Category: Philosophy
Raw and Exposed

 

It’s a scary place to open yourself up to only hear silence.

But unless your willing to live in that space, as raw and exposed as
it is, you will continue to remain unfulfilled.

Do not hide your heart. Your pain. Your love.

Rather,  live life at 11. Raw. Exposed. Alive!

 

 


Musing on Love

Over the weekend I finally got a good chunk of silent time to sit with the story of Boy Chases Girl.

The story, for the most part, has lived in note books and parts of it in script format for a while now. But over the weekend I wanted to map the inner emotional sub-text to physical actions as a test of the functionality of the story.

This of course always leads to changes and that is a good thing. Indeed it is the purpose of the exercise! Cause and effect are as much a part of storytelling as they are in so called real life!

I started Friday night:

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And this is where I ended on Sunday afternoon:

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This is essentially an old-school mind map.

As you will see there are five main acts to this story. You can see these by the five sticky notes off to the left of the pic.

The blue and pink notes are the emotional beats, while the yellow sticky notes underneath these are their corresponding physical actions.

I love this part of writing as it’s a chance to let the imagination run free. Just let it roam wherever it may but without letting the mind fall into vague sleepiness. Kind of like some forms of meditation really.

I also thought I would share part of a document I sent through to a producer about the project recently. Enjoy!!

Boy Chases Girl by Clarke Scott

THE PREMISE

Boy Chases Girl is a story about the development of LOVE. Not what we normally think love to be but rather the love to which the ancient Greek philosophers referred to as agape.

Spontaneous and unmotivated, agape is love grounded in the aspiration that another be well and happy. This kind of love is not motivated by one’s own aspirations or even preference for a particular outcome. It is unconditional in the purest sense. Indeed this kind of love is the love spoken of by Buddhists and called mettá or maitrí in Sanskrit. The etymology of the term mettá is often rendered as loving-kindness and I think this captures well the intent behind love in this purest sense of agape. For both are fundamentally a deep sense of caring—a strong yet gentle impulse to care.

To care and to be care about, this is the foundation of all romantic love. Yet this mutual and very symbiotic kind of love is hard won. It is hard won because while the genesis of love may be pure, as the years go by love can become mixed with resentment born of power-games, of pain from the things left unsaid, and even just plain old boredom. Love surely is a battlefield as Pat Benatar once remarked.

When things are going well in life there is a sense of what Aristotle called, eudaimonia. Often translated into happiness, eudaimonia is perhaps better thought of as well-being. It is a well-being that comes from within. It is what we bring to the world, not what we get from it that distinguishes eudaimonia from stimuli driven pleasure. When we bring this sense of well-being to close relationships then these relationships bring joy.

However I believe that when things are going wrong in relationships and arguments become the special of the day, we are actually fighting with ourselves—with our own fears and doubts. When fear of abandonment manifests into an argument over how much flirting is too much flirting, what is the real issue here? These themes are dealt with directly in chapter 3. Suffice it to say, it is only through the transformation of love from one based on the physical to one based on the mental that relationships survive longer term. And similarly it is only once the physical has become mental that the ego can be slain—the basis for unconditional love.

Ron Howard once said that film narrative is about mapping basic human emotions to interesting actions. And Kazan before him famously told us that we are trying to make the psychological, physical. In this regard, Boy Chases Girl is a map of sorts— the cartography of love if you like. It maps an argument (in the philosophical sense) for the potential to develop love in this purest sense. It argues that agape or mettá is both real and possible—even if only after a lifetime of struggle. Indeed perhaps only after a lifetime of struggle.

THE ARCHITECTURE

Boy Chases Girl has five distinct acts or chapters. Each chapter follows a boy and a girl at various ages as they deal with life, themselves, and each other. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect of the development of love. From that initial spark in a young boy through to love beyond ego, Boy Chases Girl is a love story about love itself. It is a drama about human potential—the potential to love and to be loved.

1. The birth of love (10 year olds)

2. The exploration of love (20 yr)

3. The transformation of love (40 yr)

4. The maturing of love (60 yr)

5. The transcendence of love (80 yr)

Each chapter is roughly 15-20 minutes in length and could be shot as five short films.

Given the large chumps of time between each chapter we do not have to be too concerned about finding actors that look the same over the course of the five chapters. This will allow us to find the right boy and the right girl for each chapter, and to make certain the two are thoroughly engaging together.

