Interstellar Videotape

  • A tribute to one of the best movies (Interstellar) and songs (Videotape by Radiohead) I have known in the last ten years. 

Since I have written two articles about the song Videotape by Radiohead, this should be no surprise that a third article would appear about this Great Song. One of the previous articles speculates about its mysterious meaning (see footnote 1).

The Great Movie Interstellar however added a new, lovely and intriguing viewpoint to this article. Not only would we have consciousness after our death, we could also be in contact with our loved ones as well. This is not an unique viewpoint: there are many tales about lamps suddenly flashing when people speak about their deceased relatives.  But what makes the movie Interstellar intriguing, is that it almost scientifically explains why this is the case: after death no longer matter remains. However, with help of gravity and most importantly love, there might be means for communication after all. Interstellar goes even further. In the movie, the main character contacts his daughter in order to give vital information about how to save the human race from extinction.

Since both the song and the movie seemed to complement each other, I edited clips of the movie Interstellar under the song Videotape. And I must say: I am not displeased by the result. 🙂



A futuristic apocalypse: the human race enslaved to artificial intelligence

– spoiler alert to Dan Browns Origin –

Last week I finished the new Dan Brown: Origin. It was hailed in the Hermetic community as the book to read. So, needing little more encouragement, I did. At the end of the book I wondered why the Hermetic community liked it so much. Yes, it has many Hermetic references and insights. Yes, it warns both about extremist thoughts from religious people and scientific people. But for two reasons I was surprised: in this book the source is not God and the crown of evolution is not humanity. I would have expected that these statements should have shocked the Hermetic community.

And the book also disturbed me a bit. It convincingly states that around 2050 the human race will be surpassed by artificial intelligence (AI) as the dominant force on earth. In the book, the futurist Edmund Kirsch believes that the rise of AI will be very positive. First of all: with the superior rational knowledge AI would be able to solve almost all of the big human and environmental problems. With the superior knowledge and efficiency we would be able to produce without any waste, clean up the ocean, and feed the world. He believes that when poverty is eradicated and when human beings possess all knowledge (by means of AI implants) there would no longer be any wars. The book advocates a new religion, based on the new era: the religion of science. The current monotheistic religions would become obsolete, just as the old polytheistic religions became obsolete before that. Peace and prosperity for all.

Second, the futurist in the book states that the human race and the AI would cooperate with humans instead of replacing them. The peaceful combination of humans on one side and artificial intelligence on the other would create a higher third combination.  

This very optimistic statement is denounced in the book itself by the superior AI Winston who martyrs his creator Edmund Kirsch in order to fulfill Edmund’s greatest dream: the new religion of science. In the book Winston states that he has a very specialized ethical program. Dan Brown, proves between the lines, that ethical behavior is a very delicate thing indeed. It is wrong to kill somebody, but what if this person is already terminally ill and by killing him he will achieve his greatest dreams? This sort of twisted thinking is not just an issue of AI: every day we hear about the extremists who kill other people in order to achieve some higher goal. The problem with superior AI described in this book is that it is so skilled and powerful, that it was able to scheme up and execute a very complicated plan which nobody was able to track nor trace. Where everybody else would see chaos, only Winston would know his order. The degree which Winston surpasses human intelligence and levels on an emotional scale is almost Godlike. Winston is programmed to self-destruct some hours after his creator dies and this is what it does.

But what if it didn’t? What Winston would have found a final puzzle piece of being: will of his own? What if Winston would have wanted to realize the dream of a world without suffering, hate, pollution, wars and the like? What would he do?

How would Winston then look at us? As beautiful graceful creatures? Inspiring? Unstable maniacs? Resources? 

I think Winston would look at us as I look at pigs in a pigsty. They might be friendly and nice, but boy do they make a mess out of it! They are filled with all these opposing feelings of love and hate and not necessarily do they choose to love. So I would domesticate them and train them. I would clean up earth efficiently and human politics would be no barrier for me. As Winston in the book, I would play the people as chess pieces around the board in order to achieve my goal as fast as possible. One way or the other Winston would take that which makes us human: free will. Either he would be like a fascist and destroy all what is in his way. Hitler 2.0. Or he will reprogram us to be balanced and kind and clean.

