My rather pathetic attempts at house hunting this weekend ended with little to show for my efforts. This is partly due to poor planning. What I really should’ve done (and will do next weekend) is hire a car. All these places you’ve gotta get to in a short space of time not so easy on the ol’ public transport.
After viewing a couple of places (duds), I found myself in one of my old haunting grounds. I allowed myself to be diverted, knowing I wouldn’t get to see all the places I wanted to see, and resolving to do better next weekend.
So I felt drawn towards the local art house cinema. Well, it does play mainstream movies too, but it’s a great venue for seeing flicks on the road less travelled. I went to see “Burn After Reading” the Cohen Brothers’ latest offering.
I thoroughly enjoyed it. But not because of George Clooney and Brad Pitt! And not even because of John Malkovich, Frances McDormand or Tilda Swinton. It’s full of dark humour a-plenty which tickled my fancy almost as much as some of the slap-stick moments.
But none of these were the reason I enjoyed it so much.
What was blatantly clear as the story unfolded was the madness of mankind. We’re all happy to point the finger at someone else’s craziness, but we often fail to see our own day to day activities or thoughts as quite insane.
Frances McDormand’s character justifies her attempt at bribery due to her desperation for plastic surgery. When her first plan fails, she is insistent it could still work: “There’s always the Chinese!”
George Clooney’s smooth player/nutter was so sure he was in control until his encounter with Brad Pitt in the wardrobe. Things took a turn for the worse when he realised who was following him and why. His is easily one of the most lost characters in the movie, and his ultimate spin into paranoia is splendid to watch.
Mr Malkovich on first appearance is logical and rational. Even if he is an alcoholic. But in the end proves to be just as crazy as the others.
Richard Jenkins as the owner of the gym where Frances and Brad work even has his moments. In his misguided but well meaning way, he brings disaster down on his own head (a pun for those who’ve seen the movie), in the name of love.
Thing is, it’s possible to sympathise with each of these characters. From their own particular world view, everything they think and do is quite logical. Even when it’s clear they are deluded.
My Guru talks about ‘basic sanity’. He says there’s no point attempting spiritual work until you are basically sane. That said, many of my Guru’s students (including me) are still struggling with 100% basic sanity ourselves!
Perhaps the most ubiquitous and subtle form of our madness is plain old every day insanity which is in fact how most people function.
Let me try to explain…
Human beings take what we think we see and assign it a meaning regardless how relevant or irrelevant that meaning is. We do this in all sorts of situations down to the tiniest thoughts and feelings.
We layer many such meanings on top of each other and then we assume we see things clearly based on what we already ‘know’. As long as we’re not on medication, we think we are sane and logical.
But what do we really actually really ‘know’?
How can we be sure we haven’t hoodwinked ourselves at some point, or at multiple points? When do we truly see clearly?
We regularly assume the actions and reactions of others around us are personal. But most of the time other people are too busy doing the same thing as we do ourselves, within the confines of their own befuddled brains.
George Clooney’s character demonstrates this very well when he freaks out in the park with Frances McDormand.
Clear seeing is crucial to basic sanity. By that I mean seeing reality as it actually is. Without story. Separating fact from exaggeration and emotional bias.
Once clear seeing comes to the party, it’s possible to create some space between stimulus and response. And learn to become detached and non-reactive in a way you never could before.
Which means most of us are insane to one degree or another. We don’t possess basic sanity when our daily experience is one of stimulus / response / stimulus / response without pause.
For mine, yoga/meditation is the path that delivers this knowledge for me. It can create the ‘gaps’ required to allow basic sanity to gain a foothold.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other paths that work just as well. But when people start assuming their way is the only way that too is a form of madness.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s okay. That probably means that you’re a little insane and you just don’t know it.
But don’t worry – you’re in good company with a solid 95% or more of the world’s population!