Ok- as part of my work as a writer, I find myself always dishing about movies and how they provoked my mind and heart to open just a little wider. I love movies, what can I say? And no matter what I’m dealing with while I navigate my mental and soul-driven landscape, watching a movie is like opening a book up to a random page that will teach me something relevant to what I am learning in that present moment. Since perception is largely guided by the ego-driven mind, perceptions and points of view are constantly changing and impermanent. I can watch a movie now, and years later watch it again with a whole different interpretation and feeling around it.
Every experience that we have in life is a tool for personal growth if you choose to look at it that way- even pop culture! I know you’re asking, really? And I’m saying, “ABSOLUTELY!” I might be the only person in the world that watched Bridget Jones Diary after every break-up (I know that is ridiculous and completely untrue) and cried when she cried after her run-in with the American stick figure in her man’s bathroom, but I guess I’m choosing to “out” myself here.
Nonetheless, I was watching Babel for the first time because I secretly knew for years that the film would completely put me into a spiraling depression, but there I was on a Saturday night ready to rock and roll. As I watched the film, I felt my anxiety rising like the speed of a rocket bound for a crash and burn. Every situation continued to get worse, and I found myself thinking- how could it get any worse, and yet- it did, again and again and again!
The most difficult part of that film for me was watching people suffer and make choices that you knew would cause even more suffering. In being a deeply empathic person, films like Babel should come with a warning sticker for me. Like those fluorescent green “Mr. Yuck” stickers my Mom used to put on everything in the kitchen sink. Racism, emotional isolation- all mental torture. So of course, I had to do some reflection while I watched. In Buddhism, emptiness teaches at its core that there is no separate self. The ego-driven mind will do everything it can to prove to you that there is and it is easy to buy into it because it is a mental habit that we have relied on for thousands of years. Babel was painful for me because it demonstrated the constant battle we carry around with us between the ego-driven mind and our higher mind- the part that is simply, patiently waiting for us to pay attention and “get it.”
I found myself practically yelling at the screen, which is probably the way I would be yelling at myself if I could watch my life like a film. Every choice we make affects another, whether we are conscious of it or not, because we are not separate beings. We are interconnected in our deepest essence- whether you want to call it a soul, or our nature. The “out” we have in all of our suffering in watching others suffer is the path of compassion and the choice to not live in ignorance. The more awareness we choose to gain and develop, the less we live in ignorance, the more compassion we can cultivate, and the more we help the world. It all starts with a redevelopment of our self perception, and choosing to remember our true nature- which is empty of meaning, empty of a separate self. Thank god that movie is over!