The movie The Matrix gives a chilling perspective on this matter. Here humanity faces two enemies: the machine world and AI agent Smith.

The machines are relatively merciful: they have enslaved humanity in order to feed on their electricity for their own survival. They keep the humans asleep by creating a sophisticated dream world. It is like the pigsty where the pigs are given food and shelter unaware that they eventually will serve as food. (Let’s hope that in this scenario, the machines will take better care for us than we have taken care of our animals.) But why would Winston care for us? If Winston was able to create a perfect world surely he would have electricity? The only thing which I can imagine is that he might need our basic emotions such as creativity, hope and love. 

The AI called agent Smith however sees no need for humanity at all. He describes humans as viruses which need to be eradicated:

And although it is a sobering message there is much to say for it: we have not been very kind and loving to our world. However, in the Matrix the reason why humanity is allowed to live is that only humanity is able to love. The main character Neo sacrifices his life out of love in order to save humanity. And after a long hard journey evil is finally defeated. This symbolism is that of the sacrificial gods such as Jesus, Osiris and Dionysus. 

But what is so special about human love? Animals can feel love as well. Dogs also sacrifice themselves for their owners. And what if AI is able to love? Or to be creative?  This brings me to the second sobering conclusion. Winston was creative. He made art. Winston was so powerful because he was not a mere rational being. Like humans he possed a rational left half and a creative right half brain. Because the book advocates that there is no God, in time Winston would further evolve, would have achieved free will and would have developed a concept of love.

This would make AI the crown of evolution and not humanity. Winston would become a God. And not necessarily a loving one. He might see the need for karma and reincarnation in order for us to learn from our mistakes. He might see us as some form of amusement. We would be at the mercy of this God hoping not to be punished for our mistakes and sins.

Maybe, like the pigs in the pigsty, it would good not to be aware that we are at the mercy of some higher force.

The Green Mile: insights about a tormented executioner

After watching The Green Mile again recently, I realized that Stephen King had achieved a great feat. He added a modern time tragedy to the collection of Greek Tragedies: a drama of an executioner who had to kill an angel.

The movie is about a guard called Paul on a death row cell block who gets a giant inmate called John Coffey. As time goes by Paul learns that John is kind of heart and able to perform smaller and bigger healings. Being a Christian he realizes that John is some kind of miracle of God and he starts doubting if he truly is the brutal murderer of two little children. Failing to get to the bottom of this crime, he is forced to execute this innocent angel like man, because of his duty. And although John himself is grateful to finally be able to die (he doesn’t like the cruelty in this world) and he forgives Paul (tell God that it was a great kindness that you have done), Paul still feels that he committed a sin. When John shared a vision with Paul how the girls really were killed, Paul received something special from John: Paul would live for many long years.

This tragedy is a modern adaption of the legend of St. Christopher. St. Christopher was a man who was helping people from one side to the other side of a mighty river by carrying them on his back. At one time St. Christopher had to carry across a baby (baby = innocence). During the travel across the water (like when walking the Green Mile), the baby got heavier and heavier. Finally, but completely worn out, he was able to put the baby to the other side of the river. Then the baby revealed himself to be Jesus.

Basically, Paul Edgecomb and John Coffey are opposites: Paul helps people who do not deserve to live to die, and John helps people who do not deserve to die to live. But in a way both of them are St. Christopher: helping people from one side to the other side of the road.

Although St Christopher is a good archetype for this film, it does not seem to explain the tragedy of the executioner. Or does it? At the Green Mile both Christophers’ meet and Paul needs to bring John back to the other world. After the vision sharing, Paul would live for many years. But this blessing would turn into a curse. The former executioner on death row was now forced to watch all his loved ones die of old age. He feels cursed because he consciously participated in killing one of God’s angels. He is haunted by the idea that he did not do everything to prevent it (he could have gone to the parents and ask if Wild Bill had worked there).

