Monday, 3 February 2014

Exploring The Matrix part 2: Eastern Influence

Ok, so I had covered the idea that Neo represents the religious figure of Jesus Christ, but he clearly is an amalgam of many religious character models.  The second most obvious figure is the Buddha.  The simple explanation of a Buddha is an individual who has become enlightened and has reached a form of transcendence beyond this reality.  A Buddha has been released from the endless cycle of life, suffering and death.

A funny thing I must point out is the fact that the actor who plays Neo, Keanu Reeves played the historical buddha, Prince Siddhartha Gautama in the 1993 film Little Buddha.  Five years later he would essentially reprise his role in The Matrix.    

If I had to sum up The Matrix in two words it would be “Wake up”. Each of the three films of the trilogy we are introduced to the character of Neo as he is waking from some kind of sleep or unconsciousness state. This is the constant theme of all of the works that have emerged out of The Matrix series.  Waking up is the perfect metaphor for any kind of disillusion, as is heavily emphasized in Buddhism and Hinduism.  Eastern philosophy nearly always centers around the concept of waking from the base form of human consciousness into something more elevated.  Alan Watts is my go-to english speaking philosopher regarding eastern ideas.  The main theme of his books, essays and lectures always revolve around the concept of waking from the dream that is life.

My obsession with his lectures this summer has helped me now understand this film much better.  I think The Matrix does a great job of putting the viewer into a context where its easier to understand this kind of school of metaphysical thought. The concept of a simulated or illusory reality can metaphorically substitute for society, law, religion, careers or even life itself.  This film is heavily influenced by these Eastern religions which have their main premises based on the idea of reality as some kind of illusion or dream.  But the film uses the tools of a science fiction/kung-fu genre to convey it’s very thought provoking concept for people living western society.  

Although the film deviates from eastern thought at a crucial point.  In traditional religious teachings, enlightenment takes time, effort and investment. To be free from Samsara, a Buddhist monk will spend decades practicing their meditation. A Hindu Sadhu will practice torturous ascetic feats to attain a high measure of holiness. To attain any kind of higher status in any religious tradition, one must give some sort of dedication or sacrifice.  In The Matrix, Neo became enlightened and eventually reached a kind of Buddhahood by simply believing and taking a red pill.  All you need for enlightenment is an insatiable curiosity and a little courage.

One of my favorite scenes of the movie is when Morpheus is captured and interrogated by the agents of the matrix. Agent Smith revealed that the original incarnation of the Matrix was a utopia. It was a perfect world where no one suffered and everyone was to be happy.  In a parallel to the Book of Genesis, It was a Garden of Eden in digital space. Apparently it was a catastrophe. The humans didn't accept the perfect reality because they constantly tried to wake up from what appeared to be just a dream. People couldn't resist seeking the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Therefore the Matrix was re-designed to a more realistic vision of human life with all of its un-pleasantries.Smith believed that human beings defined reality through misery and suffering. This is interesting from an eastern religious point of view because it would be in accordance with Buddhist philosophy which teaches that the cycles of life and death are full of suffering known as Samsara. Studying The Matrix from a Buddhist perspective, people like the Morpheus or Trinity characters represent a Bodhisattva. They are people who have been freed and have reached a higher level of enlightenment. But instead of leaving samsara, they remain inside and vow to make it their duty to help beings reach Buddhahood.  Which in a way, Neo eventually did achieve.

Midway through the film we are introduced to the character known as The Oracle. She appears as a simple old woman baking cookies in her apartment, but she has the ability to see the future. The lasting message I take from the Oracle scene is “Know Thyself”. A Latin phrase which is seen inscribed above her kitchen door. An essential theme borrowed from Greek mythology as the same inscription appears above the entrance to the Delphic oracle’s temple.  The Oracle asks Neo if he believes himself to be The One. Neo responds by saying “I don’t know”. She then points to the Latin phrase and tells Neo that it means “know thyself”. Later, when Neo became The One, It wasn’t only because Trinity confessed her love. It was because Neo really was beginning to believe that he in fact was The One.  Again I hearken back to Alan Watts who spoke eloquently about understanding the nature of the self.  A key to attaining enlightenment is to truly understand yourself.

