Chaos and the dancing star
Let’s talk about the persona.
Carl Jung’s psychological theory tells that one’s persona points to the different “persons” or identity they could create and present. This explanation would posit that all humans would eventually accumulate and inhibit a number of personas throughout their lives. Many factors, including life experience and personal beliefs, would contribute to their creation.
In Latin, the word “persona” could refer to a theatrical mask. So, Jung’s persona is best fit to describe one’s surface-level identity, or what “self” we present to others.
내가 되고 싶은 나
The ‘me’ who I want to be
사람들이 원하는 나
The ‘me’ who people want
니가 사랑하는 나
The ‘me’ who you love
또 내가 빚어내는 나
And the ‘me’ who I craft
웃고 있는 나
The ‘me’ who’s smiling
가끔은 울고 있는 나
The ‘me’ who’s crying sometimes
How would we want to be seen by others? How would we want others to see from us? What parts of us do we want to highlight, we show. The other parts, we hide in the shadows. Literally.
Jung also introduced a concept called the “shadow” — the self’s deepest, darkest identity.
These are the parts of ourselves that are unknown to others, and unconscious to ourselves too. The shadow contains aspects of the self that we tend to dismiss and disregard — most likely negative aspects — and we would much rather put away. But this act of dismissing doesn’t promise to “cure” these darker parts of ourselves.
나는 너고 너는 나야 알겠니
I’m you and you’re me, do you get it?
너는 나고 나는 너야 알겠니
You’re me and I’m you, do you get it?
우린 한 몸이고 부딪히겠지
We’re one body and we’ll crash
우린 너고 우린 나야 알겠니
We’re you and we’re me, do you get it?
Both “Intro : Persona” and “Interlude : Shadow” describe the conflicts of the self’s persona and shadow. While constantly switching between masks, the persona drives the person to question their true identity.
Who the hell am I?
I just wanna go
I just wanna fly
At the same time, the shadow implants fear — and possibly other negative feelings — that would lead the self to doubt any sort of person they want to be.
In the beginning, SUGA admits to his dreams:
I wanna be a rap star
I wanna be the top
I wanna be a rock star
I want it all mine
I wanna be rich
I wanna be the king
I wanna go win
I wanna be
He leaves the last part hanging, assuming he is giving room for the possibility of more dreams, or maybe the list becomes too long he is unable to finish his sentence.
But eventually, he says:
Please don’t let me shine
Don’t let me down
Don’t let me fly
Picture a solar eclipse.
The sun, everyday, is able to shine brightly on its own. But during a total eclipse, the moon is able to align itself with the sun and Earth, bringing the sun under its shadow.
I think Pink Floyd described it better than I did in the final track of The Dark Side of the Moon, which just so happens to be titled “Eclipse”:
All that you touch and all that you see
All that you taste, all you feel
And all that you love and all that you hate
And all that is now and all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune (Everything)
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon
The song feels like a rightful grand closing of the album, and the lyrics contain a list of everything… all of the things. It gives the impression that the everything-ness of the universe is holistic and in harmony. Until the very last line, where the song says that everything one Earth that is in harmony is eclipsed by the moon.
Bonus, the song’s outro:
There is no dark side in the moon really
Matter of fact it’s all dark
Everything in the universe, all of life itself, could be eclipsed by the darkness. That is the danger of the shadow.
But when we talk about everything in the universe, we also talk about the plurality of things: Life, the world that surrounds us, and even ourselves.
And all you create and all you destroy
And all that you do and all that you say
We create personas and we each have shadows that contain parts of ourselves we (probably) want to destroy, or forget. The two also influence what we do and say. There are different sides of us, therefore making us plural.
Like SUGA listing his dreams and desires in “Interlude : Shadow”, each of us want to be many things in our own lives as well. Isn’t it rare to want to be just one thing during a lifetime? That’s also why we have multiple personas. We present ourselves in different ways during different situations.
This is plurality.
