Europe Edition

2024 number 4

I am identity question


El niño y la garza

The boy and the heron


Copernicus was able to go against practice and common sense to propose a theory that transforms the way of understanding the relationship between the movement of the sun and the planets. However, his theory also changed the way of understanding the human being, questioning the idea of placing him at the center of the universe, which at the same time had repercussions on the way of understanding the meaning of the individual.

From this apparently simple statement – the earth and the other planets orbit the sun – we can see a radical change in the way we look at ourselves, we open a questioning about the meaning of existence and the way in which we relate to the physical and social environment. The Copernican turn is to stop seeing our life and our existence as the center of what happens around us, which in turn leads us to vital questions and deep reflections, always in force.

This is the process shown to us by the young protagonist of How do you live? the Japanese literary classic by Genzaburo Yoshino that Studio Ghibli has adapted into the film The Boy and the Heron, the latest film by famed animation director Hayao Miyazaki.

Junichi Honda, renamed by his uncle as Koperu -in reference to Copernicus-, begins at the age of fifteen a fundamental journey: to get out of himself, to stop understanding existence from an individual center around which people, nature and circumstances rotate and to begin to affirm his identity from another point of view. In this journey full of observations, questions, reflections and dialogues, he is accompanied by his uncle, who becomes his promoter and guide.

To observe with a sensitive point of view the daily city life of people, raises simple questions with complex answers: if we are only molecules of water in a sea of humanity, what makes us to be different and unique? Thus the young Koperu illustrates reflections arising from daily experience, with interesting questions and challenges to common sense. The questions presented by the teenager makes him discover  a deep and ever-present world; these reflections have a wise complement in the letters his uncle gives him, which makes a type of dialogue that welcomes and, at the same time, challenges the deep thoughts.

The sense of individuality is strongly hit when recognizing a person as a simple water molecule in a sea of humanity, a brief instant in an immensity of time or a simple geometric point in a vast universe. To look  for the differentiation that sustains individuality becomes a challenge and a search for the meaning of life. It is not necessary to escape this question in the hope of another better life, but on the contrary, to give a sense to the sole fact  of feeling alive.

Feeling alive manifests itself in the active observation and connection with the physical and social environment, giving a space  to  reflective act and dialogue with another. The human relationship is not exhausted in the productive exchange that allows us to survive, but it is deeper in the ability to reflect and dialogue, to co-construct ideas, affections and experiences, interacting with others. The young Koperu manages to explore, among other themes, the importance of friendship, the sense of justice, cooperation, heroism and dedication, foundations on which his own identity is being molded.

Individual experience has a limit that is overcome with reflection and the questioning of simple observation. But, above all, to give a free space to the power of thought makes it possible to build a path that responds to the meaning of life, and trying to give meaning to life is a challenge worth living.


How do you live?  Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, from the novel of the same name by Genzaburo Yoshino. Release 2023.

José Miguel Berguño / Civil Engineer UC from Santiago de Chile, he has developed his working life in important positions and companies. At the same time, his deep humanist vocation led him to pursue a Master’s degree at the Adolfo Ibáñez University, with a major in Philosophy and Humanities.

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