The symbolism of self-knowledge first appeared immediately after Neo took the red pill. Neo looks into a mirror and he notices that his face is distorted by a crack. The mirror then repairs itself before his eyes. He touches the mirror and his body begins to be consumed in a mirrored substance until he is completely enveloped in a reflective surface and then is ejected from the matrix into the real world. I think the mirror is an important image because it symbolizes self-knowledge. The mirror that consumed Neo represented a feedback loop of introspection. The lasting message of this film I believe is that one cannot grasp true knowledge of the universe until one know the true nature of the self.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Exploring The Matrix Part 1: Jesus in the Matrix

The last paper I ever wrote for in my university career was regarding the religious themes in the highly popular sci-fi movie The Matrix.  I’m interested in sharing it in blog form because I know many people found this movie interesting, but I don’t feel that the form it was written is quite in order for a blog.  Some ideas I originally had left out because they may have been just too “out there” and it may have affected my grade. Other ideas were maybe just not relevant and wouldn't have fit.   So instead I’ve chosen to re-write it with all the crazy stuff I wanted to write about but just didn't have the gall to include it into the academic paper.  This turned into a multi part blog because I really love breaking down everything about this film. And perhaps if I get bored, I'll delve into (small) parts of the sequels.  I may go overboard about certain meanings and metaphors, but I ask forgiveness in advance.  Don’t take them too seriously, they’re just things to think about next time you get a chance to see this movie.  Speaking of which, since this paper goes into great detail it might be a good idea to check out beforehand.  

First off, this film is loaded with everything religious.  Themes from eastern traditions and  Christianity are found everywhere.  Its also fascinating to those with a habit of thinking about things too deeply.  It asks philosophical first premises,  What is real?  Does the world actually exist? or is it some kind of dream or simulation?

For those who don’t know or have forgotten, the main plot hook of the film is that human beings are unknowingly trapped in a computer generated simulation of reality known as the Matrix.  Artificially created machine intelligence has destroyed human civilization and is now harvesting human bodies for energy while simulating their lives in an artificial dream world that resembles normal life in our modern world.  

The film follows a computer programmer named Thomas Anderson, also a computer hacker going by the alias Neo. He lives alone and his life seems to be very bland and unremarkable. Neo/Thomas is trying to find out what the Matrix is. He is searching for a mysterious man named Morpheus whom he believes can give him the answer to his question. Morpheus is the leader of a group of people including a woman named Trinity, who have been freed from the matrix, but return to free other people who want to get out. They find each other and Neo is freed from his digital prison. It’s then revealed that Morpheus freed Neo from The Matrix because he believes Neo is “The One”. A truth Neo eventually discovers for himself at the end of the movie.

The Matrix and Christ

The religious symbolism should not be lost to those familiar with the beliefs of Christians. The One is the saviour or messiah who is prophesied to bring freedom to humans inside the Matrix. The One is an individual with the ability for transcendence beyond the laws of the Matrix’s programmed reality.  Essentially The One has divine qualities.  He plays the Christ figure.  One could also see him as a Buddha just as easily.  But I will cover that later on.    
Because Keanu Reeves is actually the Buddha.....Yeah, more on that later

So, how does Neo represent the messiah character in this film? Well for starters, lets look at his name. His name “Neo” is an anagram for the word One. The word Neo also means new or novel.  A messiah comes to change the status quo and make things new.

His name while he was plugged into the matrix also has biblical references. His last name, Anderson translated literally into English means “Son of man”. Biblically this phrase can reference a coming messiah or divine ruler.  His first name Thomas comes from the New Testament of the bible. It appears as the name of one of Jesus’ original apostles. Thomas, in its original Greek form means “twin”. In the movie, Thomas lives a twin life, one as a computer programmer and another as a hacker.  In Christianity The apostle was nicknamed Thomas the Doubter. He was the apostle who doubted the resurrection of Christ. Because of his skepticism, he was the only one to actually touch the wound of the resurrected body of Christ, referenced in John 20:24-28.
Ouch! Thomas not so hard!