The camera work, too, is a representation of some aspect of each chapter. For instance, wider lenses and flowing camera moves represent childhood in chapter one—the world just looks much bigger when you’re ten. A hand-held camera lets you live the chaos of life when you are in your twenties, while a conscious-camera esthetic provides a foreboding that helps represent resentment and boredom that can build in relationships over time.

Talking about time: the transitions between chapters occur as camera moves rather than cuts. For instance, as we move from chapters one to two there is a very slow, sweeping, and continuous 360-degree pan. Starting on the girl the camera begins to move as the boy runs away after a failed first kiss initiated by the girl, and then back to the same position only ten years later to find a beautiful young woman standing there. Who then calls out to camera right—the same direction as the previous boy ran off. Then walks towards this person. The camera is now hand-held and swings round to find the young woman walking down an inner city laneway after a young man…as we follow her…we are into chapter two.

This slow moving 360-degree pan should make us feel the way life can feel to young people. Slow! Yet it is not boring as the sound design carries the narrative elements that will engage. For instance, as the boy runs off we hear this and yet the camera moves painfully slow to catch up to him. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?! The audience feels this wait as young people feel the wait of growing up. As it reaches the boy (at 180-degrees) the camera does not stop as you might expect. Rather it continues on at the same pace and in the same direction as before. Just like life.

The transition between chapters two and three is perhaps even more philosophically and viscerally arresting (at least the image in my mind is!), and a key vision that represents the years between ages 20 to 40.

What we see in the final scene of chapter two (the exploration of love) is a love scene where in the end and only after some heavy petting the girl is placed willingly on her hands and knees as the boy enters her. They begin to make love. It is the culmination of their “exploration.” It is beautiful. Gentle. Not at all demeaning—although it should be very provocative.

Then the transition: bedroom at night. Poorly lit. We are side on to the camera. A 50mm lens close to the action means we only see parts of bodies as they sway rhythmically in the frame from left to right. Then in one continuous shot we track slowly down his body. At first we see his chest moving in and out of frame. We continue to move slowly down his body pass his stomach, then hips, and then begin to move along her body. Slowly slowly the camera creeps along as she moves back and forth in frame. We are close enough that we cannot make out her entire body and as we continue towards her upper area we begin to make out the shape of a breast. Then, as we reach her head, the camera stops to reveal the face of a 40 year old woman. She looks bored. Going through the motions. Suddenly we hear the sound of a baby crying in another room. She stops abruptly. Almost relieved. She gets up from the bed and puts a dressing gown on then quickly walks off camera to attend to the baby. The camera does not move. Then after a beat a 40 year old man flops down headfirst into frame. He rolls onto his back. He is confused and slightly annoyed at what just happened! …and we are into chapter three.

The other transitions are similar but for the sake of brevity I have left them out here. I believe this gives a good sense of the vision and the themes I want to explore in this piece.

More to come…


In the End All We Have is Love

As you go through life some begin to realize that, in the end, whether you like it or not, we lose everything—money. health. status. friends. While for others this fact is lost of them and as a result they can spend the time they have left wondering why! Even bitter at the lost. This is not a judgement but rather an observation.

 

Still it seems to me that what life cannot take form us is our ability to care—to love. And when I say love, I mean it in the Buddhist sense, which of course, has little to do with anything that happens between the sheets!

 

While Lennon may have been correct with his well known, “All you need is Love”, statement this to me has always seemed glib at best…if not just hippy tripe!.

 

Either way it was without doubt the soundbite of the 70’s (or was it the 80’s?) that continues to water-down the truth of the statement and that is a shame really!

 

I think this attitude might be linked, somehow, to a general view about about or what one should do with their life.

 

There will be the people that watch, for instance, the video of Steve Jobs from the last post and nod in approve at the beginning of the speech where he outlines an a-typical life but then disapprove when he goes on the say that this is a rather shallow interpretation of a life well lived!

 

Or as one person close to me did recently…nod and smile in agreement that quickly changed to stoney-faced silent as it dawned upon them why I found this interesting! All you need is Love!!

 

This lead me to think about what is it that makes people believe certain things. Why is it that for some people digging pass the veil of the ordinary, the mundane, is so so natural and yet for others is to frightening beyond belief?!?

