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  • On speaking and listening

    “The louder a man shout’s, the more profoundly he’s wrong” (Gallagher 2009)

    One early evening, around 5.30pm, I caught a bus from Northampton town centre, a routine commute after work, travelling back to my home town Kettering. It was a slow journey and I was in a particularly stilled frame of mind, senses keen and thoughts clear. I decided to listen in to the conversations of my fellow passengers. It dawned on me that many of us, given the correct social setting, will talk and talk and talk, without communicating a single interesting idea, without contributing anything of substance to the discussion. Why is it that we to0 often invest such energy into talking but fail so triumphantly at not actually saying anything of consequence.

    The art of storytelling, of truly connecting to a person through speech has been lost. Television, smart phones, social media, and cultural shifts at large have made the once tribal celebration of speech, the art of talking, unnecessary. We now communicate feelings more aptly through abbreviated digital messages than we do through talking. Spiritually connected to the wafer-thin glass-fronted box of lights than we are with each other.

    And if we have lost the art of talking, how then does this affect our ability to listen?

    Like those on the bus, often our egocentric nature relentlessly drives us to have our say. Our inability to sit back and absorb a conversation results in nothing more than driving a conversation into a debate, a verbal abyss where no wisdom is conveyed nor any connection made. Now this may be expected on a cramped bus, already swamped with the noise of traffic and commuters, but let’s now take this example and place it in a care setting, or among the elderly, or in a therapeutic environment where listening is fundamental to all those involved.

    In a care-home environment, often the only pleasure for its residents is to be listened to – the opportunity to tell a story and rejoice in having somebody kind enough to listen, to share in their experience. Empathy cannot be achieved without being able to listen, and in the fields of psychotherapy this is essential, it is primal and it is something modern man has forgotten. When working with Kettering MIND the following exert was given to me on the instruction that I read it before beginning my training in the skills of listening:

    To hear, one must be silent, says a wise man to his apprentice in a fantasy novel. The silence extends to calmness, as far as possible in the physical setting, but in any case within the listener. Yet the silence is far from passive: active listening, albeit watching, thoughtful monitoring of oneself – all go to make up the skills of listening, enabling us the better to hear what the speaker is really saying. Only then dare the helper presume to speak.” (Jacobs, 1985)

    At the end of a particularly riveting lecture on Business Information Systems I, having remained silent throughout the discussion, I was asked my opinion on the subject. More to satisfy my tutor’s curiosity than contribute, I spoke my mind. Just before I left the lecture hall my tutor pulled me aside and said this: I talk little but what I say is profound. This has stayed with me over the years, and has confirmed the importance of active silence, of truly listening.

    Like a virus, this slow decay of our ability to talk and listen may affect our other senses, a slow death of the instincts transforming us into slaves of our own advances.

    We live busy stressful lives, always connected and available on-demand, indeed actor and comedian George Carlin one described modern man as “a high-tech low life”, “a top gun bottom feeder” “a raging workaholic, and a working rageaholic” – spoken with true wisdom during his his 2005 stand-up, Life is worth Losing

    During a 6 mile walk through rich fragrant blossom filled streets my senses were on overdrive, I stopped at nearly every tree, every flower, and simply breathed the air, filling my very soul with sunshine. I realised then that smell is potentially another endangered sense – think about it – when was the last time you walked down the street and simply smelled? When did you last smell a flower, when was the last time you acknowledged the freshness early morning rain or the sweetness of blossom, the earthy smell of fresh tilled soil?

    This deprivation of sense may be seen to effect memory – and with dementia on the increase in the over 60s are all these things contributing factors? Are we really that disconnected to our instinctual primal abilities – are we dead on the inside?

    [recommended reading: The Alchemy of Voice by Stewart Pearce: yes it’s a form of self-help book but I discovered this great read during my studies in 2004, its informative writings on the origins of speech and its use in modern times was enlightening, and complimentary when looking into the art of listening – how often do we listen to ourselves (listen to how we speak not just what we say)?

    —[more on this to come]—

    * Gallagher, B: The Prisoner: 2009, AMC and ITV television miniseries.

    * Jackons, M, 1985

     

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  • Tron Legacy

    20 Years away from the grid: Don’t get me wrong, I was a massive Tron fan in my younger 90s days but somewhere in the 20 year gap I forgot about The Grid. Then in late 2009 comic-con released a teaser trailer for a sequel – and suddenly I was revisiting the digital domain of Tron – one aged and much darker than before.

    Kevin Flynn

    The Creator – Flynn

    I was fascinated by Kevin Flynn’s return, the idea of an older, much wiser Flynn and one that is perceived as a deity on The Grid. And so I followed every development and every rumour (much thanks to ign.com) of the film up to its release. I have always believed in the spirit, discovered the art of meditation quite naturally as a very young child, but after seeing this film I have become passionate about Zazen and following my way of Zen.

    People have criticised this film on its slow build-up and story line, personally I believe its slow build-up is necessary – there is 20 years of retrospection to be covered, however when the true-action begins things really start to move. But this review is not about the action, visa vie its inaction what matters, the importance of waiting, being still, moving past wants and needs. Visually Legacy complements its 1982 predecessor perfectly while still maintaining a contemporary visual. The Grid has changed, its much larger, infinitely more possible, and much darker. I will not go into specifics regarding plot, there are plenty of well-read reviews for this already, suffice it to say Kevin Flynn became locked within the world of Tron and (as covered in Tron Uprising) there has been a rebellion by the Programs against its Creator. Tron who was once the architect’s assistant has been corrupted and reprogrammed by Clu who has now gained power over The Grid and forced Kevin Flynn into hiding. When the Son of Flynn enters The Grid the time of meditation is over – the resurrection is begun.