Neo’s persistence to know exactly what The Matrix was, led him directly to experience the object of truth first hand.  As Morpheus says, It’s not enough to be told what the Matrix is, one has to experience it for oneself.  Thomas could not believe in the resurrection of Christ until he had seen and touched the body with his own eyes and hands.
Since Christianity revolves around the idea of the resurrection of Jesus, Neo’s transcendence into The One contains the essential Christ narrative. At the finale of the movie, Neo is pursued by the “agents” of the matrix. The agents are sentient computer programs designed to keep the humans from learning the truth. Neo is killed by one of these agents, known as Smith. Not coincidentally this occurs in the very same building and hotel room the first scene of the movie takes place, 303. Neo lies completely dead inside the matrix, while Trinity, reveals her love for Neo to his unconscious body and kisses him. Because of her love, he is brought back to life and resurrected into The One. The agents attempt to shoot him again, but he is able to stop their bullets in midair. Neo now has the ability to see through the matrix itself and witness and control the code of the reality.

Neo’s Christ references are scattered in the film. In the beginning of the film, when Neo sells some of his products of his hacking job, the customer responds with “Hallelujah! You’re my savior man. My own personal Jesus Christ.”. The film’s Judas character, Cypher, exclaims to Neo at one point “Jesus! So you’re here to save the world.”  “Jesus” is used quite often as an expletive throughout them movie.  While in a training program, Morpheus names a few urban human occupations and inconspicuously adds “carpenters” to the end of the list. According to Mark 6:3 in the New Testament, Christ’s day job was carpentry.
The third main character, Trinity has a significant meaning in name and in her role. Central to many Christian doctrines is the idea of the Holy Trinity. This is the concept of God being three united persons in The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. There are three main protagonists in this film, which can be represented accurately in terms of the holy trinity. Morpheus is the father. He is the voice of authority and knowledge. Neo is the son. The “son of man”. Trinity represents the Holy Spirit in the film. She is the person who first contacts Neo inside the matrix. Trinity is the embodiment of love, care and the feminine. She brings the heart and mind together as represented by Neo and Morpheus respectively. She is the one who breathes life into Neo for his resurrection and transcendence.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The blurred lines of privacy

I'm curious of what the opinion of my readers about how much privacy they believe they have online.  Privacy is a tricky subject because it feels like its a fundamental right for everyone to have in a free society, yet we seem to be giving it up as fast as it is possible for us to do.  With everybody's lives being lived more in the public sphere of the internet, its harder and harder to have parts of your life that are kept private.  Our online behavior now defines people, if people can have access these actions, our personality can be at least partially figured out.
I find that people from older generations are much more concerned about having "private" information being made public on the internet.  My mother for example is paranoid about having even a photo of her being posted on Facebook.  She is probably not impressed with me mentioning her in this blog.  Whereas I have everything from relationship and career status up for the world to see.  I wonder if people are truly stressing out about the reality of the lack of online privacy, or are people just slowly getting used to it?
I believe that the sooner we accept that all of our online interactions are public, the easier it will be to accept the inevitable of the future.  I have mentally conceded that everything I do online is probably recorded somewhere in some NSA database.  I think its a helpful exercise to remember that the internet is not a place you can lurk around safely with anonymity.  Having all your activity public is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means there will no longer be secrets.  You can no longer have a secret online underground life, and that's probably a good thing.  If a suspicious spouse or employer wants to find out what your up to, it's not going to be hard for them to do.  People will just have to be more honest about themselves.  I think we are entering a strange future where privacy may be a rare thing to encounter.  With our smartphones GPS tracking our locations now, who knows the kind of intimate details that will be recorded about us in say ten years.  Google glass is just the beginning.

Obviously since we are doing legally confidential things such as banking online, we require a certain amount of discretion.  But as far as I can tell, online banking is quite a secure way to manage money.  That sort of private information is perhaps easier to uncover now, but this also means its a two way street.  It will be easier to track down those who perpetrate these crimes.   

Now, I'm not at all a fan of government using this technology to crack down on it's citizens for victim-less crimes, such as drug use.  But the reality is again, no privacy is a double edged sword.  The citizens will be able to crack down on its government for its much more heinous crimes.  As was demonstrated by Edward Snowden and Wikileaks.

Its a controversial issue, as I can see positive and negatives on both sides.  I guess we’ll have to wait see how miserable our public online lives are in ten years.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The University Experience

Five and a half years of post secondary education studying philosophy and religious studies at the University of Lethbridge is over.  School has been the only life I have ever known, but my career in formal education is now officially finished.  For the first time in my life, I have no plans.  Every moment of my life prior to this has had a calendar date circled or deadline on the horizon.  From my first day of kindergarten until now has been one long continuous period of life.  For the first time ever I have nothing ahead of me.  My whole life has been planned up to December 2013.  Without any real direction leaving university, I would like to reflect on this time of my life.    