 

I do not know yet, but, what I do know is that it pays to dig—if only as a functional mechanism against the wounds of life. Know thyself as the Greeks were found of saying!

 

For the timid, however, it is clear that life turns difficult as they age because they value everything that is easily lost and do not understand that it was ALWAYS going to be “lost” in the end. Really…really…sad!

 

Therefore cherish your ability to care! It maybe all you have left in the end.

 

There are plenty of templates for a life well lived but you have to be brave enough to live them! And the good news is, it is never too late.

 

May all beings…those close and those far….have only happiness and its causes.

 


 


David Foster Wallace – This is Water

David Foster Wallace was well aware of Buddhism via his connection to Jay L. Garfield. This is clear.

I find his speech, “this is water”, both inspiringly insightful and utterly heart-breaking for in the end to killed himself.

THIS IS WATER – By David Foster Wallace from The Glossary on Vimeo.

He saw past the veils of cultural pleasantries and into the second truth, the source of life’s dissatisfaction—self-concern or ego-grapsing to use more Buddhist parlance.

We need more people like Wallace. People that will tell it as it is. Without the BULL SHIT!

And he is right. It is difficult to talk about. Most people do not want to hear about it. Truth of suffering!? What suffering? Life is great. But we know these are mere words.

And he also correct when he says, “this is not about religion.” But then neither was the Buddha’s message. “This is suffering. This is its cessation.”

And he went on to say, “Do not believe me out of respect. Test it for yourself.”

He made a claim, an empirical claim, and asked us to test it for ourselves. Choice! People. I’ve stressed it here more than a few times—older readers might even say too often!

We lost a great and troubled writer when David choose out of the “rat-race” by killing himself. What a shame! There was an alternative. And this alternative does not require faith in anything other than yourself.

You are your own protector. Who else will be that protector. And you are also your worse enemy. For you wish for happiness and yet run to suffering—to borrow from one of the greatest sages of all recorded time.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, watch the video below and read this and also this.

Now, you know what needs to be done. Go. Do it!


Stop the Glorification of Busy

Do you brush your teeth each day?

Do you shower each day?

Do you lunch nutritious food each day?

Do you spend 30 minutes each day in quiet reflection?

If not; why not!?

StopBusyNo

We are naturally concerned with our health but often overlook the degree to which our mental life impacts of our physical health and our normal day to day activities.

By taking just 30 minutes a day to sit quietly and watch your breath you may begin to reverse the years of the compulsion to be always doing something, anything.

Science has shown what contemplatives have known for over two millennia — meditation is vital to good holistic health.


The Digital Storyteller – Opening Scene

Recently I had a twitter conversation with the legendary film producer Ted Hope. This short conversation validated a few things I’ve been thinking about in relation to the digital space, it’s impact of filmmaking, and how I, as a filmmaker, can take advantage of the quickly changing landscape in order to get my stories out.

Enter the digital storyteller.

What is a digital storyteller?

A digital storyteller (as I define it) is someone who not only leverages the internet as a delivery service but, embraces the medium as a method of communication, and importantly, as a means of engaging their core audience.

Stories that don’t engage, fail. Storytellers that do the same are likely to fail too.

Parts of this methods are not new. Ed Burns, for instance, was the first writer/director to release a feature exclusively on digital with Purple Violets.

Burns has gone on to release Nice Boy Johnny, and Newly Weds both digital only.

This model is straightforward: Write. Shoot. Release digitally. Engage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GViJv2MZgX8

As an aside, I think Nice Boy Johnny is his best work. Do yourself a favor and go rent it in iTunes.

However, this is just the beginning of the digital storytelling revolution my friends.

Now, I want you to think about your favorite movie of all time, and I want you to remember what it was like when you first show it. How did it make you feel?

Now imagine being able to connect with the writer/director in a meaningful way.

Imagine an iPad or iPhone app that would allow you to get backstory of said movie. Backstory that was never intended to be seen on the larger screen but very much apart of the writers process. This could potentially be release as additional content for those who want to connect more deeply.

Moreover, imagine the various threads of a story went somewhere. Imagine one of these side story or event within your favorite movie became a new story delivered as a web-series!

Now you’re thinking…yeah great…more dribble to digest!

