Movie review (caution: spoilers)

I just saw “World’s End” again. It’s the third in a trilogy with Brits Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It got mixed reviews. To me, the critics who didn’t enjoy it seem to have missed the overall message – which is quite clever and some food for thought.

At first blush, it’s just another “aliens taking over the planet” story like so many others. You have to examine it more closely after seeing it, to appreciate all the subtle nuances. It’s actually quite deep.

I will warn you again that there are spoilers here. If you haven’t seen the film, and you’d like to see it, please don’t read any further until after you’ve seen the movie. I don’t want to ruin your experience.

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If you’ve scrolled down this far, first let me first say that I’m amazed you’re reading this. You must be very bored! Now please remember that below is my own personal take on the movie’s true meaning. Here’s what I think the overall statement might be. Others, even the filmmakers, may disagree.

Outline: The move is about five middle-aged men who used to be teenage pals in a small town. The ringleader (Simon Pegg), called Gary King, decides to get the gang together and go on a pub crawl called “the golden mile” – twelve pubs, twelve pints. His four friends are all married and professionally successful, while Gary is having trouble.

Along the way while doing this pub crawl, they begin to discover that most of the townspeople have been replaced by humanoid-like creatures which are physically identical, but which are very easily busted, yielding blue goo instead of blood. A few other people are still human, but they are hush-hush about what’s going on. The mystery deepens. As an aside, the characters discuss how the replacements which look like people are NOT to be called robots, because “robot” actually means “slave” and is therefore a misnomer.

When night falls, the replacements emanate blue light out of their open mouths. And they’re coming to get Gary and his pals.

Gary is determined to finish the pub crawl, however, despite all the dangers. At Pub #12, called “The World’s End”, the whole thing comes tumbling down. Two of their friends have been replaced – there are only three left. One of the three left, however, is missing. So we’re down to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Of course.

And then the movie gets into a plot device which some people don’t like: a narrator-like character explains everything. An unseen  “head alien”, with a booming voice, explains the entire plot to Gary King and his buddy. But that’s not what you’re supposed to do, in the Hollywood-blockbuster genre. “Show, don’t tell!” admonishes the disappointed critic. You aren’t supposed to just explain it all like that. As one disgruntled viewer put it, you aren’t supposed to “just shove the message right into everybody’s face”.

The thing is, there’s a ton of sub-text, which is perhaps lost on the non-discerning viewer. The sub-text is so subtle and nuanced, it isn’t apparent until you’re finished watching, and you sit and think about it. Because while the movie is going on, you’re too distracted by the special effects and the characters to really get what they mean. So you have to think about it later. Perhaps there are people who don’t want to do that. They don’t want to have to think; hence, the disappointment from all those who didn’t like the movie.

Here’s what the booming, unseen head alien tells the two buds:

  1. There’s an inter-planetary association of civilizations, comprising the galaxy – and the other planets are very disappointed with planet earth. Humans keep killing eachother off, and overall, we’re very immature. The other planets are all “up here”, while earth is “down there” (the alien shows a diagram with the earth located well below the other civilizations).
  2. The other planets all want humans to improve themselves, and join the interplanetary association as equals. So, these aliens are here to improve us.
  3. The only “small sacrifice” necessary is that any humans who do not comply and refuse to improve, have to be destroyed and turned into mulch, replaced by identical units. But it’s a small price to pay, for all the advantages of joining the interplanetary association.
  4. The benefits that the aliens have brought to earth are very good and are in fact necessary, such as communications and all other technology. They get the credit for all of that.

Gary King responds with anger. He says, “All we humans want, is our freedom” and “Go back to your lego-land” and “Don’t come here and tell US what to do!”

The head alien asks if he speaks for all humans. Gary says that yes, he does. He knows that everybody else on earth feels the same way that he does – he’s a real human. All humans want is freedom. And nobody wants to be told what to do, especially not by a bunch of aliens who don’t even belong here.

The alien then says, “F__k it” and indicates that they’re leaving. They pull out. Everything explodes, then it all goes dark. In the end, all of earth’s technology is gone. Nobody can communicate with anybody else. Nobody knows how many people have survived. Planet earth is back to the dark ages.

Now, here’s the sub-text, at least from my point of view.

The aliens are total arseholes. They are, in fact, well below us, in all the important ways. They have no integrity whatsoever. Just because they’re clever and they know how to make technology, does NOT make them better than us. In fact, there’s ample proof that they’re much worse than the best of humans. And they’re about equal to the worst of humans. Here’s why.

  1. They’ve quietly embedded themselves all over our planet, allowing us to believe that we’re the ones who invented all the technology. We think it’s ours. But it’s apparently not. And they’re prepared to withdraw all the tech, if we don’t do exactly as they say. That’s nothing short of blackmail. It’s manipulation.
  2. They never told us that they’ve been here at all. They just quietly integrated themselves, without letting on. That’s completely dishonest.
  3. After integrating and embedding themselves with all their tech, while completely misleading us by hiding themselves, they give us a choice: “improve” yourselves, to the way that WE want you to be, or else, it will all go “kaboom” and you’ll be in the dark. Some choice! They’ve eliminated freedom completely and have backed the human race right into the corner. That’s aggressive.
  4. The worst part of all, is that they allow Gary King to speak for everyone. Gary King?! That’s not a fair process. He is not representative, and nobody else on the planet chose him. This means that these aliens have no concept of what “justice” means at all. Therefore, they’re the ones who are uncivilized. Not us. They don’t even know how to conduct a trial properly. Their methods are completely unfair.
  5. Finally, not only have they hid themselves and secretly backed the human race right into the corner, and then allowed Gary King to speak for the entire planet, they don’t even TELL him that if they go away, it will all explode and then go dark. They don’t even mention these consequences. They don’t give him all the information that he would need, in order to make an informed decision. They keep all the crucial bits of information from him and allow him to choose, without even realizing what he’s choosing. This is worse than unfair. This is amazingly corrupt. These aliens are complete jerks, even though apparently they are clever.