My one piece of advice coming out of this experience is that if you don’t know exactly what you want out of life, don’t go to university.  Five and a half years of this strange reality has shown me a few things.  Five and a half years has left me with a bit of confusion and regret.  While it doesn’t feel like a total waste, it doesn’t feel worth the time and money I spent.   

I certainly took a lot of positive things from university.  I learned so much in and out of class.  I found that I love to talk about ideas.  I found a passion for writing.  I met some amazing people and did a lot of maturing.  But on the whole, I feel university probably wasn’t necessary to discover those things.  I probably could have found a less time and money consuming place to find myself.

 I didn’t know what I wanted out of life when I graduated high school.  I entered university with a sense of “well this is what I should be doing”.  I never really asked myself about how I was going to live my life as I wanted it.  Instead I looked to authority figures (teachers, parents, employers ect.) to indirectly ask what they wanted out of my life.  I’ve now learned that the only person you can ask what you want to do with your life is yourself. 

Parents want what is best for their children so long as they have the lowest chance of failure.  For parents, University is the safest route for their children with no particular direction.  Such was the case with me.  I was lucky enough to have had parents who saved money for my post secondary education.  So, university looked like a good enough option for me; at least I could focus on subjects I had some interest in.  Maybe it was the sub-par, small town schooling that held me back, but I felt incredibly mediocre.  I never excelled or had much passion for anything.  School had always made me feel stupid.

 Did I really know why I was going to university?  I’m not sure that I did.  Certainly, my first university year was a necessary social rite of passage.  The schoolwork was secondary to the rollercoaster socialization process that consumed my life during that time.  But after that year, there wasn’t much difference in what my friends and I did.  The following five years now seem to melt together in my memory.  It’s hard to differentiate the years apart.  I stayed with the same friends and did the same things with them.  I absolutely cherish those time and people I was with, but there was definitely a routine that was repeated over and over.  There comes a point in time where routine becomes stagnant.          

It wasn’t until the past year that I felt like I knew the direction of the path that was meant for me.   It was then when I realized that university was probably not the best use of mine or my parent’s money.  I know there are other people who are in university who know exactly why they're there.  They have a real goal and are spending their hard earned dollars to attend class and earn their degree they want.  People go to university to become doctors, business people, lawyers, teachers and so on.  Knowing that these people exist, I feel unworthy to be spending money that I didn’t really earn to get a degree that I didn’t really want.  Over the past summer I really felt compelled not to go back to school to finish my degree in September.  It just didn’t feel right to go back.  But it also didn’t feel right to leave a degree 90% finished.  

For the majority of my university career I was just going through the motions.  As if I was coasting through everything.  My grades were never a concern.  As long as my GPA was high enough to graduate, I didn’t care much about marks.  I feel like I’ve spent too much of this valuable time, waiting.  I graduated high school with a sense of excitement.  This was a chance to get out of this dead-end town and meet new people.  A chance to start over with a blank slate where I can become the type of person I always dreamed of being.  The things that I never did in high school would now happen.  I would no longer be defined by who I was in the past.  It felt like my real life was about to begin.    

That was my mistake, not realizing my life began when I was born.  All this time was spent waiting for the next step to begin.  My high school life felt like I was killing time, waiting for graduation.  My whole time in University I felt like I was waiting for something.  As if by virtue of simply being a university student, all the things I expected to happen were going to fall into my lap.  I was waiting for love to happen.  I was expecting a social education in growing up.  I wanted to know the highs and lows of being in a relationship.  For the most part my mind seemed to be focused on extracurricular events.  But I never really took control and was honest with myself.  I just waited.

So if you’re unsure of your place in this world, I wouldn’t recommend such an expensive occupation as university.  Find what you really want out of life and then decide if post secondary is right for you.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The problem with Feminist language

I feel that the biggest problem holding back a more effective discussion about gender equality is a problem of language.  What is alienating about the feminist movement is the use of somewhat exclusionary language.  I think in order to reach a broader spectrum of people, language must be carefully used when hashing out the important issues.