But what if this multi-platform storytelling approach could include educational elements? What if, a story of a dysfunctional family had meaningful content beyond the mere? Little Miss Sunshine. Nietzsche. Anyone?

Can you dig it! Can you dig it! (10 point for anyone who can tell me what movies that lines comes from (…think…late 70’s movie set in NYC).

Hmmm…let us think about this together. What could be of both interest and benefit to someone who wants to go beyond the 90 mintue story? How about the screenplay? What about the research notes on depression that one might write as a story develops?

What about an eBook for the iPad that follows the main thread of the movie but with embeds online resources, podcasts, and other such educational material like TED talks? So that as someone reads about character X and their fight against Y there is material that they can investigate at their own pace.

Ok, now we’re cookin!

See, the story presented in the 90 minutes of a movie are not where any story begins, nor ends.

As a digital storyteller we now have the scope to go deeper. To tell a story that both satisfies and educates.

This excites me as it allows us to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, benefit from this, and benefit others.

CAN YOU DIG IT!


A Life—A Journey

Today we have a lesson in history. Or perhaps I should say some personal history that contains a lesson. As I am naturally loquacious however I will give away the ending upfront just in case you miss it embedded in my rambling.

Ok, here it is: be true to yourself. I know, I know…it’s cliche to even point out that it’s a cliche. So, perhaps a smarter way of saying this is, know who you are, know what you do best, and then do that!

I have made this point previously—most recently in the article the impact positive childhood memories can have on adulthood. I wrote that article as we often focus on the impact of bad memories, and I wanted to suggest that it might in fact be more effective for personal transformation to focus on the good memories, or at least point out the profound impact good memories can have on us in ways that we do not always recognise.

But what does it mean to “know who you are, know what you do best and then do that?”

I will explain this via my own experience. So, a little of the backstory to kick us off.

As many of you know before my Buddhist journey I was studying improvisational music at the Victorian College of the Arts here in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, when I first met the man who was to become my mentor—the Tibetan lama Geshe Loden—I was in the planning phase of  a performance piece that would combine music, dance and moving images—this would have been June/July 1995. The work itself was to be an hour long live performance that told the story of the migration of a pod of whales (without there being images of whales as this would be too obvious, I recall thinking).

Although I was studying music at the time (now that I think about it), even back then I was interested in telling stories with an empathetic theme. For I also remember that the sounds of the whales (to be played by different wind instruments) were really a metaphor for the cry of suffering. I imagined those deep sounds that whales make represented the collective groan of all beings. This all sounds rather pretentious now but back in the day I thought it was quite interesting.

I still remember the idea behind the combination of music, dance and images was to immerse the audience in the storytelling as much as possible but to leave enough space for an individual audience member to think for themselves (are you seeing a theme here?). By having the music minimalist in tone and the dance slow and smooth I felt this was possible. Suffice it to say, it was never performed (however, some kind of multi-media live thing is still something I would like to do someday).

Then in the first six months of my arts degree that I left the VCA and found myself in my own immersive experience—Buddhism (the exact details surrounding how I went from the VCA to living in a Buddhist monastery are book length, not blog length…so I apologize for the jump-cut here). I slept, ate, and dreamt about it. I read everything I could get my hands on and wasn’t all that happy when my teacher—Geshe Loden—had me learning about computers, working, and pulling weeds from the garden rather than what I wanted to do, which was to study Buddhist philosophy and integrate what I had learnt with meditation. It went like this for the next 13 years—wanting to do one thing and being told to do another.

However by 2007, and because of my love of philosophy I thought it might be a good idea to get a job in a university teaching. I felt that I could combine my vocation with employment. While I won’t go into the details of how this all took place again, it’s book length, not blog length, I have found academic philosophy far too dry and by early 2011 I was totally spent, totally burnt out! I think this is in part due to the fact that I am not a natural academic, and the nature of post-grad work in Australia at this time.

To be sure, I love philosophy. I love the process of thinking deeply about a topic or issue and how this relates to life. Perhaps this is the key to the level of burnout occurring in the post-grad community? That is, because academic philosophy tends to be disconnected from a framework that allows for the integration of that knowledge into daily life it is only those that are inclined to a professional academic lifestyle that tend to make it through the programme (perhaps that is the way it should be?).

So, philosophy as a profession?…not for me.

