Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cloud Atlas

A fricken masterpiece. I suspended my disbelief in reincarnation and some mystical Whole that connects us all. Still, the theme of connection with the Other via love resonated deeply. And the separate stories, excellent in themselves, did cohere through a common thread of humanity and culture, if not of Spirit. Very well done. More later after I stew in it a while.

Update: We're discussing this at IPS forum, where there was a link to a review that featured Wilber's ideas as likely influence on the film. My further comments:

The review though is telling. The author of the book, Mitchell, is critical of the reincarnation implication. And the general tone of the movie seems to be more of mystical evangelizing (like Wilber) where Mitchell offers subtle and more open implication. As the review summarizes:

"Belief in the great Perhaps suffuses Cloud Atlas the novel; the misstep of Cloud Atlas the film is to try to turn Perhaps into Certainty."

As we've noted in this forum ad nauseum, that is one of the problems with theories of everything instead of anything. With Wilber and his acolytes, the Waschowskis among them, there is an air of certainty and finality about Reality. Whereas our focus has been on openness and indeterminism, more of the maybe.

One message was how the current power structure in any time rationalizes itself as "the order of things." I.e., its worldview theory of everything is the way of the world as it is, I know that way with certainty, I control it and everyone else must obey or die. Literally. I think that's why the review linked above said of the movie, and apparently Wilber's influence, that there is a kind of certainty about its own worldview that leads to the hegemony of the mystical One.

And yet the film is largely about revolting against such hegemony. One of my favorite recurring lines: “I will not be subject to criminal abuse.” One of the largest and most insidious of those criminal abuses is in such orders of things and theories of everything. So I'm not sure if the filmmakers see their own film as one such TOE that is better than the kinds of TOEs of power fought in the film. Are they aware enough to make such a transparent statement? Or does the film suggest there is a better, higher worldview beyond such base power drives that truly liberates the world? My guess is the latter and that it doesn't realize that that belief in itself is the very cause of the kinds of hegemony in the film.

Still, I also believe in a progressive vision, that there is a better worldview that is not about hegemony but rather about human rights, pluralism, democracy, fairness, equality etc. And while it might not be the “order of things” it is the best order humanity can muster at present and it should be law. So is such law itself not a hegemony that forces everyone into a straitjacket of conformance for their own good? Indeed it is, but it is also transparent enough to allow for the singular in each application of the law, at least theoretically. Thus it is not that there is an inviolable truth for each individual and anything goes depending on individual whim. There is a generalized law but individual circumstances are to be considered in any given application of the law.

Hence we come back to the difference DeLanda talks about in Deleuze between a general/particular differentiation versus a universal singular/individual singular. And our OOO discussion about individual suobjects, endo-structural suobstance, hyperobjects and mereology. We see the kennilingual merelogy in the film with its nested stories and perspectives but as we've critiqued it is a different kind of mereology with a certitude of belief in the end game, in the One of All that binds and connects us. Whereas the OOO mereology is a democracy of objects where there is no doubt a hyperobjective endo-structure within which we individuals must to a large extent conform. But we also have the capacity, apparently built right into the fabric of the universe, of changing the endo-structural fabric of the universe through our individual and collective action. i.e., the universal fabric is not set in stone, is not an unchanging infinite but an open infinite, itself malleable to the revolutions within itself.

And this is what sets this worldview apart from its predecessors' hegemony for complete and utter conformity to criminal abuse, and which allows for transcendence and freedom. I appreciated the film's themes of transcendence and freedom from hegemony, but I question whether it stems from the kind of worldview that actually allows for it or is but a rationalized extension of the very thing it attacks? Not sure yet, as I did see glimmers of the kind of thing I'm talking about in the Fabricant Savior Somni 451, for as she tells the Archivist:

“To enslave an individual troubles your consciences, Archivist, but to enslave a clone is no more troubling than owning the latest six-wheeler ford, ethically. Because you cannot discern our differences, you assume we have none. But make no mistake: even same-stem fabricants cultured in the same wombtank are as singular as snowflakes.”

Which is also another interesting twist in the film, how the future affects the past as well as the other way around. More contemplation required.

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