When driving any kind of revolution forward, I think it’s natural to create an ingroup.  This ingroup will automatically empathize with its own members.  This causes a kind of doublespeak in some internal dialogues.  Out of convenience, these movements will create their own words to describe certain concepts.   Like any kind of political party, nationality or ideology, it’s members know more about the “real” issues than outsiders.  Projecting an image of ignorance and incredulity on the outsiders of the movement.  

I’ve been a part of many of these ingroups which create their own mini-languages to explain the paradigm they’re attempting to overthrow.  Its very easy to sink into a closed off intellectual bubble, where only those who are inside can understand what you are talking about.  This becomes problematic when you attempt to relay these concepts to outsiders.  This is especially problematic if your bubble is intent on overturning the current system and replacing with their own way.  

It can be most easily seen in religious movements.  its very hard for religious to address the outside world if they’re so enveloped in the language of their tradition.  Words and phrases like “redemption”, “fear of God’ and “sinner” probably have a much different meaning to those who hear them outside of their religious contexts.  This can only alienate and confuse those well-intentioned outsiders.

This unfortunately, I feel is true about the feminist movement.  Any kind of group with an “ism” at the end of their name is going to encounter alienation problems.  While the ideas behind the movement are by and large good, they present an unpleasant and alien image to the outside.  The feminist movement is appealing to those who are already alienated from the male-dominated culture.  It’s language is appealing to those who have found alienation and emptiness in gender identities.  But it’s true intention is to change the culture.  It’s not going to be attractive to those still fully connected to the gender system who in fact need feminism the most.  

The first language problem I think stops most people is the use of the word “Feminism”.  “ism” is a sure sign of a political ideology.  The root, “feminine” denotes the inclusion of the female sex as the biggest component.  The word by itself is exclusionary to anything masculine.  If someone sympathizes with feminism as a man, they often must caveat their identity with “male-feminist”.  I believe that the true ideals of “feminism” would not need anyone to declare their gender identity.  

I think the word “feminism” is creating a problem that is counterproductive to it’s own cause.  Because of its name, it’s creating an ingroup of people, simply based on a single sex or a gender. Naturally It will gather together people who are alienated and angry at the gendered system we live in.  

Its a stereotype and an oversimplification of feminists that they are “angry at men”.  For the most part, I agree that its just a stereotype.  But even the most offensive stereotypes have their origins in some kind of small truth. To illustrate this point, I would compare this to people calling atheists “angry at God”.  While the atheist would say that they don’t even believe in God’s existence.  The theist may not properly comprehend the very idea of a godless world.  They can’t truly understand the mentality of an atheist.  So, to them it looks as if the atheist is behaving like a rebellious teenager against a parent.

When someone says “Feminists are just angry and hate men.”  That person is probably well situated deep inside the gendered system.  To an outsider, all they see is a group of upset women.  Since this person takes the notion of “men and women” for granted, who else can feminists be possibly angry at?  They are like the theist who doesn’t understand the mindset of a person without a belief in God.  The outsider to feminism doesn’t understand that the whole dichotomous gender system is what is being targeted, not men.  They can’t understand a world without gender as a personal identity.  Gender is such an important part of their world, its very hard to see these issues without it.  The word “feminist” enforces that mentality with its inherent dichotomy of feminine versus masculine.        

Are there feminists who do actually just hate men? Sure, I wouldn’t bet against it.  But they’re no different than those men who hate women.  I would say that these people have legitimate complaints about their gender and its relationship to the “opposite”.  But this negative energy is just missdirected.  Without recognizing the real source of their issues.     
I should expand this to all kinds of movements that are attempting to change gender and sexuality in our culture.  I truly believe these groups are trying to change the world for the better.  But the way they’re presented to the world is often in an unfavorable light.  Its often because of the language used.    

Words like “patriarchy”, “hegemonic masculinity”, “CISgender” “rape-culture”, “male privilege” have a way of unconsciously talking down to those who don’t know their meaning.  How many letters have to be added to the LGBTQ..(?) abbreviation to be politically correct?  Is it offensive to call someone “transvestite?”, “transexual?”, “transgendered?”.  It feels like if I don’t know the correct term, I’m a bigot.  It’s these sorts of concepts only privy to insiders have an alienating effect to those outside.