However, it does not follow from this that academia has something inherently wrong with it. No! It was just wrong for me. Moreover, there is a need for people to go and get Ph.D’s and help others by writing academic books, doing research and so on. Just look at the wonderful things that someone like Prof. Robert Thurman has been able to accomplish from within the Academy! Truly wonderful. Inspiring. But it is not a place that works for everyone and I found this out only after giving it a shot. This last point is important so I will repeat it.

Finding out what comes natural is often a case of finding out what does not come naturally, and this will only become clear when you go out and experience life. I do not mean some kind of hedonistic voyage into the unknown; I mean from within the worldview of transforming your mind and helping others whenever possible—everything from simply being a good friend, through to helping homeless people—find out what works for you by trying different things. Go out and experience different things. If you always wanted to do something, what’s stopping you?

This is what I meant by, know who you are, know what you do best and then do that! Of course, my Ph.D is not completely dead, and I will continue to write about philosophy and leverage the research methods I have learnt over the past three or four years to ground the stuff I make into the future. Its just that getting a job in a university is not the best way forward for me. This is the lesson I learnt.

So as I sit here writing this today I feel like I have come full-circle back to where I was circa-1995. But with a great deal more knowledge than the silly young boy pretending to make “art” and thinking he was sooo important!

I will finish this article off with a question. If you could time-lapse your life what story would it tell?

A Life — A Journey

A Life — A Journey from Clarke Scott on Vimeo.

Make certain you use every moment of your life to benefit yourself and others. It might take out half a life time to know what it is that you should be doing. That’s fine. It’s all part of the process. But whatever happens, do not sit around thinking you should go and do something and yet not!

Find out what make you tick well, and do that . For there would be nothing more wonderful than to look back on your life and know that you have done everything you could to be of benefit to yourself and others. That’s a life well lived.


How Can I Make You Remember Me?

As a fan of the band Hammock and having recently purchased several albums I wanted to shoot something for one of their amazing soulful numbers. I chose, “How Can I Make You Remember Me?” from the album, “Chasing After Shadows…Living with Ghosts.” See here: hammockmusic.com/​chasing

 

The piece came about because I was heading into town (Melbourne, Australia) and had to take public transport for a meeting. So I took my 60d and a lens—my 50mm 1,4 just in case something came up.

 

As I took the train to the meeting I listening to Hammock on my iPhone, and shooting whatever looked interesting as I went. There was no time to stop and think about each shot—just point and shoot. I hope you like the results?

 

 

I was planning to make this a narrative piece. I wanted to write something as a V.O., (voice over) and create something entirely different than what it ended up being. This would basically make the music a soundtrack to my piece. Moreover, I think Hammocks music has a narrative feel and so then it accrued to me that if I were to add dialogue this might change the intended meaning of the song. Or at least place a particular narrative into the head of the viewer/listener. So I refrain…for now.


 

 


Film: Life’s Rudder

Lessons For Life

Much has been written on the subject of movies as todays moral compass ((By “morals” I do not mean right and wrong from a legal point of view…that would be the domain of ethics. Rather, I am talking about the do’s and dont’s that lead oneself and others to or away from genuine flourishing. )). So I will not bore you with my thoughts on the matter other than to say I agree.

As such, film is the medium by which many people learn life lessons.

Do you remember the scene from Apocalypto where the Mayan tribe gather around a camp-fire to listen to stories by an elder. The tribes people are having fun while listening—all the while learning about life. In a similar way, todays silver screen is yesterdays camp-fire! As such movies are todays fables. Film is therefore the medium through which we tell how to live a good life.

This is so for virtues such as courage, honesty, generosity can be found in movies. The benefits of being patient, of not taking yourself too seriously…yes, them too. Of love, friendship and loyalty. The stupidity of violence and so on, all of the things that go into the making of a good life are venerated in movies.

As an aside: this if true of film even more than Tv as often with TV we are not fully engaged. We go to the movies even if we watch them from the comfort of home. TV on the other hand can be something used to simply rest from a long day at work. Moreover, ad breaks, break the continuity of the narrative and as such distract the story-teller from his or her job. But this point is off-topic and so I will not expand on this idea here. I’m, sure you get my point though.