“Intro : Persona”, again:
내가 기억하고 사람들이 아는 나
The ‘me’ who I remember and who people know
날 토로하기 위해 내가 스스로 만들어낸 나
The ‘me’ who I created by myself to speak my mind
Yeah 난 날 속여왔을지도 뻥쳐왔을지도
Yeah, I might have been deceiving myself, I might have been lying
But 부끄럽지 않아 이게 내 영혼의 지도
But, I’m not ashamed of it, this is the map of my soul
The map of the soul.
나란 놈을 고작 말 몇 개로 답할 수 있었다면
If I were answerable with only few words,
신께서 그 수많은 아름다움을 다 만드시진 않았겠지
God wouldn’t have created all those many beauties
(Translator’s note: Beauties = different “I”s, different personas)
Plurality doesn’t demand control. We have lightness, darkness, good, evil, dreams, hopes, regret… It’s possible to be confused when we ask ourselves the question: “Who am I?”
But even RM, who expresses his own experience of moratorium in “Intro : Persona”, admits to the beauty of the plurality. BTS themselves often talk about that struggle to accept the many parts of oneself.
But 세상에는 있지
But, in the world, there are
변하지 않는 몇 진실
some unchanging truths —
시간은 앞으로 흐른다는 것
that time flows forward,
만약은 없단 걸
that there are no ifs
Another aspect of the self, Carl Jung describes “ego” as the conscious mind. Simply put, it is the self who possesses awareness and control.
“Outro : Ego” is about acceptance of one’s path and choices. When we are at a crossroads, it’s nearly impossible to wholeheartedly know which road will lead to the best future for us. But our next job is to work with what we have, and it doesn’t always mean we should keep going, sometimes it involves mustering the courage to change to a different road, however scary that may be. More importantly, it’s to realize that the paths we choose — or give up — lead us to where we are.
Whatever I believed,
wherever I went,
(그 길로 길로 길로)
(That way, way, way)
became my fate
and became my core
(Wherever my way)
Whether or not I was exhausted
또 슬픈 대로
or whether or not I was sad,
(오직 Ego, Ego, Ego)
(Only ego, ego, ego)
it became my comfort,
날 알게 해줬어
and help me know myself
(Translator’s note: It’s more like, “I was exhausted and sad along the way, but the struggles themselves somehow became my comfort and helped me know myself.”)
Working with what we have also includes sitting with our darkness. Our shadow is not gone, because it is still a part of ourselves.
BTS’s “ON” (trans.) provides a cathartic and colossal climax of this journey:
두렵잖을 리 없잖아
There’s no way that I’m not afraid
다 괜찮을 리 없잖아
There’s no way that everything is okay
그래도 I know
But, I know
서툴게 I flow
Awkwardly, I flow
저 까만 바람과 함께 날아
With that black wind, I fly
The self that wants to fly in “Intro : Persona” finds courage to fulfill their desire, while bringing their shadow along with them.
나의 고통이 있는 곳에
Where my pain lies,
내가 숨 쉬게 하소서
let me breathe
(Translator’s note: ~하소서 (please do ~) is a very formally polite style that was traditionally used when addressing a king or a queen and is now used only in historical dramas and religious text. When it comes to 숨 쉬다 (to breathe), the official translations in music video subtitles have these two lines as “Where my pain lies, let me take a breath.” But, 숨 쉬게 하소서 (please let me breathe) is not about pausing or a one-time activity of breathing in and out. It is closer to a statement — a declaration that he is determined to exist where his pain lies, accepting the pain instead of being afraid of and running away from it.)
While “Persona” and “Shadow” pose questions, and “Ego” and “ON” form resolutions. These resolutions are not absolute answers, rather a resolve and commitment to keep forward with whatever it is — questioning, searching, creating. It requires a reflection of the whole self, and acceptance of situations. It means no falling into the trap of the “if”s of life, but instead to keep moving.
In 2016, RM mentioned a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche:
One must have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.
My personal interpretation of this is that chaos is inevitable, or rather compulsory, for a person to create. Like how the Big Bang marks the beginning of everything, the start of “all” in the universe (like in “Eclipse”), our own chaos (plurality — the good, the bad, the ugly) can polish itself to form our map of the soul.