The word “rape-culture” is one such example of a topic worth addressing that is alienating to those who don’t know what it is.  When I first encountered the concept of rape-culture, it was in a dialogue in a university newspaper. I found the term to be unnecessarily aggressive and shrill.  Whoever was arguing against rape-culture, the writing seemed to be coming from a place of high emotion.  I can totally understand why.  But keep in mind, that kind of passion will be alienating to men who’ve never heard of it.  I was one of those men.  I didn’t know what it was, but the article certainly didn’t win me over.  From then on I associated that term with an air of confrontational feminism, which I had no desire becoming a part of.  As a man, “rape-culture” made me feel guilty by association.  I’m the one of most timid guys you’ll ever meet.  I felt I would never do anything to enable that kind of behaviour.  All it did was make me even more confused than I already was about how to behave around women I was attracted to.  

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to discredit any of the facts about rape culture.  I’m just trying to point out how the concept isn’t the most endearing to those uneducated.  Many men are probably now feeling the same way I used to about “rape-culture”.  

 It wasn’t until I took a sociology of gender course, that I began to really understand these issues.  It took maturing and self examination to see feminism as a good thing.  But it took a process of becoming fluent in feminist language to fully grasp what the intent was.  To be clear, I’m not proposing any kind of alternative to the words we use.  I wouldn’t know where to start.  I’m just trying to illustrate some of the unintended problems that naturally occur in social movements and language.       

Thursday, 7 November 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A space Odyssey is a film filled with philosophical, scientific and religious themes.  Like many of Kubrick’s works, this is a film that has and will be analyzed over and over again, as long as screens to watch films exist.  It has come to a point where its very difficult to find new meanings in this film that someone hasn't already found and deconstructed to the last frame.  This is one such depth analysis of the film so If you have not seen it, I recommend that you do.  Its the granddaddy of all science fiction films.

In my research in reading blogs and watching Youtube videos about the meanings of 2001, I’ve realized how complicated and symbolically dense people seem to think it is.  Its a film where it’s cult following may have read too much into its meanings than the creator may have intended.  It’s taken on a life of its own like a book of scripture.  But, much like the canons of religious texts, it may not matter what the writer intended it to mean.  What matters most is what the audience takes from the text.  That is what is worth talking about.  Since its had such a profound effect on the speculative fiction that followed 2001, I think its worth talking about some of the ideas I took from this film and other people’s analysis of it.  I will talk about the ideas of human progress that are most prominent in the film.  As well as the themes of a future transcendence that is creeping into our cultural and religious zeitgeist.  What role does what we think of as “God” play in this film?

Why is studying the bible interesting?  There are many reasons of course.  But what what is least interesting to me is whether or not these events actually occurred.  Its not very interesting to ask what the authors of these texts intended to mean when they wrote them.  What is most fascinating is to study these texts from a retrospective point of view.  Its interesting to see the profound effect on our culture throughout the centuries that the writings of the bible have had.  It’s only as important as the people who read them say it is.  People who believe that the bible is the actual word of god, will read deep meaning into any given passage.  Of course depending on the religious context it is read.  I think the same is true for 2001.  Kubrick is known for his deep subliminal messaging and hidden meanings in his films.  Because of this, people will read as much meaning as they want to into every scene from 2001.  People watching 2001 in the year 2013 may find different meaning in this film than someone watching it in 1968.

If the books of the bible had fallen into obscurity shortly after they were written, they would not contain all the meanings they do now.  Even if they had been written word for word, they wouldn't mean anything religiously significant.  Similarly, if 2001 or Kubrick had not found the cult following of the counter-culture youth of the sixties, the film would probably not have the kind of thematic influence it has today.  Adding to the film’s mystique, Stanley Kubrick has since passed away.  So this leaves only the audience to speculate and exaggerate what this film really means.  But despite my cynicism of this cult-film phenomena, I think 2001 has some very worthwhile subjects worth talking about.

The most important message I took from 2001 was the evolutionary direction the human race seems to be going.  The ominous, rectangular monolith that appears before the characters at crucial points of the movie, signifies an evolutionary quantum leap.  These leaps are significant to our religious sensibilities because the film seems to point the human race in a direction of ascension to transcendental god-hood.  Stanley Kubrick conveniently sidesteps the hornets nest of directly commenting on religion or God by representing the divine as a race of super-intelligent, unseen extraterrestrials.