What I am trying to convince you of is the power of film as a rudder for life. Well maybe not the rudder but certainly some part of a ship that helps people navigate life. I like the idea of the rudder though because to some extent it is hidden. So just as a rudder helps guide the boat or ship without the captain being directly aware of it, movies have the potential to tell stories that guide people through life without us fully appreciating their function.

Overstating the Situation?

Now, someone might say, “what about the movie Transformers 3? What virtue is this movie teaching?” As I have not seen it I will withhold my opinion for now. But there’s no doubt, there are films made that have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. In fact, certain genres only serve to increase dysfunctional narrative or worse (but this reinforces my overall point, which I will come to shortly).

However, as an example of the positive impact a movie can have on people let us turn to a movie I just got done watching, Good Will Hunting. While, I am sure most of you have seen this wonderful movie, if you have not, do yourself a favour and go see it. It is a beautiful story!  For those that think this was a simple love story perhaps you should go back for a second look!

While there is the love story embedded in the narrative that is not the real story. The real story is human potential. But the movie does not stand up and shout this, it shows us in an engaging and entertaining way.

There are other lessons in there too. For instance, GWH is also about not allowing yourself to become a victim of circumstances, and we have all being victims of life at times. Yes?!

Moreover, it is a film that shows us the potential of overcoming problems by simply being honest with ourselves, looking within for a solution, and then putting the solution into practice. This is only hinted at in the movie, but it is there.

The relationship between Sean (Robin Williams) and Will (Matt Damon) is gold. This relationship shows the importance of friends. Of being there for people regardless of our own situation.

All beings want happiness and do not want suffering—even Hollywood agrees with us.

So now we have the claim: films can be containers of life lessons, and we have an example of such a film.

However there are some who believe that movies are not the best place to present stories of inner conflict. Robert McKee is one such person (although I am sure there are many more who feel the same).

So while it seems that everyone likes to rag on Robert McKee almost like a sport. I guess he is an easy target because he seems so sure of himself, and in fact appears to enjoy the position. So, even though there is some truth to be found in his theories there are certain McKee tenets that I believe are just plain false.

For instance, in his screenwriting “how-to” book Story and in his many seminars (you can see an example of his style in an hour long interview here) Mr. McKee stated that there are basically three kinds of mediums for story—screenplays (movies), play writing (theater) and prose (books). I will let him explain:

And the principal differences between the three of them is the level of conflict that interests the writer of each of them.  And so, you have stories—they all tell a story—but stories involve characters in conflict with their social or physical world, in personal relationships with friends, family, lovers, and an inner conflict within their own natures between themselves, their subconscious mind, their body, their emotions, and so forth.  The novelist tends to be interested in inner conflicts; characters in conflict with their own contradictory natures, their own contradictory desires, their emotions.  Playwrights tend to be more interested in personal relationships, of family, friends, lovers—because the theater is a form for dialogue, primarily.  And talk is the way in which people in personal relationships work those relationships out for better or worse, right?  And so the power and the beauty of the theater is personal conflicts.

The power and beauty in film is the extra personal conflicts of characters in conflict with their physical world and their social world.  And so while all three media can tell complex stories because you can work with inner conflict, certainly, in a film, you can work with personal conflict naturally in a film, and in a novel, you can do all three, in a play you can do all three. But the strength of each of them tends to be at one of those three levels.  And so, if you’re trying to make a career choice as to what kind of writer should I be, you really need to ask another question; which level of conflict in life really interests me the most?  And then you would presumably move into that medium.  But I know a lot of writers whose real interest is not at the level of conflict that the medium in which they are writing is strongest in.  And so a lot of independent filmmakers, for example, are really interested in inner conflict.  And so they should be writing novels and not trying to make films of people staring into space, coming to big decisions in their lives, or whatever, it would bore people.

Movies of people staring into space are boring. I agree. And it is true that some art films are more about the people in art than the art in people. But it is an oversimplification to claim that because films must have a social-physical locus in order for them to be presented on screen this somehow rules out of possibility the sub-text focusing on an internal conflict. Was Good Will hunting boring? Yet the story is all about Will overcoming his fear of abandonment so that he can get on with the rest of his life. Was GWH an example of people staring into space? I think not. It was engaging, dare I say it entertaining, and yet educational.