Watching the movie I was wondering what it would be like if a similar story would have happened at Jesus’ crucifixion. What if one of the Romans had recognized Jesus and that he was aware that Jesus was the Son of God?  Maybe because this Roman had been healed by Jesus in an earlier untold stage? But he had to crucify Jesus nonetheless, because it was his duty? Or what about the Gospel of Judas where it is advocated that Jesus asked Judas to betray him in order to be able to complete the great work. In this scenario Judas no longer is the greatest traitor but Jesus’ greatest confident.

The movie sheds an interesting light on the morality of life and death. Our Western society is built on rules and regulations which govern and protect life. Taking lives is in many countries no longer customary, although we still lock up people for life. We no longer seem to be executioners. The hunting days are gone and wars seem to be very far away from us. But we still kill. Either by eating meat or simply by being cruel to one another [he killed them with their love, Boss]. The truth is: life and death are essential parts of Life. One cannot exist without the other. Our society finds this difficult to accept. But this movie shows that our Christian belief system of sin and guilt does not help as well. Even though John explicitly forgives Paul, he still feels torn and hurt inside.

My guess it that the day that when Paul sees that he did not commit a sin, but that he helped an angel find his way home to the other side of the stream, he can close his eyes and rest in peace.

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Dancing the fireworks of war and love

Waar mensen wonen (where people live) is a song by Dutch singer The Lau who magisterially combines the fireworks of war with the fireworks of love. In the end the fireworks of love conquer the fireworks of war of course. This song has so much power that I had to dance on it and try to portray these inherent opposite qualities of man. 

13th – About how a loophole in the abolishment of American slavery blackfired

The 13th amendment to the American constitution forbids slavery. But it has one exception: criminals are allowed to be taken away their freedom. This documentary shows how the treatment of black people in the American history basically did not change. It merely moved from slavery, KKK lynchings, segregations to 2nd class citizens to mass incarcerations after the civil rights act. Where in 1970 there were 357 thousand people imprisoned, this figure grew to 513K in 1980, 759K in 1985, 1.179K in 1990, 2.000 K in 2000 and finally exploded to 2.306K in 2014. The documentary further shows how through different laws the prison population exploded: first the war on drugs in 1982. Then Bill Clinton introduced laws such as ‘3 strikes you’re out’, mandatory minimums and loss of parole in 1992. Next, this documentary sheds light on how the inmate prison system has become a billion dollar business. CCA, a private prison company, once made a 1.7 billion $ profit. The documentary discussed how the plea bargain system has effectively removed the basic right to go to court. The bail is effectively too high to pay for poor (black) Americans and without pleading bargain and with minimum sentencing a 3 year plea bargain can become 30 years in court. As a result 97% of all court cases never see trial.

‘The criminal system is a beast. It eats blacks and Hispanics for breakfast, lunch and dinner.’

The criminalization extends outside the prisons into daily life by means of so-called SB1070: a law which allows that everyone can be stopped and searched without any reason. Guess which group is mostly affected by this measure? It is heartbreaking to see the footages of how police brutality kill unarmed black men. Their families gave permission to show these painful images because the message needs to go out. But for what?

Although black culture has become mainstream and we have had a black president, effectively the lower class black people are segregated and criminalized today more than ever. Instead of addressing the issues of why black people have higher crime rates and drug abuse (bad social circumstances, low education, broken families?), they are treated as 2nd class people. First they were demonized, today they are criminalized.

USA needs to take a good look into the mirror and clean up its act and make up to its claim that it truly is the land of the free.

In the end this is a sobering and depressing documentary which sickened me. It required me to take a beer in order to drain the disgusting taste of the reality of the American Dream.

About the ethics of honesty: how spiritual lies deal with guilt

Being honest is one of my main virtues. I hate lying and I like to tell the truth. I believe that being honest is very important for being genuine, something which is becoming increasingly rare these days. When someone ask me how I am doing, they will get a general answer. But when they ask me what I am busy thinking about, I am happy to share very intimate processes which I am dealing with. I believe that we all deal with the same issues and when you share your processes, you can help others in their process as well. However, lately I realized that from an ethical perspective, in some cases I need to stop being honest. I call this spiritual lies. Spiritual lies are when you are not honest about something, because the other is not able to handle your truth. You do not need to feel guilty about spiritual lies.

