Daily Archives: July 19, 2005

Onward Toward The Great Whatever

What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (Otherwise known as What the Bleep Do We Know?) is the kind of film that is recommended among those already converted to its premise – that we create our own reality. The film endeavors to recount the endless implications of this hypothesis. I’m guessing it succeeds in convincing only those who already believe all of them.For the rest of us, What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? is, at best, unintentionally funny in spots, mildly entertaining in others, and just annoyingly ludicrous for the most part. It employs a cast of “experts” who are not identified on screen. It turns out that some of them are known and respected scientists – physicists, neurologists, astronomers. Others, like JZ Knight, whose claim to fame – her “ability” to channel the 35,000 year-old Ramtha, a supposedly Atlantean sage – make a mockery of the credentialed cast because all the quoted sources are given equal weight and presented as possessing expert knowledge.The silliness really starts here. It’s also irresponsible and manipulative. We’re led seamlessly along a path from the credibly inscrutable world of sub-atomic physics toward the fatuous un-bleeping-believable world of new age gibberish. The results of well-documented and repeatable experiments in quantum physics are presented along with junk-science reports. They are given equal time and proffered up as somehow proving concepts like “nothing is real” and “time is an illusion.”By the time the film ends, the rational use of language and logic has been pummeled into submission and we’re left not on the edge of our seats but on the edge of sanity. This may seem liberating to some – borderline psychotics come to mind. But reasonable viewers will know the difference between Shinola and its organic double.Integrated – edited, at least – into the science and pseudo-science here is a short movie in which Marlee Matlin sort of acts out situations that are vaguely related to the concepts being presented. That’s the only reason I can imagine why these sequences exist in the film at all. I guess we’re supposed to draw connections between our quotidian lives and their attendant miseries and see how they’re reflected in the anxiety-ridden mindset and sensory-challenged perception that is Matlin’s fate to endure. She does do “annoying” very well, I suppose.Cartoon animations are also patched into this cinematographic slurry. They resemble antacid commercials from the ‘50s done up in psychedelic colors. They careen around the mise-en-scene portraying anatomical and psychological processes. Their addition makes the film reminiscent of one of those movies we were shown in Health class.If my descriptions of What the Bleep… seem a bit odd, they still can’t convey the truly wacky feeling that suffuses the attempts at seriousness in this film. It’s just that bad. The best I can say is it provides an opportunity to laugh at the filmmakers and not with them.*More troubling than the fact that this film exists at all is how it serves as a reminder that soft-headedness is on the rise in our society. We’ve endured sloppy new age clichés for decades now but this new version, complete with scientific-sounding “explanations” and “proofs” is gaining adherents faster than a Black Hole sucks up information. If you don’t believe this, head over to the official web site and get a load of the What the Bleep… hoopla. (Among the self-congratulatory presentations here you’ll see critics quoted out of context so their words reflect positively on the production even when their reviews make the opposite point.)* To be sure, on the quantum level, the universe displays some very strange characteristics. And we are responsible for a great deal of what happens to us in our lives. But to make the leap from abstruse mathematical expressions to catch-all words and concepts that can encapsulate and explain the mysteries of phenomenal and psychological experience is something only the most gullible among us could swallow. It’s as if by accepting the simple notion that anything is possible we are suddenly enlightened and free to live any life we care to create for ourselves.The film makes a big deal out of the metaphor of addiction. We’re told that everything we do in our conventional lives is addictive behavior, predetermined by our past habits, and delusional. Yet, this new kind of thinking that’s proposed as liberating functions as just another, albeit new, version of addictive thinking and behavior – we’re simply urged to live our lives according to a new book of rules. We can memorize the assumptions and live by them – not at all different in any way, really, from the traditional religions this film lambastes for their doctrinaire approach to life.*I must confess that for decades I held firmly to many of the new age paradigms expressed in this film. I was an idiot. I’m quite more in control of my life and my life is more manageable and much better since I rejected this poor excuse for a worldview. I see it now as a big copout from actually coming to terms with life as it presents itself each potentially excellent historical moment. I take more responsibility for things than I used to – not because I think I create my own reality, but because I’ve accepted the reality and necessity of the social fabric I once rejected. I used the new age stuff as a rationalization for laziness and fuzzy thinking. It was more “addicting” than the way I see things now – period.I’d encourage you to view this film as a way of measuring how far along you are on a road we’re being encouraged to take these days. I hope you’ll see it as the shoddy fantasy world it is and that you’ll be happy to reenter the conventional and consensual real world after this make-believe film ends.*Image: Neurons, from the film What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?

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