McKee reminds me of certain academics I have met that believe what they do because they have thought about a given topic a little (and sometimes not even that much!). Or how science claims to have found a “truth” in their latest research. Besides the fact that science as a arbitrator of truth goes against the very nature of the scientific method—the falsifiability principal—such claims are often politically and economically motivated and for this reason should be seen within that context. This approach allows for scientific theories to do good in the world without us getting all hung up on them being “truths” at all. Much better for all concerned, don’t you think?

So it should be with story telling. That is, McKee’s general claims about filmmaking notwithstanding, it is true, for a film to engage it must play out in a physical and social environment. People do not live in vacuums and so we must see internal conflict, somehow! Staring into space does not cut it. But that does not discount internal conflict from being the story of the story. Good Will hunting is an example of such a film. Don’t you think?

McKee is no dummy so I’m not sure why he believes that those interested in writing about inner conflict should stick to writing novels. It does not make sense to me.

Narrative Film From a Buddhist POV

Anyway…to the point of this article: given the degree to which films hold our imagination, not to mention their place in Western culture, it seems to be important to tell stories from a dharma point of view. Now, what I do not mean is to make movies that simply champion Buddhism. That, in my opinion, would potentially drive people away! Or at least drive away those that need it the most.

I think this is true because some people will not listen to the message of a film if it is wrapped in Buddhist culture. Some will think it religion. Some not there religion. And because of this it could not possibly have anything valid to say. Even the word meditation, for some, evokes feelings of austere lifestyles where fun equals sin. It’s true, people do think such things…sadly, some of these people are even Buddhists. Silly, right!

However, making films about ordinary people, doing ordinary things and trying to make a fist of life by overcoming obstacles (something we all suffer from…me included) is a worthwhile project to my mind.

What I am talking about here are films with solutions to life that draw on Buddhist ideas and thinkers. Buddhism has always had something to say about human suffering so why not in the movies? I mean, there is an audience sitting there waiting to be entertained so why not give em something they can use in their daily life’s as well. Why not?!

Of course, there will always be films about Buddhism—both narrative and documentary. That’s great. But do not be mistaken, the people who go to see such films are already open enough to do so. While this is fantastic what about people who are not interested in such things? Why can’t they share in Buddhist wisdom? All we would need to do is be less attached to the outer appearance of Buddhism and present it in a manner that speaks to them, not at them! This can be done. No doubt.

I hope you see the distinction I wish to draw—films about Buddhism vs. films about personal, inter-personal and social conflict addressed from the point of view of Buddhist ideas and thinkers.

To make it even clearer, rather than a film about a young man who goes off to become a Buddhist, or a film about Buddhist monks playing soccer, just imagine Morgan Freeman quoting freely from Shantideva to explain the importance of self-confidence to a young man with personal issues.

[scrippet]

EXT. CENTRAL PARK — DAY

Casually walking through central park, MORGAN a seventy-something ex-fireman and WILL a twenty-something wannabe are passed by morning joggers.

MORGAN
(calmly)

You are your own protector. Who else will be that protector!

 

MORGAN turns to SAM.

 

MORGAN cont…
(pointedly)

But you, SAM, are also you own worst enemy.

SAM

How bout them apples!

[/scrippet]

Truth is, films about Buddhism are already being made. There are even film festivals dedicated to films about Buddhism. However, and perhaps I am wrong about this but, in my opinion (and this is always subject to change) many of these movies reinforce the wrong conception that Buddhism is something “people from over there” believe in. Or that you have to be born into a certain culture to have any chance of  gaining realizations. This way of thinking is utter nonsense.

More pointedly, other than a good story what purpose does a movie about a Western tulku not wishing to follow in his Tibetan fathers lineage serve? It is an interesting story no doubt, and I’m sure it was fun for the filmmakers, but other than this, how does it help ordinary people realize their own potential? To my mind it does not.

Films about Buddhism are often really films about culture or tradition, not Buddhism.

Am I being too harsh? Perhaps!

But I do believe it is because of this, because Buddhism is often presented in cultural wrappings, that many Westerners are still confused about how to integrate these ideas into their lives. Some reject it because its too Tibetan, or too Asian, or too religious, or too whatever. While others embrace it thinking that to be Buddhist is to wear some special piece of clothing or chant stuff in a foreign language. I ask you: what do clothes, hair styles, or singing stuff you do not understand have anything to do with transforming your mind?