The first important evolutionary jump was made when early hominids learned to use tools, hunt for meat and wage war.  We continued on this technological path for 4 million years.  We are shown this linear progression with the juxtaposed scene of the tossed animal bone cut to directly to the spacecraft.  The next evolutionary leap we are shown is directly after the second appearance of the monolith.  The story proceeding the moon monolith scene is about the emergence of an artificial intelligence.  The invention of A.I is the most important technological event we as a species, see on the horizon of technological progression.  It will be the most significant event in human history since we developed the ability to control fire or the invention of tools.
2001 Space Odyssey Dawn of Man

The computer program Hal 9000, seems to develop a true sentience during the Jupiter mission, by demonstrating human characteristics.  Hal lies to his human masters about his true intentions.  When Hal kills the human Frank Poole, he shows a sentient desire to be free.   He also demonstrates flawed logic despite his apparently flawless programming by allowing David Bowman to survive.  He shows a desire to live and a fear of death.  The roles of man and machine are seemingly swapped as Bowman shows a machine like ruthlessness when he deactivates the computer while “it” begs for mercy.  Its interesting to note that Kubrick adds in subtle stabs at IBM with the Hal 9000 character.  Alphabetically the letters H-A-L are all one letter removed from I-B-M.  The IBM logo appears in various scenes.  When Hal is being deactivated, he sings the song “Daisy”.  In 1961 IBM scientists created the first computer so synthesize singing, the song they first had it sing was in fact “Daisy”.

The next quantum leap is represented when Bowman encounters the monolith in orbit around Jupiter.  In the story, the monoliths are supposed to be artifacts left by extra-terrestrial intelligence.  Whenever humans come into contact with them, they gain some sort of knowledge left behind by the extraterrestrials.  In the third encounter, the meaning of the knowledge or power that is imparted onto Bowman is very cryptic on screen.  This part of the film is where an endless amount of symbolism and meaning can be gleaned by its viewers.  (Whether or not Kubrick intended them to).
Bowman is thrust through a psychedelic tunnel of information and colored light.  Then possibly witnesses a abridged narrative of the universe’s history.  He apparently sees the big bang and the expansion of the universe.  Then he sees the development of life and a tour of unknown alien worlds.  The way I saw this sequence, Bowman had an encounter with an incredibly higher form of intelligence attempting to impart it’s knowledge onto him.  The way this experience is portrayed on film is analogous to a powerful psychedelic drug experience.  This movie was released during the peak of the introduction of LSD among the counterculture of the sixties.  I think the significance of the imagery of Bowman’s experience would not have been lost on those who would have experienced similar things with LSD.
The "Star Gate" sequence, one of man...
He then finds himself inside a renaissance styled hotel room viewing himself in the third person, rapidly age and his own bodily death.  In a making-of documentary I watched according to one of the commentators, the sterile hotel room was supposed to be a kind of human nursery.  The same way human beings would construct a familiar jungle environment for gorillas in a zoo, the higher intelligence provides a familiar human setting for Bowman.
The fourth and final encounter with the monolith occurs at the moment of Bowman’s apparent bodily death.  What the monolith gives him is a rebirth, over the Earth as some sort ethereal being.  “The Starchild”.  Its representative of what we see ourselves eventually becoming.  We aspire to become that which we've always felt we are.  We’re animals but we feel like we’re more than the sum of the flesh and blood we’re made of.  We feel angelic but trapped in the shell of an ape.  One of organized religion’s main purpose is to address that very feeling.  This film is a story of our struggle towards that ineffable other we can sense.  The film represents the other with an extraterrestrial artifact.  The ominous tone of the monolith encounters signify our simultaneous fear and fascination with something so alien and ineffable.  Our religious traditions have the same kind of fear and reverence towards their transcendental object, usually God.
A very interesting blog I found explained to me the symbolism of the monolith.

The Monolith is supposed to represent a movie screen.  Proportionally, its the same size as the screen that 2001 was intended to be shown on.  The creepy music that plays during the monolith encounters, is also played during the intermission of the film.  The intermission is a blank movie screen.  So you are actually staring at the monolith itself.

