Daily Archives: November 1, 2011

Have you ever wanted to strangle someone…no? Well read this and get back to me. Remind me again why I slave 40 hours a week to have to be careful about what I buy at the grocery store?

International Liberty

I am automatically suspicious of the veracity of anything I see online, so I don’t necessarily believe this is a real receipt.

But it could be, and that’s what’s disturbing. There are very few restrictions on the use of food stamps, so there’s nothing to stop a recipient from buying porterhouse steaks and lobster.

So what should be done about this type of scam?

Well, I’ve already posted about the growing burden of food stamp dependency.

And I’ve posted about fast food restaurants trying to sign up for the program and the Obama Administration’s crazy policy of bribing states to create more food stamp dependency.

But what got me most upset was the story about college kids mooching off the program.

I remember selling my plasma twice a week while in college, and the $15 I received was enough to buy food for seven days. So…

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Day of the Dead Extra Movie: The Fountain

“Will you deliver Spain from bondage?”
“I’m trying…I don’t know how”
“You do…you will.”

After a month of movies that wallow in the fear of death I thought it best to close this out with:

“Let us finish it” are the first words of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” possibly one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. (Although Aronofsky is himself an idiot and rather despicable person.)

Spoilers Ahead. Actually forget about Spoilers. Go watch the movie. You will have no clue what I’m talking about if you don’t see the movie. Some of you might not understand the movie either, but you should have a chance to form your own opinions before reading mine.

In case you didn’t take my advice…For those not familiar with the move there are three intertwining story lines throughout the movie. The first is of a Spanish Conquistador named Tomas on a mission for Queen Isabel to find a mythical Tree of Life in the jungles of the New World around the year 1500. The 2nd story is of Tommy, a doctor desperate to find a cure for the brain cancer killing his wife, Isabel, in the modern world, and nearly succeeds by taking a clipping from an old growth tree found in South America. The final is the story of Thomas, a man travelling in a spaceship with a tree whose bark extends his life, perhaps providing immortality, toward a star that is about to go nova in the hopes that the nova will provide the energy necessary to keep the tree alive. The three stories are intertwined. Thomas is clearly Tommy hundreds of years later, having found the secret of immortality, but not in time to save his wife. The relationship between these two stories and that of the conquistador is a little more murky, this story is either the book that Isabel was writing in 2000 or it is their past lives, living out the same cycle of lessons until they finally get it (I prefer this latter interpretation).

If that sounded convoluted, it gets far, far worse and I would really suggest that you go and rent the movie before continuing. Really, I mean it.

The movie’s central theme is the fear of death and how it is a paralyzing fear tied to the fear of life. Tomas’ fear of death causes him to be killed because he could not see a way out of the attack that kills him. Tommy’s fear of his wife’s death prevents him from enjoying the time he has with her. Queen Isabel’s fear of death leads to her own downfall and the death of Tomas. In a dozen small ways the fear of death is constantly shown to be antithetical to living one’s life.

But the movie also does something that you seldom see. It makes it clear that while one thing isn’t true the opposite isn’t necessarily true either. In this case the fear of death isn’t appropriate but neither is the embrace of death, best shown in the speech of the self-flagellating inquisitor:

“Our bodies are prisons for our souls. Our skin and blood, the iron bars of confinement. But fear not. All flesh decays. Death turns all to ash. And thus, death frees every soul. You the condemned, you have confessed, you admit to protecting a queen who twists the word of God and drowns all Spain in sin. Your Queen seeks immortality on earth–a false paradise. This is heresy. She leads you towards vanity…away from the spirit but this is foolishness. For death exists. The Day of Judgment is irrefutable. All life must be judged. “

Clearly we’re not meant to sympathize with this amor fati as it is spoken by a sociopathic monster. But this is put in to make sure that in not fearing death we don’t assume the opposite, the headlong embrace of death, is true either. They’re both very, very wrong.

So if we’re not to embrace death but not fear it…what is left? Don’t worry I’m not about to quote “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” (although that is one of about a dozen poems I would say every human being should have memorized).

The simple answer out of the false dichotomy is to not worry about death and rather live life. Death is merely a stage, “the road to awe” to neither be rushed toward or feared.

We see this best in Isabel from the 2000 storyline. She is dying of inoperable brain tumor (I know it’s a terribly overused trope, but only because it works). She is not afraid of death which translates to her living her life to its fullest. Stargazing, making love to her husband, writing, going to learn at a museum all within the last day of her life. Every moment seems to be lived in her life and thus she accepts her death without fear or regret when it comes. Paradoxically living allows one to accept death.

This is also shown in a very subtle way to anyone who is really looking (this movie is just chock full of subtle little hints and allusions, more than I could really go into in one blog, but this would be the most important one). One of the characters in the 1500 storyline is a monk, specifically a Franciscan monk. While the character is given a name, he is almost exclusively and repeatedly referred to as simply “Franciscan.” It’s an odd way to refer to a character, even a monk, unless there is a point of doing it. I would say that point is to bring up the poem the “Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.” (Yes, I know St. Francis in all likelihood did not actually write this, however that does not mean the name recognition still isn’t there).

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

One of the other reasons I think that this poem is being referenced is the last line: “and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life” which is a good way to sum up the entire theme of this movie (although the poem is referencing heaven while the movie is focusing more on the idea that a full life leads to not fearing death, the general premise to live one’s life on Earth to the fullest is the same in both). And with this reference in mind, you can begin to see the character of Thomas (in all his incarnations) in the first half of each line of the first stanza and the enlightened Isabel of the 2000 storyline in the second half of the line (reversed in the 2nd stanza). They are almost perfect representations of each set of ideas…thus showing us the obvious superiority of the life suggested by this poem.