So, the upshot is, while you’re watching the movie, you become fooled. You think, oh no, Gary King blew it. He said the wrong things. It’s HIS fault the earth went dark. Wow, it might have been nice to join that planetary assocation – it sounds cool. But no. He blew it. Interesting – planet earth is still so primitive, while all the other planets are so advanced.

But then, if you think about it later, it’s THEM who are really the primitive ones. Look at everything the aliens have done, how they treat us. Even though the technology they “gave” us (while letting us think that it’s ours) is pretty neat, and has become necessary, they’re corrupt, dishonest, aggressive, unfair, and clearly they have no morals at all.

Conclusion? In this film, humans are, in fact, much better than the aliens. The planet is their victim. It was never Gary’s fault. The end.

(There are also biblical / religious overtones as well. The head alien, unseen with booming voice, smacks of what some people have as an image of God. This alien is about as nice, kind, and benevolent as the God of the Old Testament. As an aside, notice that the New Testament God is much nicer. Maybe the Gary King figure is supposed to be Jesus. This would mean that the filmmakers want us to think about this: what if Jesus actually tamed God, who was kind of a jerk, into being nicer? This could be the reason he was adopted as a “son” by the almighty. The fact that everything goes dark in the film, because Gary pissed off the head alien, is kind of like the great flood in the Noah story. Just food for thought there.)

P.S. I like how Simon Pegg wrote in a reason to show off his washboard abs. They didn’t go unnoticed 🙂

 

Nightmare City

A severely dystopian future was trying to unfold, but luckily it got stopped in its tracks.  People weren’t aware of how they were each unwittingly contributing to this horrible reality actually occurring … they thought that they were just into tech.  They thought that they were hobbyists, who enjoyed new cool toys.  They didn’t realize.

It all started with “self-driving cars”.  Innocent enough – “saving lives”.  But to allow these machines into urban areas involved so many necessary changes, eventually rendering cities into wealthy-only enclaves in which “the poor” were not only unwelcome, they were physically excluded.  How did this all unfold?

The insurance companies underwriting self-driving vehicles decided that pedestrians and bicycles needed to be strictly forbidden on the same roads with the automatically driven cars.  It was just too dangerous.  The risk of claims was too high.  The cars could be hacked and pushed into cyclists or pedestrians, at will. Yes, there were automatic safety features on each of these cars, so that they couldn’t crash into eachother – but people who were walking and cycling were still free to make errors and step in front of a vehicle.  So … it was then just better to keep everybody else off the road.  Unless you were an occupant of a self-driving car, bus, or truck, you simply were not allowed to be there at all.  Roads were lined with high, electrified fences.  Entries to the roads were gated – and you could only open the gate if you were in such a vehicle.  It was all tech.  And dry.  And sterile.  And oh, so clean.  And safe.  And boring.  The cars didn’t move very fast, and nobody was allowed to drive them.  The manual cars had all long since been destroyed, by law.

This “evolution into safety” resulted in car-only roadways, with nobody driving.  Sure, there were “pedestrian-only” areas within the cities, where everyone was walking around … but sadly, it wasn’t really “everyone”.  It was only the vehicles’ occupants walking around.  You see, you would have to take a self-driving car into the city, and be delivered to a pedestrian-only boulevard.  There, you would get out of the car and be able to walk around – and the only people you’d see, were other vehicle occupants who’d been delivered there too.  And then, when it was time for you to leave, you would flag down a driverless taxi, or else summon your car if you were very well off.  And off you’d go.

No bicycles.  No motorbikes.  No other way of being transported around on those roadways – too dangerous.  And no pedestrians, other than in these well-marked, fenced off “walker only” areas.  The only people you’d encounter in these walk-around areas, were other people with money.  Because only by having money, could you flag down a driverless car or bus or taxi.  You’d need a pass to get on.  And those passes were expensive!

Finally – no visible poverty, anywhere in the city.  Because if you didn’t have money, you simply could not physically get there.  There were people employed as “guards” at all the city’s gates, ensuring that nobody other than vehicle occupants could enter.  Too dangerous for anyone else!  Yes, visible poverty had finally been eliminated.  Emphasis on the word “visible” … you wouldn’t have to see anyone who was poor, anymore.  So, you’d never have to think about it.  Everyone around you would be “in the system”, just like you.  If you wanted to go into a city, you’d need cash for that.   And so, the exclusion of “others” would be complete.  You have your nice, neat, clean, tidy, wealthy enclave in each urban area, where these driverless cars took priority over the former “messier” ways of getting around.

Sterile.  A one-note nightmare.  And ultimately, uninteresting.  How do other people live?  Who knows, and who cares?  We finally have our enclave.  And the tech-loving types got us here.  Lucky us!  And so, poverty would never be resolved, since large groups of people would simply be forced into their own neighbourhoods, where the wealthy would never enter.  Out of sight – out of mind.

And now, back to real life.  The nightmare is over – I woke up.  Yes, currently if you have a bicycle, you can go anywhere.  You can walk anywhere, too.  We trust eachother to be sensible in cars, and at intersections.  Occasionally, some driver does the unthinkable, sometimes seemingly on purpose (?!)  Sometimes, somebody gets behind the wheel after rendering their brain useless with drugs or alcohol.  It happens.  Something needs to be done!  What was this nightmare solution again?  Oh yes, a gate, to be opened only by a driverless car, would block your access to the downtown core if you were walking or cycling.  There might be areas where you could still bicycle or walk around, without being delivered by a car or bus – but in those places, there would be no cars.  And there would be nobody with any money.  In those areas, people would barter for what they need, and they would forget about what they want.  So, in order to achieve safety, you must either buy into the system and get a real job, having enough cash on the system to buy a car, or a car-card to go into the city — or else you can forget about ever setting foot in there again.  Just stay where you belong, and don’t bother the elite with your presence any more.  There!  Poverty solved!  Hopefully, the “non-city” people will never organize themselves and try to take it by force.  But then again, they’ve thankfully been rendered mostly mentally useless with invisible, poisonous gas, and toxic food and drink.  Phewf!!