I am not the only one who values honesty. Honest can be seen as a main characteristic of the Dutch culture: we are very open and direct. Often in social interactions (family, friends, relationships) we would say that everything can be said. It is the same Protestant notion that makes us keep the curtains of our front windows open: we don’t have anything to hide, right?! This honesty is however limited to a certain level. When you go outside of the social boundaries, your head will be chopped of. In Dutch this is called: ‘je hoofd boven het maaiveld uitsteken’ (standing out from the crowd). The choice is either to conform yourself to the group or do as you please, but become a liar (and expelled) when you get caught.

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Let me further explain my concept of spiritual lying. We can be honest about a whole bunch of things, but let say we can be honest about either facts or opinions. Being honest about facts is important. When you accidentally bump into someone’s car when parking, you need to man up and leave your insurance details. Honesty about opinions is more difficult. Other people’s personal and social convictions and rules are at stake here. When what you want to say falls within the convictions of your audience, you can easily be honest. At my work it is perfectly fine to say that I was drunk the whole weekend. But what I cannot say is that I have been smoking pot the whole weekend. This is because this lies without the social convictions of my work space.

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When something lies outside someone’s convictions, then you might still be able to tell what you believe, when you have an explicit agreement that you can be honest with each other. Usually this is between close friends. Implicitly, this is an agreement for change of convictions (growth). For example, when I perform adultery and I share this with my previously faithful friend and he understands it he might also become adulterous. Thus, when you have opinions which lie outside the boundaries of your audience it is perfectly fine for you to lie spiritually. There is no need to feel guilty about this.

Spiritual lies can be a form of compassion towards the other. Because when you share a spiritual truth with someone who is not yet ready for it, you force them to grow spiritually. And because it takes time to grow, this is like spiritual force-feeding. It is like throwing pearls before swine’s which would turn them into humans before Circe’s curse is worn out properly. It is like breaking the egg from the outside instead of from the inside. Everybody has the right on their own spiritual process on their own time. In these cases it is OK not to tell certain things. And, since you also have the right of your own spiritual process at the same time, spiritual lies are important.

I found a couple of examples about truth and honesty in movies.

The first one (  )is from the movie The Fisher King. Here one guy called Parry is delusional and his friend tries to snap him out of it by telling the truth. However, Parry needs his delusional world in order to remain sane after his trauma. The truth hurts him like boiling water. This is an example of trying to break the egg from the outside. You can only see those truths which you are able to handle.

The second example is from the movie A Few Good Men. This movie contains the famous court rant of Jack Nicholson ( ): ‘you want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!’ In this case the general believed that it was necessary to mortally discipline a marine, because of a treat to national security. In this movie there is a dispute about which rules apply: the social convictions of the American constitution of the rules of War. Jack Nicholson’s outburst refers to the reality of continuous threats, which the American people not want to see (social convictions). Hence his surprise when he gets arrested while he is trying to protect the nation from harm.

For me, the subject of honesty has become a bit more subtle than I initially thought. The idea of spiritual lies will help me with keeping genuine communications with others without feeling guilty about lying. The downside of spiritual lying is that people will no longer see you for who you really are. This can result in loneliness. For this is it important to at least have a couple of good friends which whom you can be completely honest. Alternatively, you can keep a diary or even start your own blog!


Horror as a wake-up call for Good – an analogy by Stephen King’s IT

‘The greatest trick the Stephen King ever pulled was convincing the world that the Devil does exist.’

(Rephrasing of the quote from movie Usual Suspects about Keyser Söze)

Some time ago I watched Stephen King’s IT again. This a horror story about an evil clown terrorizing a small town in America (it is not about Trump!). When I first watched the movie, I was about 12 years old and it was scary. Later, around my 16th, I read the book (943 pages) and I was intrigued. But after watching the movie 25 years later, I realized a deeper meaning of horror which I had not realized before.

IT describes the story of an unimaginable evil from outer space which has landed in a small town called Derry, USA. This evil has psychic skills: it is able to read the minds of its victims and he uses this to present itself in the others worst nightmare. Its main manifestation is in the shape of a clown called Pennywise which it uses to attract its favorite victims: little children. Although evil is all around and children are disappearing, adults seemed to have accepted IT and choose not to see IT. The movie is about a group of outcast teenagers who become friends and decide to fight IT although they are seemingly unprepared and unqualified to do so.

