Movies As Art – Ripples in Time

“This world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts.” Spoken by the character Robert Frobisher played by Ben Whishaw in Cloud Atlas

Sunrise for Skin

For several weeks I’ve been struggling with who I am as a writer. Writers write what they know. That’s why in this blog I write about my spiritual journey, my creative life, and about movies. I’ve learned a lot from these aspects of my life. But, I’ve been examining what it is I’m trying to say with my writing. What is my message?

In the midst of this self-examination a couple of things happened. The first was, I attended my women’s book club group. As always, the conversation turned to what’s going on in the world. On more than one occasion I’ve put my two cents worth in that the events we see on the news are just one level of reality. There’s another level that most people don’t see. I appreciate the ladies in my group. They don’t think I’m crazy when I talk like that. They struggle to understand my point of view. It’s nice to have friends who accept me as I am. Bless you ladies.

A few days later, my sister reposted a portion of Wayne Dyer’s new book, I Can See Clearly Now. When I read the excerpt, I knew what my message is and how to express it.

Since I was a young girl, I’ve understood that there are two realities. There is the normal, everyday world of going to school, work, church, doing chores and the like. Then there is another, more ephemeral reality. One we can only feel. When I’ve expressed this point of view, many people don’t understand what I’m talking about. To help you understand, I’ll share a movie example. There have been many movies that have tried to express this dual reality. The one I’m going to write about today is Cloud Atlas.

The movie got mixed reviews. Some critics got the point others didn’t. Granted, it is a movie you have to pay attention to. In fact you may need to watch it multiple times, because there are six intertwining story lines, with the actors playing multiple roles. I love what Roger Ebert wrote about the movie. “Any explanation of a work of art must be found in it, not taken from it. …Maybe it’s just the telling of itself.” He went on to write that he had no explanation for what the movie meant. And to my mind that’s the point of the movie. Do we ever know the meaning, or impact of our lives as we live them? Maybe mystics, or philosophers, or poets, or artists do, to a certain extent. But, most of us are just drifting through life in what Carlos Castaneda calls normal awareness. Only a small amount of the population is aware of other forces, or other realities affecting our lives.

Cloud Atlas, is a work of art that expresses these two competing realities. Sonmi-451, a character in the movie says, “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” If we take that one quote, and feel it’s impact, we’d understand that everything we do reverberates throughout time. We feel the reverberation of people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesus, and Buddha. On the other hand, we also feel the shock waves of powerful politicians, princes of industry and science. Some of those shock waves are good, some not so good. But, my question is: Do you ever think about the smaller ripples you make by your choices? I do, and a movie like Cloud Atlas points out the importance of every single person’s contribution to the unseen reality. Every action we take, moves us in a direction. The movie suggests that the direction is toward higher awareness. I agree, and feel that everything that happens moves us in a positive direction. What looks like a tragic event, can be the awakening moment for a person, or a group of people. In fact this happens in more than one of the story lines in Cloud Atlas. As an example I’ll use the 1849 storyline.

A man, Adam Ewing, goes to secure a contract for slaves for his father-in-law. He becomes the victim of a greedy doctor who wants the gold he knows the man is carrying, not to mention every single thing of value Adam has. Dr. Goose says, “There is only one rule that binds all people. One governing principle that defines every relationship on God’s green earth: The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.” He states the mantra of those living in normal awareness.

Fortunately, Adam is saved by choosing to help a slave who stows away on his ship home. He had witnessed the slave being brutally whipped earlier in the movie, and was appalled by the brutality. He helps the slave gain a position as sailor on the ship. Because Adam rejected Dr. Goose’s philosophy, he’s saved by the slave from being poisoned to death. When he arrives home, he confronts his father-in-law about his inhumanity. He and his wife move north to join the abolitionist movement. In a later story line, they are again revolutionaries working to change the world for the better.

Cloud Atlas is a movie that shows us there is more to our lives than our short physical lifespans. Ephemeral reality is trying to help us to expand and grow. The question is, do we feel the gentle push, and follow, or do we wait until our lives fall apart before we wake up to the bigger and better possibilities we can experience in our lives? It’s up to you to decide what impact you’re going to make throughout time.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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