Thursday, February 23, 2006

What the Bleep? Revisited

Beliefnet has an entertainment item on the release of a new, expanded version of What the Bleep? What, the first version wasn't trite and mind-numbing enough? Maybe I'm being too hard on the film. Donna Freitas, writing for Beliefnet's Idol Chatter: Religion & Pop Culture blog seems to think the film was brilliant and that the new expanded director's cut is even better.
Mindboggling, jaw-dropping, thrilling, engrossing. All these adjectives apply--and then some--when describing "What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole: Extended Director's Cut," playing in select cities now. (It's basically a long version of last year's very popular "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"--already available on DVD.)
Uh, yeah. Okay, Donna, whatever you say.

The movie seems to appeal to those who are very naive about physics and tend toward the New Age end of the spirituality spectrum. I don't know anyone capable of critical thinking that found the movie anything other than silly (or boring). Again, maybe I am being too harsh.

This is the review I wrote in May of 2005 (posted on Raven's View) and reposted at Beliefnet.
Out of curiosity, I saw the original film when it was in the theaters. I found it trite and reductionist, despite its claim to the contrary. I find anything to do with JZ Knight and Ramtha to be laughable, so that was another strike against it. Finally, the physics it presents as an explanation of the Universe is only one viewpoint, the Mind/Matter Connection, which isn't even the dominant theory--but the New Age crowd loves it. The Copenhagen Interpretation still reigns as the dominant explanation of the collapse of the quantum wave packet.

Still, something else bothered me about the movie. It finally hit me, while reading an issue of Tricycle, that what bothered me about the movie and all the people who think it was profound was its confusion of translation with transcendence.

Translation is a horizontal process that offers new ways of seeing the same world. Transcendence is a vertical process that allows one to transform consciousness so that the world is understood in new, vaster ways. The first is like using binoculars to see the world. The second is like climbing a mountain to see the world.

What the (bleep)? offers a new lens for looking at the world (in this case, a lens that is flawed), but it doesn't offer any way to transform one's consciousness. It's kind of like going shopping for new clothes to cure depression. It might work for a little while, but nothing really has changed.

Translation is valuable and serves its purpose, especially in such a close-minded world. But what we really need is transcendence. We need to raise our level of spiritual development. All of the world's great religions offer tools to achieve this goal, from Christian devotional prayer to Sufi dancing to Buddhist meditation. Science cannot transform consciousness for one simple reason--its domain is the physical world, not the domain of consciousness.

There have been a lot of books claiming spiritual interpretations of science, but they are all flawed. The most famous book, The Tao of Physics, never actually claimed that mysticism and science were the same thing--it merely drew many parallels that the New Age crowd misinterpreted.

We need more people who are willing to engage in transcendence. If we hope to save ourselves and our world from ecological, military, and financial disaster, we must raise the center of gravity of humanity's consciousness. If we stay where we are now, obsessed with ethnocentric and egocentric needs, we are doomed.

At no point during this entire farce of a movie did anyone ever advocate sitting down, watching thoughts float by in the mind, and letting the sense of a solid reality melt away. Who needs moronic interpretations of physics to do this simple thing? Who needs a middle-aged white woman pretending to channel an ancient consciousness to count breaths?

Sit. Breathe. Count breaths. Watch your mind. Repeat.


Steve said...

I agree with your take on the film. I can only imagine that its newer, longer version is just more of the same nonsense that appeared in the original version.

I especially liked the way you compared "translation" to a view with binoculars and "transcendence" (aka "transformation") to a view from the mountaintop. However, I confess that I'm not sure just how valuable "transcendence" actually is. As I expressed in a blog entry of my own last year, I sometimes think that most of us might be better off spending the time improving our translation and participating in other activities that we'd otherwise lavish on cultivating transcendence. Here is a link to my entry addressing this and related themes:

Anonymous said...

I loved the Ramtha stuff because I'd never seen her/him before, so I had no idea who the brassy blonde with the wacky voice and the dodgy false lashes was, but I disliked her immediately - everything she said just seemed mushy and overly certain at the same time. Then we got to the end and they 'fessed up to who each of the speakers were I realised that she the Lord Hunk-Ra!.

Actually, Bill, I'm as bewildered as you are about the popularity of the film. I got maybe three interesting thoughts from it - I think I got more from "Speed".