Do we want this kind of city?  Who wants it?  Not me!  Me, I would do anything to prevent it.  Anything.  I want to keep my city just as it is.  Lively, integrated populations, variety of people, and variety of transportation.  No gates.  No electrified fences.  Thank you.

(My apologies if the above blog was loose, disjointed, or otherwise not very readable.  Nightmares will do that to you.  You wake up feeling all jangly and upset, and hardly able to write.  And I’m sorry if you wasted your time reading about my nightmare.  Merry Christmas.)

You get eggroll

I saw a 1968 Hollywood movie last night – and musing it over, it’s about metaphysics.  But it seems to be about something else – a blended family.  It’s called “With Six, You Get Eggroll”.  WARNING:  do not read the rest of this blog posting, if you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised.  Because I have to get into the entire plot, including the pinnacle of the film, in order to show you how it’s about metaphysics.

A widow with three sons, one of whom is teenage, dates a widower with a teenage daughter.  Predictably the kids are angry and hostile to have their deceased parent replaced by a stranger.  The parents try to work around it as best they can, then they get fed up and just get married, announcing their nuptials to the kids only after it’s done.  Chaos ensues.  They try to alternate households, to be fair to everyone, while putting their too-small homes up for sale.  The title of the film comes from an amusing moment when the youngest child says, while they are at a Chinese restaurant, “I’m so happy that we’re all together!  Because with six, you get eggrolls!”

Long story short:  the parents have an argument; the Dad falls out of a camper being driven by his wife, in his underwear; he ends up wearing a dirty restaurant uniform, wandering the streets; two road accidents happen involving a chicken coop; the chicken coop driver tries to beat up the teenage son; more chaos ensues; the entire family goes before a judge, with an entourage of hippies at their side.  Silly, right?  And finally, because of the argument, the two auto collisions, and the attempted assault, the whole group pulls together as a real family!  How do we know?  Because the daughter refers to the teenage son as “my brother”, and the son in turn refers to the male parent as “my father”, while arguing before the judge.  The parents hug and the movie ends abruptly.

What a wonderful illustration of metaphysics, alternate timelines, conjecture, false causative conclusions, and actualized potential!

There are two ways to understand this chain of events.  Both are mere conjecture, only “what ifs” based on what happened, what didn’t happen, what could have happened, and what couldn’t have happened.  Are you with me?  This is a very valuable exercise.  I didn’t know that there were real philosophers hidden in Hollywood.  I’m glad to know it.

The central figure in this movie is not the Mom.  It’s not the Dad.  It’s not any of the kids, nor the well-meaning, meddling sister in law.  No.  The central figure is the jerk driving the chicken coop, who tries to assault a teenager.  Because if it wasn’t for him, this group would not have pulled together as a family.

This last statement is the error that’s commonly made.  “Something bad needs to happen, for anything good to happen.”  That’s just wrong.  Now I’ll explain how this erroneous thought involves metaphysics, conjecture, and alternative timelines.  Stay with me now.

What did happen was that this jerk driving a chicken coop, who got into this family’s way on the road twice, causing two collisions (thereby raising the aggression level), and then raising his fist to a teenage boy’s face in front of his step-father and step-sister, was involved in a chain of causation which ended up with a very happy, well-bonded family group.  But the most important fact to take away from all of this is that this is not the only way that the family group could have bonded.  Yes, we are into alternative timelines at this point.  Because in order to assert that “this is the only way that could have happened”, you have to imagine that it didn’t happen.  “If this hadn’t happened, then they wouldn’t be a bonded family.”  That is imagination.  You’re into the realm of alternative realities at this point – the alternative reality where there were not two road accidents and an attempted assault, followed by a heated courtroom scene – with hippies.

Now, if we are going to get into non-events, such as “what if this didn’t happen?” then let’s do it.  I have a different take on it and I would argue that my understanding is more correct.  It’s based on potentials, and actuality, as well as imagination.  If those who espouse “bad things need to happen for good things to happen, and this movie plot is an example” can draw upon their imaginations to make their incorrect point, then so can I.

Here’s the correct take on it.  This group pulled together as as family, because that’s who they are.  They have this potential within them, it just needed to be actualized.  The actualization of their potential as a family could happen in infinite numbers of ways.  It was bound to happen because of who they are, and what they do, and what they are likely to do.  And the triggering cause for this actualization to occur does not need to be a bad thing.  It could easily also be a good thing.  One can imagine many positive alternative scenarios, causing chains of causation to arise, which result in family bonding.  And these chains of causation need not involve any bad actors.

In fact, even if the argument hadn’t happened, and the Dad didn’t wander around the streets in his underwear, and the two motor vehicle accidents hadn’t occurred, this family group was SO headed towards emotional bonding that it may have even happened that same day, with the same speed.  One could say that this was a family waiting to happen.  A clue to that is in a scene just before the chaotic pinnacle of the film.  The mother finds a way to bond with the daughter, having her do a list of chores to show her what’s involved in running a household – and then sends her off to go and have fun and relax, demonstrating that she will teach her without using her.  The daughter kisses her step-Mom on the cheek, showing that her hostility has vanished.  That’s the REAL pinnacle of the film, because it demonstrates the potential for loving family being actualized, out of something positive – the willing performance of chores.  Another clue comes from the fact that it’s the daughter who first shouts “He was going to hit my brother!”, starting a cascade of pronouncements from the rest of the children showing that they have now bonded.

