Holy week does not have to be an excrutiating week spent on mind-dulling Catholic ritual and mindless beach partying. There is lots of home entertainment available that can contribute to enriching one’s spiritual framework far more efficiently and profoundly than the traditional listening to a bunch of men in robes or gyrating to loud throbbing music.
Here are my top picks of spiritually enlightening Hollywood products.
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The film builds upon the notion that we experience “reality” only through an internal model of the world we build within our minds on the basis of data collected by our five senses and processed by our brains. We do not, for example, directly “see” the photons our eyes collect. What is really happening is that we perceive a construct rendered for “us” by our minds after it had processed data sent to it by our eyes which, for their part, had been generated from the photons hitting their retinas.
The image of the world around us — its colours and shapes — are really internal models built from streams of data sent to our brains based on the manner with which light is reflected from objects around us. Bats most likely “see” their surroundings in a similar way we do too — but it is a visualisation based not on light but on sound bouncing off objects around them. Different wave or energy forms, same principle. We use light to “see”, bats use sound to “see”. In a sense, the nature of the external stimulus (i.e. whether it is electromagnetic — light — or rapid periodic compression — sound) is ultimately irrelevant to “us”. Ultimately it all comes down to a data stream entering our brains.
This is the fundamental principle of the tech field of virtual reality where data generated by computers aim to replace data generated by our senses. Progressively bigger screens and higher resolutions make first-person game playing, for example, an increasingly absorbing experience because the density of data being fed to us and the scope of our awareness captured by the data feed respectively keeps improving. Google recently announced “Project Glass” a concept product that places a computing device screen on a pair of glasses (like the heads-up display on fighter planes).
The see-through lens could display everything from text messages to maps to reminders. They may be capable of showing video chats, providing turn-by-turn directions, taking photos and recording notes — all through simple voice commands…
Such a product, when released, will just about complete the physical takeover of our visual scope and make our interface with our computing devices one step closer to full integration into our minute-by-minute personal experience of our typical day.
The concept of the Matrix from which Larry and Andy Wachowski’s seminal film derives its title, however, is the ultimate virtual reality. Unlike Google’s glasses, the Matrix’s data feed bypasses our senses and is input straight into the neural network of people’s brains. As far as the hapless souls who perceive the world processed from the data fed straight into their brains, they are “experiencing” what is “real”.
So the question is:
Are we experiencing reality? Or are we simply living within an elaborate computer simulation?
We will not ever know of course. At least not until we have concluded the “experience”.
It takes a monumental effort to take a conscious step outside of the elaborate belief system that scaffolds our sense of self. Perhaps this is because our personal identities like a vine while having grown tall and wide over our lifetimes will simply collapse into a shapeless pile if said scaffolding disappears. Who are we, say, if the concept of being “Filipino” were to disappear tomorrow? What is life’s meaning if the “meaning” spoonfed to us by Roman Catholicism is suddenly yanked from under our feet the next minute?
In the film, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) could only watch helplessly as his wife Mallorie Cobb (played by Marion Cotillard) descends into a pathological obssessive skepticism about what she perceives to be real, thinking that she still remains twice removed from it in a dream state even when (according to the plot) she had already ascended to the final waking state.
The story highlights the power of seeding a human mind and watching it develop around that seed as well as the astounding sheer will and conviction required to re-evaluate the very essence of the mind we had constructed around it later on in the face of new input.
What are the seeds around which our minds are wrapped?
Knowing these, do we have the strength of character and substantial enough conviction to unwrap our minds from these and regard them critically? It seems that uncovering life’s true meaning involves re-examining the seeds of the belief systems that had traditionally defined that meaning for us.
The Adjustment Bureau
George Nolfi’s take on who and/or what may be aware of “the bigger picture” and may be executing some sort of grand “plan” on its basis delivers! In essence, the film dramatises a humanised take on religion and its henchmen. The film delves quite a bit into painting an elaborate picture on how this “big picture” is documented, what sort of organisation executes “the plan” surrounding it, and developing an emerging sense of the pointlessness of exercising free will in the face of the bureacratic power that seeks to quell it as the story unfolds.
Being the American film that it is, the ending is predictably happy and hopeful in favour of human will. But that happy twist is paid for by a clear lesson on the courage and conviction required to win back and sustain said will.
Do we possess the courage and conviction to take control of our destinies?
This is an obvious question but a difficult one to answer as said answer is necessarily built upon the lessons offered in the first two films.
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Watch and reflect. The Easter holidays need not be one where you need to be imprisoned in tradition.
Happy Holy Week!
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