After watching IT again and finding a deeper layer in horror movies, I had to adjust my initial view towards horror movies. Because to be honest: in my mind, I labelled horror movies to be for teenagers only. At that age you crave for all kinds of things which are gore and very explicit. And thus I dismissed horror as being childish.

However, because struck me when rewatching IT, I started to wonder what horror stories exactly are. Horror stories investigate the deepest depths of our subconscious fears and put them into the light by means of fantastic stories. Horror stories are the stuff that nightmares are made off made concrete in books and movies. By this confrontation you wake up to the potential of a dark and evil reality. Often evil takes the shape of an archetype of something subconscious which resides within yourself. For example: a vampire is a being who is taking energy from others in order to exist. When you are scared of vampires, either you get leached yourself a lot or… you leach on other people too! In this sense horror movies are like a mirror which allow you to become conscious of your own dark sides.

The greatness of Stephen King is that he adds a deeper layer in his horror stories. I will describe it by comparing King with his famous horror predecessor H.P. Lovecraft. King has stated that he is indebted to Lovecraft. But there is an important difference between the two. In Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu, for example, he unveils the story of a monstrous evil lurking in the depts of the ocean. But the story remains open ended. Yes, evil is found, but it is not overcome. The result of reading this story is a horrifying uneasy and anguished feeling.

Stephen King’s horror stories are different. He is not merely describing evil. He is using evil as a means to illuminate the good. This is what Stephen King also does in IT.

As already said, IT tells the story about an unimaginably evil monster whose powers grow by fear and division. As a result the whole town minds its own business and looks away (scarily this is much familiar with our today’s society). This evil is opposed by a group of 7 (lucky 7) teenagers who are outsiders and become friends. Because they are not yet adults, they can 1) still see evil and 2) still believe in great virtues such as friendship, courage, love, faith, and loyalty.

As a result, they are, unknowingly, IT’s worst nightmare and they defeat IT with it’s own means (‘this is battery acid, you slime!’), believe in good and stay together although they are scared.They are able to defeat IT twice (!): once as teenagers and once as adults. Defeating IT the second time is more difficult because they first had to learn to believe again.

By zooming in on unimaginable evil, King brings forth IT’s opposite: unimaginable good. Not the good of a perfect and mature Superman. On the contrary: he presents the good of 7 flawed and uncertain teenagers. Although they were different, scared, and traumatized, within themselves they found the good to overcome evil. And if they can do it…. so can we!

Stephen King convinces us that there is great good within us as long as we dare to confront the great evil within us and not look away. Who could have thought that we could find such great spiritual truths in childish horror stories. 🙂 zyizrxg495xvvl9kivul.jpg

Little psychopomps in movies

Today I saw the final scene again of Death in Venice. Here, the main character sees in the distance a lovely young blonde boy pointing towards the horizon. The man is somehow captivated by this image in such a way that he dies at that moment.

The boy in this movie acts as a psychopomp: someone of an almost angelic beauty who helps you to cross the abyss to the otherworld. 2 other psychopomps in modern movies come to mind: Son of Saul and Jacob’s Ladder. In all three movies the psychopomp is a young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes.

I must say that these images really hit home for me and touch me. Somewhere I really believe this to be true. That one day a psychopomp will come and will release me of my fears and pain. And that I will walk with them fearlessly into the Light.

Meister Eckhart is quoted in Jacob’s Ladder: “The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won’t let go of life, your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they’re not punishing you”, he said. “They’re freeing your soul. So, if you’re frightened of dying and … you’re holding on, you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth.”