So, the REAL cause of the bonding emanates from the mother-daughter moment, which happens BEFORE the jerk with the chicken coop comes along.  In fact, when you see the chain of causation in this way, with the daughter at the centre, the chicken coop driver reduces from “central figure” to “mere bit player”, playing a role of catalyst which could just as easily have been filled by anybody else.  He isn’t important, after all.

So, rather than saying “This films proves that bad, chaotic stuff needs to happen in order for people to bond together”, which is incorrect on the above analysis, one could say “This film proves that people carry within them the potential for a certain positive outcome, and one way or another, this outcome is bound to occur – call it ‘fate’.”  The outcome of “well-bonded family group” emanates from these facts:  these two are good parents, they love eachother, they love their kids, and these are all good kids, who are eventually bound to appreciate one another via any number of infinite potential chains of causation, only one of which occurs during the film, and in this case, happens to involve a bad actor doing bad things.

Finally – the title is interesting.  The small child says, “With six you get eggrolls!” but the plural “s” is missing from the film’s title.  So we are left with eggroll.  Families are based on a woman’s eggs.  The “egg”, which symbolizes life’s “potential”, is actualized in the film.  Her egg is born, with a new loving family.  That’s why they call it “eggroll” in the title, rather than “eggrolls”.

Say, maybe I should try a career as a film critic?

The girl who wouldn’t do math, part 2

MWs (math wizards):  Well!  It’s about time!  Do you have the answer yet?

G (girl):  Hold on there.  This is just an exercise, right?  You haven’t really put me in charge of this life-and-death decision, have you?  And by the way – yesterday I spoke to one of you.  But today there are five of you.  Why is that?

MWs:  We have decided to gather the council of elders in order to deal with you.  We use the number five, so that there will be a majority when we render judgment.

G:  Judgment?  I didn’t realize that I am being judged.  Would have been nice if you’d told me.  Am I on trial?

MWs:  We realize that we have made an error.  We never should have put somebody like you on this mission to take down the “beast”.  This is not a job for somebody who does not understand math.

G:  I understand math, you silly old men.  I love music – music is based on math.

MWs:  (muttering all at once)  Not all of it.  Not all music is based on math.

G:  Don’t tell me I’m dealing with complete idiots here?  Did we not agree yesterday not to allow our discussion to become bogged down with abberations or exceptions?  Well?

MWs:  We did.

G:  Then …. how is it that one small sub-set of music, modern jazz – which seems to be independent of math – renders my point about music and math null and void?  How would one small subset of music be AT ALL relevant to my point?  Are you going to do that every time I say anything, or can we actually have a lucid intelligent discussion?

MWs:  All right.  Point taken.  Music depends on math for its rhythm.

G:  And that’s not all.  I am good at mathematical problems.  I’ve been tested at quite a high level, and I passed with flying colours.  And that’s almost 40 years since I studied math in school.  So don’t tell me that I don’t understand math.  This seems to be a deliberate misunderstanding of me.  Why would you do that?  Never mind.

MWs:  Fine then.  What is the answer to our question about the “beast”?

G:  I will answer that, once I’m done with my trial here.  Or will you judge me without even letting me know the charges against me?  Do you really need to cheat like that – is your procedure really so flawed that you can’t even let me know that I am under scrutiny?  That seems so very weak.  So, then, you are indeed as weak as you look. (surveys the panel of white-haired, pale, overweight or skinny men)

MWs:  There is no need for insult.

G:  Not when you’re the target of it anyway, right?  But you feel quite entitled to level insult at me though – is that right?  Well – fire away.  Allow me to defend myself at least.  Now it’s out in the open.  What exactly is your complaint?

MWs:  You have demonstrated within your personal life that you do not follow a logical budget.  You set a poor example for other people, with the unsound decisions you make.  And your personal appearance makes it obvious that you do not take life very seriously at all.

G:  Just how did you come upon factual details of my personal life?  Have you been breaching my privacy?  What entitles you to do that?

MWs:  Well, it’s important that we know exactly whom we are dealing with.

G:  Will you allow me the same advantage?  What about YOUR personal life – and yours?  And yours?  What are the details?  Do you follow a budget?  Prove it!

MWs:  (silent)

G:  Now, let’s not bother ourselves with private lives, shall we?  Hmmmm, well all right – I will give you one thing.  Have you ever heard of Gone With The Wind?

MWs:  Some of us are slightly familiar with it.

G:  Are you aware of the “drapes” scene?  Scarlett O’Hara needs money, because her entire way of life has been destroyed in the civil war.  She was born and raised as a landowner and this is her skill set.  But she has had to let her “employees” go, and now she fills their tasks as well, working in the fields.  She has had to learn their jobs.  This results in a very different physical appearance than she is used to.  She tries to preserve her former appearance, and lifestyle, by sewing some clothing out of drapes.  And she goes to meet with her old flame to ask him for a loan.  He tells her – “You are a sight for sore eyes!” and he is almost fooled by her drape-dress.  But not quite.  He sees that her hands bely her, and that she has had to do work with which she isn’t accustomed.  He realizes that she is even worse off than she claims.

MWs:  Is there a point to any of this?  Get on with it!

G:  I am wearing drapes.  They are green.  I am doing what I can to reach the best outcome possible, for myself and my family, while insisting on a physical appearance which suits my personality – to preserve my sense of self.  Yes, this is not easy – but I am up to it.  The decisions I make, are the best decisions for my future.  So how dare you judge me?  And how dare you pry into my personal life?  You certainly are despicable.  But since we are here, I will answer your question from before.

MWs:  Finally.  If you are done acting like a hysterical woman, let’s examine the issue.

G:  Hold on – when I object to YOU, I am hysterical.  But when you object to me, you are being rational.  I need you to see all the different ways that you are a bunch of hypocrites – and there are so many.  Shall I list them all?