    However all is not what it seems as these actions are all the design of Clu, who’s agenda threatens both the digital domain and the physical world. The chemistry between Creator and Creation, between Flynn and The Grid, is a perfect analogy for the Christianity faith – as is succinctly explained in The Likeness of the Creator by  James F. McGrath:

    ” The creator, Flynn, does not simply condemn and punish his creation, Clu, made in his own image and likeness. He recognizes that the shortcomings of Clu are a reflection of himself as creator. In fact, Clu’s vision of “perfection” mirrored Flynn’s own at the time he created Clu. But what he came to realize later is that such ideals of perfection in fact pale in comparison with the reality of human life, with all its flaws and failures.”

    Naturally Tron Legacy lends itself effortlessly to blu-ray and a good clear HD screen, the visuals are stunning and the digital realm is rendered in flawless detail. Indeed this was one of my best blu-ray purchases and truly made me appreciate just how good my screen is. Contrasts are well defined and edges pin-sharp, and pleasingly these are achieved without losing texture definition.

    light-cycle-tron1

    At the heart of all this is a truly great music score by Daft Punk, the digital realm is brought to life with an amazing soundtrack – digital beats and contemplative ambience. It has been quite some time since I last purposely purchased an OST, but the Tron Legacy OST is a must have and I have been listening to it ever since its release. The remixed score – Reconfigured is an amazing compilation presenting Daft Punk’s electronic masterpiece in another totally awesome light.

    Tron Legacy and the days up to its release have sparked many revelations and followers, the Flynn Lives following (elaborated during the bonus footage potentially showing the origins of a further film Tron 3 – see Tron Legacy blu-ray bonus content), Flynn Frontier, some fascinating fan-made pages and projects including Life Beyond the Digital Frontier by  MAXIMILIAN MAJEWSKI, and the previously mentioned The Likeness of the Creator by  James F. McGrath.

    Tron Legacy is one of three favourite films, and one that is always viewed with the lights dimmed, the surround-sound enabled, and the screen freshly cleaned. Its definitely a thinker’s film, deep and spiritual, a great sci-fi who fans of a digital existence like The Matrix will love.

    -Flynn Lives!

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  • Lady In The Water

    Water has memory, it remembers who we were and sees who we now are, it senses the greed of men, water also remembers those things we have forgotten. Emotion, the spirit, kindness, guardianship, love and the future.Like many of M. Night Shyamalan’s films [allegedly] you will either love or hate this film. When I first saw this film I rented it from my local Blockbusters store (now closed down), the check-out guy gave me such an encouraging review of this film, and yet I have also spoken to people who hate it. I myself think it’s a work of art, the photography is amazing, each frame is meticulously shot and establishes a vivid visual style. The acting is sublime and made me an instant fan of Paul Giamatti.

    lady in the water

    A water Narf named Story dwells in a small deep communal pool at a building called The Cove, Story has been sent to fulfil her purpose, to try and make men remember how to listen. She meets Cleveland Heap a man who believes he has no purpose, a man of great knowledge and a man who lost everything. Every being has a purpose, sometimes we just need reminding who we once were.

    Story’s purpose is revealed through a gathering of 12 people, the vessel, guardian, a symbolist, a guild, one who has no secrets, seven sisters, and the healer.

    No one is ever told who they are.

    A word about which format best to view this film; I would not bother with it in blu-ray, it has been over-treated with such a high contrast that many of the shadow details are gone entirely, the dynamic colour range has been far too compressed and over saturated. The films soundtrack also sounds flatter. – This is far better viewed on DVD (in my opinion).

    This is an emotional film, it stirs the soul – calm waters run deep, and indeed this film is about water – something us Pisceans know all about.

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  • The Fountain

    The Fountain 2006 – Directed by Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream).

    This is spirituality 101, life death and rebirth are told here in deep, evocative shades across three interwoven timelines that dance around the spirit. The film’s score (by Clint Mansell) is one of the finest pieces of music I have come across, its haunting meditative flavours are truly penetrating. I have often chosen the score prior to my meditation sessions, it massages the soul and quietens the mind.

    This is one of three favourite spiritual films (see also Tron Legacy, The Big Lebowsky and Winter Spring Summer Spring)

    The use of match-cuts and recurring visual motifs (merging separate scene time lines to tell the same story) is truly mesmerising. This film is intelligent and certainly needs (and deserves) several viewings. The way life, death, life and living, are told through the use of metaphor, metaphysics, meditation, and spirituality is truly humbling.

    The visuals and colours are rich and a treat when viewed in a darkened room with some candles, indeed many of the scenes are bathed in deep warm candle light. Like deep calm waters, the flow of this film is slow and offers no appeal for those seeking action – indeed what’s fundamental to this film is inaction – stopping and looking within, finding stillness and evoking deep contemplation.

    The acting in this is sublime, Hugh Jackman’s performance (as Dr Tom Creo) is the best I have seen – the emotions, despair, guilt, love and loss and ultimately enlightenment are real. The writing is beautifully told and delivered. It would be inappropriate to talk about character development because the very concept of this is what the film is about.

    As for what format makes best viewing I believe DVD gives the best experience, the Blu-Ray version seems overworked, the dynamic colour range is somewhat compressed to compensate for higher contract (the darks are too extreme), also the films score is dampened on Blu-Ray (in my opinion).

    My thinking-mans deep spiritual collection of films is now becoming quite extensive but this remains in my top three, and for the price of DvDs these days this is simply a bargain and something I believe everybody better for seeing sometime in their lives.

    Also reviewed by:

    unpacked thoughts – the ramblings of a grown boy

     

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