(I could spend hours dissecting all the little points of this scene and enjoy doing it…but admittedly I’m a little odd).

And of course the most important scene in the whole movie, after Tomas/Tommy/Thomas realizes that he is going to die, a realization that gives him the first peace he has ever known, he is able to relive the last full day of his wife’s life and make a different choice and live that day instead of fight death (I could deal with what this suggests about the fluid nature of time, but this blog is getting just a tad long, just accept that to a New Ager effect can precede cause). It doesn’t change the outcome. Whether he decides to embrace life or fear death, his wife dies…but he has a much more fulfilling experience one way over the other.

I’ve ignored a lot in this movie, and will probably come back at some later point, but at this moment it makes the perfect antithesis to this last month’s obsession with the fear of death.

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Filed under Death, Faith, Movies, New Age, Purpose of Life, Reincarnation, Religion, Spirituality, The Fountain

Some overarching thoughts on Halloween Movies

Why have I spent so much time on a genre I really don’t care about? Well, fist off because I wanted to show that there was more than just the zombie/slasher crap that Hollywood seems to love putting out and people seem so eager to buy. But also because I wanted to point out the flaws that were intrinsic even in these films.

Fear of Death: (With the exception of my #1 pick) all of these movies, and certainly all the crap I didn’t include involves the fear of death. People have an irrational fear of death that strangely rather than confront it in their own lives they would rather see it exaggerated and made into farce while at the same time watching others die as if they sacrifice enough people on film death will pass them by. They like to see horror movies because it allows them some control over their own worst fear; it allows it to be turned into a force with a name, a face, a motive or at least a pattern of action. Something that can be fought. Because rather than accept that death comes (as the Buddhist meditation to imagine each day a new and gruesome way you can die, that way when something finally happens you won’t be shocked by it) you must fight against it as if it is something that can be fought.

With the Death comes hand in hand with the Fear of Life. Every one of these movies is also filled with characters who fear life. Don’t believe me, let’s run down the list again
#29: The ‘Burbs a look at life that is stagnant and unloved
#28 Underworld the story of woman so hell-bent on revenge she has never once enjoyed immortality
#27 Sweeny Todd more revenge preventing a man from moving on
#26 Stir of Echoes A man who has not lived and doesn’t know how to react when something requires him to live
#25 Flatliners…this one’s kind of obvious
#24 X-files…was Mulder’s obsession the definition of a fear of living
#23 Little Shop of Horrors poor people afraid to leave the hell of the gutter because they dare not leave what they know
#22 Monster Squad…okay they’re kids, they get a pass for not living yet
#21 Scream, instead of living lets wallow in despair, or worse let’s kill people for kicks
#20 Pitch Black…everyone in that cast had problems
#19 Tremors, same problems as Little Shop, fear of leaving no where rather than risk going somewhere
#18 The Mummy, with the exception of the villain everyone there was strangely willing to embrace life (but this was an odd one out anyway)
#17 Beetlejuice, Winonna Ryder’s character clearly embraces death over living
#16 Se7ev, another bunch all afraid to actually enjoy what they have
#15 Sleepy Hollow, Icabod’s obsession with death to cover not living
#14 The Frightener, the fear of living is the main theme of this movie
#13 Sixth Sense, only by actually fully living is the kid freed of his curse
#11 The Evil Dead films…okay really there’s not theme here so it’s not fair to say I can’t find the fear of life here
#10 Interview with the Vampire: Louis’s hatred of his life is what led him to Lestat
#9 Fright Night, you can’t tell me that boy wasn’t afraid to make some important steps in his life
#8 Lost Boys, just look at the Frog brothers
#7 Alien, any company that is willing to sacrifice human beings to possibly find a new weapon, fear of life
#6, #5 Ghostbusters and Young Frankenstein, okay again comedy, don’t hold it against me when I can’t find anything of depth
#4 Dracula, a man who would rather feast on blood and death than simply live a mortal life
#3 Silence of the Lamb and #2 Psycho, I think our wide range of lunatics would have been far less homicidal if they had wanted to live their lives rather than cause death
#1 The Great Pumpkin…there is a certain fear of life in Linus not wanting to do fun things like trick or treat

Both these fears go hand in hand. Both are tied together. You’ll notice the people who have been afraid to live their lives for 60 years will spend fortunes of their own money (and then demand the government continue paying) to fight a fatal cancer living that last year in fear of death. Rather if they had led a full life, they would have spent that last year accepting they would die and use that last year and their own money to check off all the last things on their bucket list. The fear of death and the fear of life, the fear of the unknown in both cases, is what causes people to demand that someone else provide their food, shelter, employment, education…because if they had to do it there is the possibility they could fail, and it’s unknown whether they will and they can’t handle that unknown. Those who demand that healthcare be provided are afraid of dying because they’re afraid that they’ll die before their life has meant something, an effect caused by the fact they have been afraid to live. Someone who lives their life to the fullest doesn’t necessarily embrace death, but they don’t fear, it’s just the natural next part of life; they’ll fight for every last second that is to be lived, but not for seconds just to survive.

And this is why I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween. It’s a holiday of the fear of death. And this holiday glorifies that fear…which in my mind is a terrible thing if not coupled with clear understanding of the evils of this obsession (which most people lack). Which I have no use for. But it’s a holiday of imagination which I have a lot of use for. But overriding everything is the nice knowledge that when Halloween is over I get to start playing Christmas music  (I hate turkey so as far as I’m concerned there is no holiday between Halloween and Christmas).

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