MWs:  No, just get to the point – we have things to do.  You have said that you refuse to be backed into any corners, and that you reject “binary” “either/or” thinking.  Well, which is it?  Do you reject binary thinking, or do you embrace it?  You must choose one.

G:  (laughing)  Oh, that’s a good one!  You’ve given me a binary choice, involving binary thinking.  You’re wrong.  I can choose when and where to employ binary thinking.  Sometimes it’s suitable – sometimes it’s not.  This depends on the arena we are working in.  This is a public discussion, being disseminated using binary data – do you think I don’t know that?  Please.  I use binary every single day of my life, of course.  It’s quite useful.  But when you seek to understand me using binary code, then you will surely make serious errors.  Because I am of course a living being, with a living brain – changeable, shifting, constantly growing and sometimes reducing.  You will never pin me down, nor any other living being.  Whenever you do, you make mistakes.  And you’ve made a whopping few.

MWs:  Fine – whatever.  You pick and choose when binary code suits you.  Now, what about the answer to our question?

G:  You already know my answer.  I’ve given it to you – several times already.  The answer is, change the “beast” or wait for it to change.  Because change, it will – as long as you allow that and facilitate it.

MWs:  That has been tried, and failed.

G:  Did you try to use threats, insults, judgment, assumptions, and binary while attempting to change it?

MWs:  (silence)

G:  I thought so.  Has it ever occurred to you that this so-called “beast” is a living being, with a conscience?  Did you ever consider that maybe it’s gotten wound up in this web without meaning to?  And perhaps it’s looking for a way out – a dignified way out, with honour?

MWs:  That thing has no honour.

G:  How do you know?  Are you just assuming that it has no honour?  You are the kings of assumption, after all.  In fact – the entire problem that you posed yesterday was absolutely filled with assumptions.  You assume that people can’t extricate themselves from this web.  You think too little of them.  You assume that the “beast” will always remain the same – but that’s because you expect it to stay unchanged.  You assume that the only way to help the situation, is with violence.  And finally, you assume that your choices are A – take down the “beast” with its web, or B – leave it to devour everything.  I reject those choices.  I say, we choose C – allow the “beast” to redeem itself.  Redemption is very powerful.  People almost always choose it, when given the chance.  Have you even tried facilitating redemption for those involved in this situation?  No – I thought not.

MWs:  We will consider your words, thank you.  But we are unlikely to change our minds.

G:  I know.  And that’s why I dislike you so much.  You are static beings – are you even human anymore?  You’ve been here far too long.  You’ve become jaded and dried out.  You’ve fogotten all about your hearts.  I tell you what – I’ll give you a lesson in “heart math”.  You really need it.

MWs:  What is “heart math”?

G:  It’s basically “un-math”.  It’s a calculation, which doesn’t calculate anything.  It’s an equation which isn’t equal.  It’s a procedure which has no process.  It’s alive.  And it can only be created “heart to heart” between living creatures.

MWs:  (glancing at eachother in confusion)

G:  I’m going to have to use numbers to illustrate this point, even though it really has nothing to do with numbers.  Let’s take two groups of people.  One group, group A, has “detached” from other beings and from one another, as their “guru” has instructed.  They instead embrace a nebulous concept called “universal love”, of which their “guru” is the recipient of course.  They carefully guard themselves from “attachments” or true affection, caring, for other people.  They relate to one another at arm’s length, even though sometimes they do bizarre rituals which involve physical contact.  Are you with me?

MWs:  (nodding, looking guilty)

G:  Now, let’s talk about group B – this is a family unit, with parents and children, consisting of healthy people who deeply care for one another.  We can say that they relate through their hearts.  They connect with their hearts.  They embrace being attached to one another, without fear.  Every day, they do things to support one another and express their love.  They don’t know “universal love”, which really has no definition – but they do know love.  And they love eachother.  I don’t suppose any of you are familiar with that.

MWs:  (shaking their heads, looking sad)

G:  Here’s the un-math.  First, group B.  Let’s say that your personal efforts, your actions, your acts of service, by which you care for the others in your immediate group – and others – carry a sum.  We’ll call it 25.  So, we have a small group B consisting of only 2 people.  One, the parent, brings 45 today.  The offspring brings 25.  Is the total 70?  No.  The total is something more like 7,000.  Because the energy that is created by loving service, kindness, respect, and attachment, is like a living being which multiples by itself, showering the group members with as much energy as they require – shielding them from damage, healing them when they are damaged, and giving them hope.  Now let’s look at group A – the sad group which only relate to eachother on a superficial (and sometimes bizarrely physical) level.  Let’s say it’s a group of 3.  If each of them brings 25, they should have a pool of 75 from which to draw energy, correct?

MWs:  (nodding)

G:  Wrong.  There won’t be 75.  There will be less.  Because the energy that’s created by such a group, becomes a consuming creature which feeds on them – rather than nourishing them, as in group A.  They will find that what they create together is hungry, rather like a cranky orphan.  It won’t be very much use to them at all.  As a result, they will all become defensive, and they will guard what they have from one another, rather than sharing.  That’s un-math.  Do you see?

MWs:  Well thanks for coming out today.  Obviously you have nothing to offer us.  We have a meeting in five minutes – gotta go.  (scurrying out the door)

And so ends the girl’s trial, quite abruptly.

 

The girl who wouldn’t do math

Once upon a time, there was a girl who refused to use math in order to understand life.  The math wizards tried all kinds of ways to force her to think in a mathematical way.  But she insisted on defying them.  They had many conversations together – here are a few:

MW (“math wizard”):  We have created a dilemma for you, which will force you to choose either Option A, or Option B.  Sorry to back you into the corner, girl, but you are an enduring mystery to us.  In order to figure you out, we have devised a series of corners to back you into.  Here is one.  Now, there you go.  See?  Your back is to the wall.  We stand in front of you, blocking your way forward.  We have a series of choices for you.  First choice:  do you want to remain in the corner, or come out of it?