Now, heres where I go off the deep end of crazy.
In the film when the monolith/film screen is encountered, the characters begin to realize they are inside a movie.  This makes sense to me as a philosophical principle.  Every time the characters encounter the monolith, they achieve another level of intelligence.  The movie screen is a feedback loop of awareness.  An evolutionary step.  They become more self aware when they look inwards at themselves and they realize what the game is.

bowman helmet reflect
 In real world, sentience is achieved once the agents realize the matrix they’re inside of.  Humans achieved a higher level of sentience when they began to realize what kind of biological game they’re a part of.  We started using tools and technology to “hack the system”.  The first monolith encounter was supposed to represent this.  The second encounter was supposed to represent when human created technology(Hal 9000) will reach a higher level of intelligence.  The last two monolith encounters represent transcendence to higher forms of being we may see in our future.
The last thing I’d like to point out is the period of chronological time between each monolith encounter.  Between the first and second monolith there is a period of millions of years.  Between the second and third, there is a period of 18 months.  Between the third and fourth encounter, there are only minutes.  This may have just been the way the film turned out.  It may have been unintentional, but to me this is significant.  If this is a film commenting on the progression of the human race, it would be helpful to notice the pattern in time in the way progress seems to follow.  Each major evolutionary step happens in shorter and shorter intervals.  I’m reminded of Carl Sagan’s cosmic calendar from the old TV show, Cosmos.
Whatever.  That was only my interpretation of it.  Take what you want out of this review.  but more importantly, watch this movie for yourself.  What hidden cryptic messages can you find?  Did Kubrick produce a film to demonstrate that he helped fake the moon landing? Or did Kubrick predict a race space fetuses invading earth? Who knows.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Why are you reading this?

Yeah you! Why are you reading this?  What gives me the right to your free time?  Did you arrive here by chance? Are you family? Are you my friend?  Are you my facebook friend?

With the internet, everyone now has a voice.  There is now an over abundance of soapboxes to stand on, but this is causing the real question to now be who should we listen to?  In the old days, all you needed was a Tv or radio show and people had no choice but to listen to you.  There were only a handful of soapboxes.  You had to catch a lucky break with a newspaper job or publishing contract to have any hope of sharing your thoughts with the world.  Now everyone has access to everyone else’s opinions if they want.  Anyone can write a blog or start a Youtube channel.  But now, how does anyone gain a foothold in a writing career?  How does anyone create a voice worth listening to?

Unfortunately, this is the life path I have chosen for myself.  I feel like my calling is in writing and expressing myself.  But a great amount of my anxiety lies in the question of why should anyone listen to me?  Nothing gives me a free pass to everyone’s attention.  I don’t have have many credentials.  At the same time, I don’t want to feel like I’m representing any kind of respectable institution like a newspaper, magazine, school curriculum or a university.  Perhaps I’m too artistically idealistic, but I hate any kind of censorship or compromise to my work.  I wouldn't want to write if I couldn't say “fuck” where its appropriate.          

I’ve got to believe that the only hope for this kind of life-path is the attractiveness of a totally honest and unique personality.  The only way to create an internet voice worth listening to is the total uninhibited expression of my true honest self.  I look at the people I admire.  These are never the smartest people.  They are not usually academically credentialed.  But somehow their honest self is expressed through their creations.  Music, comedy, artwork, books, acting, lectures or however they express themselves.  This is my ideal.  I’m not sure yet what my greatest strength is, but my guiding light is myself.  If I can bring an uncompromised and unique personality to the forefront of what I create, I believe this will be the correct path to take.  

This all sounds like an excersize in ego masturbation, but what other choice do creators have?  A kind of confidence, or maybe arrogance has to exist in order to think that people want to hear what we have to say.  I routinely post some of my artwork on facebook.  I get a kind of satisfaction every time someone “likes” or compliments my drawings.  At the same time I have a pang of narcissistic guilt, every time I post something that I’ve created.  What right do I have clogging up other people’s facebooks with posts that seem to scream:  “look at me!” “look at me!” “read my blog!” “don’t you think I’m smart?”

On the same coin, what right do other people have in clogging my facebook with vacation pictures, dessert recipes, conspiracy theories, drunken photos and articles somebody else wrote. But I digress this is a topic for another time.

Its all very gross. but perhaps all this self promotion is a necessary evil.  If you don’t like it, feel free to block me.  If you can tolerate it, thank you!