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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW5u4cCsNUY )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 ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtpOtFIEkbs ): ‘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!
‘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. 🙂
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:
– 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.
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.
This weekend I have been watching the Star Wars trilogy 1-3. Part 3 ‘ Revenge of the Sith’ describes how Anakin became Darth Vader in a very interesting way. Before accepting Anakin for the Jedi training, Yoda raises his doubts about the boy. He was passionate and had fear in him. The movie gives the impression that the dark side was always present in Anakin. And as a result he was unstable and not suitable to handle the powers of a Jedi and he had to turn the dark side. Obi Wan has always believed he was the one who would restore balance in the force, but Yoda thinks that perhaps the prophecy was interpreted incorrectly. But perhaps, the tragedy of Anakin says more about Yoda and his school than about Anakin himself. Anakin was trained by Jedi’s for at least ten years, but they were not able to teach him how to deal with his emotions and passions. And this is where the confusion comes in. The passions and the emotions are seen by the Jedi as the path to the dark side. Mental stability and wisdom is seen as the door to force. In their final fight between Obi Wan and Anakin, Obi Wan says to Anakin: ‘only a Sith dealt in absolutes!’. This is not dark per se, this is passion. Obi Wan’s limitation is that he is not able to be passionate back and counteract the argument. This Anakin would be able to understand and then he would be able to change. But all the wise Jedi teachings do not address the multitude of feelings which Anakin had to face within himself. And this is the core of the issue: it is because of the absolute identification of passion as the path to the dark side by the Jedi, that Anakin’s training is incomplete. Anakin did not become Darth Vader overnight. Lord Sidious had a huge challenge to convince Anakin to the dark side. It was only because of Anakin’s love for Padme and the trauma of losing his mother that he finally chose for the dark side. When he would have had better training by Yoda, he would have been able to accept the inevitable loss of a loved one. After watching the movie, I feel much more compassionate about Anakin. He was the one who was daring to accept his emotions, not push them away and wanting to be human. If the Yoda would have been able to integrate passion in the Jedi teachings, Anakin surely would have been able to bring balance to the force.
‘you do not fear death. you think it makes you strong, but it makes you weak. how can you fight longer than possible without the most powerful thing on earth: the fear of death. make the climb as the child did. without the rope. then fear will find you again.’
a man needs to acknowlegde his pain and contain it. only then he can use his pain to climb out of the pit. the pit of self pity.
Yesterday I watched Faust the 1926 brilliant classic by W. Murnau.
Faust is the story of a wager between the devil and Archangel Michael that in the end Man is incorruptible. If the devil is able to corrupt the soul of a genius called Faust, the world will be his. So, in the town where Faust lives, the devil starts a huge plague epidemic. Faust, with all his knowledge and faith is unable to find a cure and desperately he turns to the devil for support. He signs a contract to sell his soul with his own blood. However, after having all the powers in the world, people do not accept his healing powers, because they come from the devil and not from God. Faust is disillusioned and wants to die, but the devil seduces him to give him his youth again. Full of youthful energy Faust goes on a bounty hunt to taste all pleasures in life. Eventually, this does not fulfil him and he longs for home (Heimat). At the Easter feast he meets Gretchen on her way to the church for a mass and he falls madly in love with her. He asks the Devil to make Gretchen love him as well. After magically courting her, Faust ends up in her room where they make love. But the devil warns both her mother and brother. Her mother finds the two lovers in an embrace, has a faint and dies. Her brother duels with Faust and the devil stabs him to death. Faust and the devil flee and leave Gretchen alone to her misery. She is sentenced to the pillory and a great shame befalls her. Nine months later, on a winter Christmas day, she delivers the child of Faust in an abandoned open stable. She is poor and nobody will help her. Finally, in a fantasy she sees a warm cradle for the baby to sleep in. In reality however, she buries the child in the snow. When she is found, she is prosecuted for the murder of het baby and sentenced to burn on the stake. Gretchen shrieks out a cry, so powerful that Faust hears it many lands far away. He orders the devil to take him to Gretchen and to prevent her death. The devil brings him, but is unwilling to prevent her death. When Faust sees his youthful stupidity, he wishes to be old and wise again. Gladly the devil returns Faust to his old self. Faust runs up to Gretchen to ask forgiveness, but she does not recognize this old man. When Gretchen is set on the stake and set on fire, Faust runs after her and joins her on the stake. He is an old man, but Gretchen recognizes in the eyes of Faust his younger self. Whilst burning they embrace and kiss. Their sins are absolved by love and together they ascend to heaven. In the end scene, the devil goes to Michael with Faust’s signed contract and he demands the world. Michael rejects the contract, however. There is one thing which absolves all contracts in the world and this is: Love.