G (“girl”):  (silent)

MW:  Aha, see?  You have chosen to remain there.  Life is a series of choices.  It’s always this, or that.  It’s like math.  Add up 5 plus 5 and you get an answer that is either right, or wrong.  10 is the correct answer.  Either you got it right, or you got it wrong.  See that, girl?  Life is binary in nature.

G:  (still silent – and then she vanishes)

MW:  HEY – whoops!  Where did you go?

G:  I’m up here.  I just floated.  You gave me a choice of either staying in the corner, or walking forward to get out.  I decided to screw your binary choice.  See that, clever wizard?

MW:  Well, then, we can fix that.  They back her into another corner, and this time, they place an inescapable ceiling over her.  Now, are you going to stay, or come out?  And IF you choose to come out, are you going to choose going left, or right?  It’s a two-pronged choice.  Let’s see what you do.

G:  (vanishes again)  Hey, you smart ones – I’m back here.  I decided to just melt backwards through the wall behind me.  Once again, I chose Option C – the one that you did not provide me.  I refuse to bow to your precious binary way of thinking.

This goes on for quite a while – in each case, the “clever” math wizards foreclose her escape route, and back her up once again into the corner.  Each time, the girl comes up with a new way to defy their binary choice.

G:  Have you had enough yet?  This can go on forever.  Because my mind is not binary, and I won’t play your game.  Take your math, and shove it.  Get it, old men?

Here is another conversation between the math wizards, and the defiant girl who would not do math.

MW:  All right, we are done backing you into various corners now – you’ve made your point.  Now look at that group of people, protesting – either they are right or they are wrong.  Which is it?

G:  That’s just a different kind of binary thinking.  I refuse to make a choice, without further information.

MW:  Aha, this means that you think they are wrong.  Because if you aren’t with them, you’re against them.  If you don’t speak up on their behalf, then you automatically have joined the ranks of their enemies.

G:  No, that is not true.  I have elected to with-hold my opinion until further notice.  I am neither with them, nor against them.

MW:  Sorry, little girl.  Those people do not agree.  They have decided to sort all people into either Group A (supportive), or Group B (non-supportive and therefore, enemy).  This is their choice.  And if you do not speak up and audibly support them, you will have identified yourself as the source of blame.  You will have helped to cause their problems, if you don’t speak now.

G:  I disagree with your definitions and your way of understanding this situation.  Guess what, old men?  Being blamed for something, is not the same thing as causing it.  If I am said to have “caused” their problems, by refusing to speak up until I have more facts, then the sun in the sky has also caused their problems.  Their mothers, in giving birth to them, have caused their problems.  Their teachers, in leading them to this moment, have caused their problems.  Because if you want to widen the circle of causation to include me – a non-actor in this scenario – then your circle of causation is going to catch a whole host of things, not just me.  Either you broaden the circle of causation, or you don’t.  You can’t have it both ways.  Also – the way that this group defines me, does not define me.  I still have my own free will.  They can’t force me to do anything.  I am not their enemy.  In time, they will come to learn this.

And now, another conversation between these old foes – the old math wizards who insist on reducing LIFE to binary calculations, and the girl who continuously defies them:

MW:  And now we come to a moment of reckoning, girl.  Yes – you have caught some attention, this much we admit.  Your defiance is interesting.  However, there is a great beast at the centre of a vast web – a web which has caught up many innocent families.  Look here – there are children involved.  This beast is slowly strangulating everything around it.  Those caught in its web are like hostages, innocent parties.  This beast will eventually devour them too.  What will you do?  We have decided to put you in charge of the take-down operation.

G:  Me?  Why me?

MW:  Because you have an imagination – but we want to teach you that not everything has a creative solution.  Sometimes, it REALLY IS a choice between A, or B.  Sometimes the situation IS binary in nature.  This is one of those times.  Math is here.  Math wins.  You can’t deny it.  Because either you do nothing, and allow this beast to continue devouring, jeopardizing everybody on the entire planet, OR you take it down.  Unfortunately, all of those innocent families, including children, who’ve gotten caught up in its web, will have to come down with it.

G:  Why?  Why do they have to die?

MW:  Because they are there.  Look at what this beast has done – it is so intricately wound up in this web, that there is no way to extract it without destroying the web itself.  Look here – these people are also inextricably caught up.  The beast has ensured this situation, to preserve itself.  It knows that die-hard, bleeding hearts like you will stop its destruction – simply to save these innocent folks.  These hostages grew up in this web.  It is a part of them.  You can’t extract them, either.  It’s either take the whole thing down, or else, leave it up.  If you leave it up, everything will die.  If you take it down, yes – those innocent families will have to die.  But they are “sacrifices”.  This has to happen.  It’s very unfortunate, yes.  They have to die, to save everybody else.  Their lives are worth the same as everybody else’s lives.  Do the math, girl!  It’s binary.  See?  Either/or situation here.  The ultimate corner – no way out.  Either choose Option A, and minimize the loss of life, or else choose Option B, and do nothing, eventually causing the loss of ALL life.  What will it be, girl?

(The drama of this moment, this situation, is so vivid, that the answer will not be posted just yet.  It will be posted tomorrow.  In the meantime, if anybody has any ideas as to how to handle this situation, they are more than welcome to weigh in here.  To be continued ….  Think, people.  Think.)

A Frank Discussion (in ancient Greece)

A:  I’m the man.  I’ve been hired by your rulers, to convince all of you why you should be ruled.  They give me room and board, good food, and all the boys I want.  It’s great.  Now, listen up.

W:  Wait a minute – if they’re paying you, isn’t it obvious that you’re obliged to come up with reasons for why they are “better” than we are?  Why else would they be paying you?  You aren’t doing any hard work and come to think of it, neither are they.