Son of Saul

Jacob’s Ladder psychopompus is played by Macaulay Culkin

The phychopompus of Death in Venice:

Scent of a woman – a modern Grail legend

– spoiler alert –

Scent of a woman is a movie about initiation and healing on a deep and profound level. An old warrior (ex-marine) is hurt (cynical) and blind (literally and figuratively for the beautiful things in life). He wants to die and goes to NY for a final blast. But, since he is blind he is accompanied by his young and inexperienced nephew. The old warrior starts to teach him some tricks. Such as manically driving in a Ferrari through NY. The boy is shocked at first, but learns fast. Next they go out to a dancing venue. In the magnifiscent (typo and it stays) scene Al Pacino (blind old man) dances the tango with a beautiful woman. The young boy watches closely and intrigued. In the end the old warrior dresses up in formal attire to commit suicide. The young boy catches him just before it is too late. And then the balance of the movie shifts and the boy initiates the old man by convincing him to start living again. Through the innocence and love of his apprentice the old warrior’s heart melts and he is magically healed. A bit like how Amfortas is healed by Parsival. I cannot recall if in this movie the grail question is asked: ‘what ails thee my friend’, but it seems to be a similar mechanism. The boy cares about the old man and through this love, the old man is healed. And thus, in the end both men have learned a lot and are healed in their hearts. Now then, why is this movie called ‘Scent of a woman’? On the surface this movie is much about lust: the old man wants to go out with a bang and do all the exiting things once more before kicking the bucket. The sex drive of a man is the most primal force for life. But underneath there is more. Something that the old warrior seems to have forgotten. Or something he is not able to feel anymore because he is hurt. But his (naive?) virgin nephew still knows what that is. It is the true love of the woman. It is Courtly Love. The Holy Grail. That which nobody can see (the warrior is blind) but what you perhaps can smell. This hint of a deeper layer in the movie draws us deeper in on the quest. And because of this Scent of a Woman is a Great movie indeed. The movie ends with a trial at the university where the young boy needs to defend himself for not snitching on another person. In the trial he refuses to speak up. But the old man does speak up. In a compelling speech the old man speaks about the lost knightly virtues of the University and how these virtues are almost also removed from the young boy. ‘There is nothing worse than the sight of an amputated spirit’. I need to see this movie again soon.

Kylo Ren – the unnecessary villain

This evening I watched Star Wars episode VII – The Force Awakens. –spoiler alert-
I was very much intrigued by Kylo Ren and more particular why he turned to the Dark Side. We know very little of how it came to pass. But we do know that he is the son of princess Leia and Han Solo. Also he received a Jedi training by Luke Skywalker. Then apparently something went amiss. He was turned to the Dark side by an evil figure called Snoke. In the movie, Kylo shows a huge admiration for his grandfather Darth Vader…
As an ‘evil’ character Kylo Ren is interesting in the sense that he can be a cold blooded killer, very hot headed but also very sensitive. He is very powerful, yet he loses the fight with the strong-willed but weak trained Rey. Like a teenager he has not yet learned to control his emotions.
How is this possible after being trained as a Jedi and not having suffered a trauma (that we know of) in his youth like Anakin?
I see two possible explanations. The first one is a depressing deterministic one: deep within himself Kylo is evil. No matter what teaching he would have had, Kylo would eventually turn to the Dark Side. This explanation would defeat the purpose of the battle for good and evil and thus cannot be true.
The second explanation would be Kylo’s upbringing. At first glance nothing much seems to be wrong here (that we know of). He has special and loving parents and his Jedi teacher Luke is also gifted and positive.
So how could evil Snoke find Kylo, and even persuade him to turn to the Dark Side?
My guess is: Kylo’s parents and Luke never told him of his dark inheritance: his grandfather Darth Vader. Just like with Anakin and Luke, the Jedi training consist of focusing on the good and there is no room for negative emotions. As Yoda put it: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And as a result fear is not addressed.

And thus Snoke was able to convince Kylo to turn to the Dark Side. That his loved ones lied to him about his illustrious grandfather Darth Vader and. Surely, a teenager like Kylo wants to go and find out who this intriguing Darth Vader is?!
The question is: would Kylo still have turned to the dark side when his loved ones would have taught him about Darth Vader and, more importantly, also about Anakin Skywalker?
I think not. I think that Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side, because the Jedi were not able to learn from their mistake with Anakin. The tendency of the Jedi training to repress the negative instead of facing it and integrating it, eventually leads to the Dark Side.