggage and expectation what a friend should behave in our mind. In general, people want anybody they consider as a “friend” to behave like a perfect companion: always stays by your side, always be there for you, and never ever hurt you.
This however runs contrary to the fact all of us are not a perfect human being and sometimes we do bad things to the people we love.
The horrible things that we do doesn’t have to be out of malice intent, it can happen because we can’t always keep our emotion in check, can’t always keeping our worst impulses at bay. We also can’t always know what might offend the other person. All of us grew up in a differing circumstance and background which inevitably means all of us have their own insights about how the world “works”. Sometimes, those different insights can clash in the worst ways possible. Because of that, compromises of our basic desire and ego is pretty much an always necessary thing to do in a relationship.
An honest communication require us to be in a state of vulnerability. In order to truly connect with someone, you can’t help but let the other person you’re communicating to get “inside” you, letting them know what do you feel, what are your thoughts, wants, and desires.
So when what we expect our friend or lover or parents or whathaveyou should behave inevitably clash with the fact that we’re not perfect, this leads to an inevitable hurt.
However, Eternal Sunshine with a Spotless Mind propose a question. What if we can just erase it?