(Crowd begins booing and hissing at W, who is a woman, shouting things like “Go back to your kitchen!  You aren’t allowed here!  Where is your veil?  See how ugly she is!  Shameful!  I heard that she has relations with horses – it’s true!  She’s crazy!”)

A: (with a generous sweep of his hand) No wait – let her speak!  She has no husband to defend her or feed her.  So the least we can do is hear her out.  And keep your hands off of her.

W:  Thank you, sir.  I have been listening to you.  It’s true that I have no husband, however I work hard to support myself, doing the best I can.  I am beholden to nobody.  I sew clothes for a living, working from sunrise to sunset. (She holds up bloody, scarred, bruised hands.)

The crowd goes silent, except for a few younger men who are shushed up by the others.

A:  You were saying, woman?  What is your name?

W:  I am Naomi.  I have been listening to you through my window over there (she gestures to a nearby hovel).  I have heard your words and your wisdom.  I have a few things to add – may I?

A:  (smiling)  Of course you may.  I am nothing if not generous when it comes to matters of the mind.  The more I hear, the more I think.  And “I think” is my personal motto.  I am paid to think by the King.  He thinks that I think real well.  Now go ahead, sewer.  (this is pronounced “sow-er” rather than “sue-er”, denoting that she sews clothing)

W:  You have said that all humans are inherently selfish, and that if the aristocrats and their progeny did not rule over us, then we would all destroy one another through fighting.  But I have seen quite the opposite.  With my own eyes and ears, I have seen that this is not true.

(A begins to frown, crossing his arms … a few men begin shouting again, but he gestures them abruptly to be quiet.)  A:  I said to let her speak.  It is not often that we hear a woman speaking – I find it fascinating to hear.  True, all women are inherently stupid, childish, and emotional, which is why we have them locked away in our homes and out of public view, and which is also why we do not allow them to vote.  However, this one seems to be an exception.  Maybe she is a man in disguise.  (At this, men begin chattering excitedly to one another.)  I said be quiet!  Maybe she is an oracle.  I have heard of such things – a blind, stupid woman can sometimes access the dream world, and bring back wisdom.  If she is such an oracle, and we refuse to listen to her, this might be at our own peril.

(A does not look happy – he has painted himself into a corner, without realizing it … this woman must be a sorceress!  And now he has no choice but to let her speak.  He does not like where this is headed, but there’s nothing he can do.)

W:  I see many people, both men and women, throughout my days as a seamstress.  They all have several things in common:  they all, without exception, take pride in their work and their contribution.  They all strive towards co-operation, and most of them abhor conflict.  They all care deeply for their families, except for those with mental problems – and those people have been traumatized, explaining their aberrance.  We should not occupy ourselves with aberrant people, but instead focus on the majority, when formulating theories about the nature of humans.  Will you allow this point?

A:  Of course.  We should not focus ourselves on aberrations, when discussing the nature of humans.  On this I agree.

W:  Well then – the only people I ever encounter who seem to be selfish by nature, are the aristocrats themselves.  It seems that the more they have, the more selfish they become.  They tend to cause conflict wherever they go, unlike the common folk.  And they tend not to look after their own families, instead enlisting other people to do this for them.  In fact – all of the good qualities that I have seen in each and every common person with whom I have dealt, are completely absent in the aristocrats.

A:  What is your point, woman?  We have things to do here.  (Many of the surrounding men begin to walk away.  The crowd thins out.  People have stopped listening.  They have been made uncomfortable by her truths, and they worry about being caught listening to her.  They worry that they will be punished for listening.  So, they disperse.)

W:  My point is that you, in asserting that people are inherently selfish by nature, are simply doing what you’ve been hired to do – rationalize the aristocracy.  In fact, it is not possible to prove that all people are inherently selfish.  That is an unproveable fact, which you have however stated as fact.  Then you rationalize your arguments, coming to the conclusion that since all people are selfish, therefore the aristocrats are necessary to keep order and prevent people from fighting.  Your argument simply goes around in a big circle, and really goes nowhere.  And the entire rationalization is based on one single, unproven, unproveable fact:  that humans have a bad nature, and therefore must be told what to do.  I find your arguments are not only unpersuasive, they are in fact ridiculous.

A:  GUARDS!  Take her away!  Put her in that tower, lock her up, and throw away the key.  She has no husband anyway, so there’s nobody to miss her.  (He backhands her across the face, hard, breaking her nose and causing her to lose two teeth.)  Nobody will ever hear from you again.  You’ll be lucky in you don’t die of starvation.  You have now officially disappeared.

And so ends the discussion.

The violence formula

Violence = Anger/rage + bitterness + arousal

That’s how it’s done.  Let’s examine the elements of the formula.  Everybody gets angry some time, this is normal.  Failure to experience or express anger, resulting in suppression, can have detrimental effects on health long term.  Healthy outlets for releasing anger are key.  Maybe this is what sports is for – a healthy, contained outlet for frustration.  Even the armchair athlete can enjoy its benefits.

But when anger festers long term without an outlet, or with constant input of irritation and stress and no hope of relief, bitterness results.  Bitterness is a special emotion.  It seems that bitterness is sometimes deliberately cultivated in certain populations.  People are chronically deprived of a pleasant life, while being constantly exposed to the nice lives that others enjoy.  They are shown this on purpose, while their own lives continue to be miserable.  Over time, this can cause bitterness to fester.  Bitterness is likely the most key element of violence – it arises from hopelessness, long term stress, jealousy, and being on the receiving end of hatred.

Many people sneer at religion, and claim that “religion” (as if it’s one single thing) is the cause of the world’s worst problems.  Not true at all.  There is no such thing as “religion”.  There are thousands, if not millions, of different belief systems – spiritual and otherwise.  Some of these belief systems provide hope, joy, cheer, and emotional sustenance.  Others do quite the opposite.  You can’t paint it all with a single brush and call it “religion”.  That’s an imaginary thing, a category which is much too broad to be a valid concept.