To be fair, there was no other way to present Buddhism at first. But this is no longer the case. It is therefore up to us to carefully explicate Buddhist ideas and present them to a western audience in a manner that they can relate to without having to adopt someone else’s culture. This is not a new idea. And it is certainly not mine. Lama Yeshe, an extraordinary Tibetan teacher said as early as the mid 1970’s, Tibetan culture is not Buddhism. Buddhism is embedded in its culture, no doubt, and it has wonderful things that we Westerners could do with, but it is not Buddhism. Because of this fact it is absolutely possible to take the seeds of Buddhist thought and plant them in Western soil.

This is a delicate point to be sure—the meaning and function of culture, tradition, Buddhism, and how they interact is not an easy subject to grasp. It is perhaps a topic for another article.

Action Plan

In the tradition of placing an idea out into the world and seeing if it grows organically, here are some thoughts:

Actually before I do let me add some prefatory remarks: Yes, movies are difficult things to have made. Yet it is not totally impossible. And if you are like me and think that helping others see their own potential is important then why not make movies about this? After all, there are movies made about all kinds of useless rubbish. So why not make movies that help people rather than grind against the idea?

Moreover, if you believe something is possible, have the right people around you and necessary support, even big ideas such as these can happen.

One idea would be to form some kind of network group (writers, directors, producers, actors, etc.) to help produce mainstream films that are down to earth solutions to human problems from a Buddhist POV.

These movies would be focused on solutions to real-world human problems of ordinary people—not the promotion of a particular lifestyle. And this can be, nay, should be done without thinking we are somehow special. The Bodhisattvas of the past and the ones out in the world today do not think they are special. They just go about helping people overcome problems in various ways. Helping those in front of them by whatever means they can find to do so.

Using film as a platform to help others therefore appears useful, highly effective, possible, and worth working your butt off for. Don’t you think?

How do we make this happen? I have no clue! But perhaps someone, somewhere, does.



Video: Dysfunction and Meditation

For those of you who could not make the recent meditation conference in Melbourne (Australia), or asked to hear the presentation again, here is a shortened version of the talk recorded recently. I must apologize for the quality of the audio at the beginning. But it does come good about 2 minutes in.

You may also like to know that the content in the video is being developed into course material for future retreats. Retreats that will include (1) foundational theory that will give participants an understanding of traditional Buddhist psychology and epistemology recast into modern secular language. (2) Practical applications of said theory, in order to begin recognising patterns of dysfunction. And (3) meditation, (as outlined in the video) as a means of refining one’s attentional skills so as to better serve (1) and (2), as well as begin to cut through the cognitive hyperactivity that reifies the mere-I.

Now, someone might ask, why do others and indeed myself not put this into practice? Why is it that we continue to do the things we do? “I mean, I know that I should not (insert your own problem here) but, I just can’t seem to stop”, I hear you say. The answer is, in fact, quite simple. The answer is that we do not see the psychological connections between our actions, attachment-narrative or anger-narrative, and the mental imbalance out of which these stories arise.

Now, in Buddhist psychology we list six main types of mental factors that afflict the mind—attachment, anger, pride (the bad kind) and so on. These six are said to be the main source of life’s problems. Yet, when these afflictions arise, they do so within a narrative, not in isolation. Tiger Woods, for instance, probably believed that he was going to find some kind of lasting happiness, all the while knowing that he was harming himself and his family. When attachment came calling it did so embedded in an elaborate ruse. Just like Descartes’ “evil demon”, Tiger was deceived by his attachment-stories.

If we can begin to tease out these patterns of dysfunction, we can begin to isolate the various mental imbalances from which they arise. We can begin to draw connections between how we act, the stories we’re told, and the underlying causes.

Therefore, a combination of theory (learning the meanings and definitions of various psychological imbalances), practical application (how to recognise patterns of dysfunction) and mental training in order to refine introspective skills, if done properly, is what will allow for a paradigm shift in one life.

The following notice is in response to several requests I have had from readers.
For those in the U.S and Europe: the possibility of retreats in your country is currently being looked into. Whether or not these retreats go ahead, however, is largely dependent on finding enough time and people interested in making it happen. And therefore, if you or your organisation would like to host a retreat please contact me directly for details. Also, please note that no dates or venues have been set at this time.

If you cannot see the video, click here: http://vimeo.com/14373748