But the point here about religion is that it is a remedy for bitterness, when it’s a healthy belief system.  When religion promotes unhealthy beliefs (e.g. such as, women are naturally inferior to men … girls shouldn’t be educated … one third of the world is evil … etc.) then in those situations, religion actually fosters bitterness, rather than providing a remedy for it.  That’s very dangerous.  But don’t think that throwing all “religion” out is the answer either.  You take away the one aspect of peoples’ lives which gives them hope and strength, that would be a recipe for trouble indeed.  Then you would cause much more widespread bitterness to occur.

Religion is a stop-gap, necessary because our world got set up economically in such an unbalanced fashion, leaving so many people in the dust.  Because of that situation, religion is a necessary component of a peaceful world.  Maybe once we have re-balanced the situation so that it makes more sense, fewer and fewer people might turn to religion for comfort in times of stress and misery.  But we aren’t there yet.

Back to bitterness.  Bitterness is like fuel.  Unlike what one famous American said, the only thing we have to fear is NOT fear itself.  Fear is good.  Fear helps us to survive.  Fear is healthy.  He was wrong.  No, the only thing we have to fear, is anger and bitterness, with arousal.  That’s the formula that makes people rip things up and damage other people.  Anger and rage provide the material to create bitterness.  And arousal is like the match which lights the fuel.

A man might not really have the type of character to assault a woman.  But if he learns to dislike her enough and this develops into rage, and then she arouses him somehow, he will become capable of violence against her.  And now we might be able to understand why women in societies with chronic poverty and deprivation and misery, go around with their bodies covered up.  Very wise of them.  This prevents the arousal that might set men off.  Because this particular formula for violence seems to be aimed at males in particular.  Women apparently do not have the same types of brains, i.e. based on visual stimulation.  It’s well known that women need mental stimulation, ideas, promises, security, status, to become aroused – even without anything visually pleasing.  Men, however, are famously set off by their eyesight, according to countless neurological studies.  So the formula for violence, which is lit up by arousal, is much more easily accomplished via appealing to males.  And this is why men are the ones doing most of the violence, with few exceptions.

Now that we have decoded how violence happens, even to formerly peaceful men, we have to eliminate its components in order to solve this problem.

I’m not sure how to eliminate bitterness.  But personally, I don’t allow myself to feel it.  If somebody has chronically stressed me out, to the point where things have gotten ridiculous, I don’t feel bitter.  I just intensely dislike them.  This doesn’t really change.  Once I dislike somebody that much, that’s it.  Nothing will change it.  Dislike is not particularly volatile in nature.  It just means that you avoid a person’s company.  You can be quite civil in the presence of somebody whom you dislike, that’s pretty easy.  For me, once I dislike somebody, I don’t really ever change that, because I choose not to.  This is my way of protecting myself against further stress from that person.  I learn not to care about them.  And that’s how I protect myself – however I don’t become bitter.  I just kind of eliminate them from my mental circle.  It’s just a natural process, which I don’t interfere with.  I can still have relations with them, i.e. if we do business, I can still do that.  But I don’t have to like them.  That’s how I get around the problem of bitterness – I just don’t do it.  When it comes to jealousy, this is something that I can talk myself out of.  If I see somebody doing much better than I am, for no sound reason, I just tell myself that I’m still doing pretty well, all things considered, in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to the basic necessities.  It’s just a mental process whereby you talk yourself out of being jealous, and it’s not hard to do.

As far as arousal, at my age this isn’t a problem either.  I’m not in my 20s anymore.  So it isn’t an issue.  It’s very rare, and it doesn’t control me.  It definitely cannot occur with somebody whom I dislike.  If I dislike a person, they will never arouse me.  This is quite unlike the experience of many men.  I just watched a Hollywood movie where they were training somebody to be a member of a “secret society” which does killings.  Leaving aside how repugnant this idea is, what was interesting was that this attractive woman was overseeing the torment of this new recruit.  She would stand by while he was beaten.  This was supposed to create anger and rage in him, which they could then use.  He learned to dislike her intensely of course.  And then, he saw her without clothes on – and his dislike evaporated instantly.

Of course, as usual, Hollywood got it all wrong.  In reality, with real people, in this type of situation a person’s dislike for the overseer of their abuse would never evaporate.  They would continue to dislike them, and they would likely become bitter after a long time of abuse.  And seeing the overseer without clothes on would simply cause arousal, and this might cause him to be violent against her.  His feelings wouldn’t just evaporate in an instant upon seeing her – but they might change to violence.  So they definitely got that wrong in this movie, but are we surprised?  Hollywood follows its own formulas, and they almost never resemble how people actually behave in real life.  But at least it was food for thought.

The world is currently experiencing a campaign of 11 days to end violence against women and girls.  I hope that putting forward this formula, might help to solve this problem once and for all.  We could never eliminate violence I guess, but we can begin to pinpoint WHO is creating the formula.  We can start to understand its sources, and call people who are doing this to task – call them out.  Let everybody see who they are.  The perpetrators in this case, the ones creating the formula for violence, are probably right out in the open for all to see, because what they are doing isn’t strictly illegal.  But it’s very damaging.  Since there are no laws against hoarding and displaying wealth, right in front of impoverished struggling people, and also there are no laws against exposing them to arousing stimulation once they’ve become good and bitter, the only way to stop this formula is to educate people as to what’s being done to them.  If you say to somebody, “You are being slowly transformed into a violent person.  Because you have plenty of rage, you have become bitter, and you are drawn to arousing stimulation – this is a terrible formula … you could fall prey to it.  You are being used.  You are in danger of ruining your own life, by committing criminal acts,” then maybe we’d have a hope of getting to them, waking them up and allowing them to clearly see the situation, thereby preventing them from being lit up.  That would be my hope.