Two years ago, for the very first time, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastics invited filmmakers Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis into their monasteries to witness their practice and the essence of their mindful living.
Filming in the depths of winter in their monastery in France, they also traveled on the road with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monastics to Europe and North America; capturing their journey from Vancouver to Mississippi, New York, Washington, San Diego and London.
Through intimate interviews and observational filming, “Walk With Me – On The Road With Thich Nhat Hanh”, offers a rare insight into monastic life and the deeply personal reasons why Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns decided to leave their families and follow in his footsteps.
Honest and heart-warming, ‘Walk With Me’ touches on the universal themes of belonging, love, loss, hope and death; relevant for not just Thich Nhat Hanh’s monks and nuns but for us all.
This documentary is currently being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. If distributors are found it should be released sometime in 2017.
“Most of us don’t want to change
I mean why should we
What we do want is sort of modifications on the original model
We keep on being ourselves
But hopefully better versions of ourselves
But what happens when an event occurs that is so catastrophic
That you just change
Change from the known person to the unknown person
So that when you look at yourself in the mirror you recognize the person that you were
But the person inside the skin is a different person”
‘Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.
Your dad and I have just come back from an evening out, dinner and a show; it’s after midnight. We came out onto the patio to look at the full moon; then I told your dad I wanted to dance, so he humors me and now we’re slow-dancing, a pair of thirtysomethings swaying back and forth in the moon-light like kids. I don’t feel the night chill at all. And then your dad says, “Do you want to make a baby?”
Right now your dad and I have been married for about two years, living on Ellis Avenue; when we move out you’ll still be too young to remember the house, but we’ll show you pictures of it, tell you stories about it. I’d love to tell you the story of this evening, the night you’re conceived, but the right time to do that would be when you’re ready to have children of your own, and we’ll never get that chance.
Telling it to you any earlier wouldn’t do any good; for most of your life you won’t sit still to hear such a romantic—you’d say sappy—story. I remember the scenario of your origin you’ll suggest when you’re twelve.
“The only reason you had me was so you could get a maid you wouldn’t have to pay,” you’ll say bitterly, dragging the vacuum cleaner out of the closet.
“That’s right,” I’ll say. “Thirteen years ago I knew the carpets would need vacuuming around now, and having a baby seemed to be the cheapest and easiest way to get the job done. Now kindly get on with it.”
“If you weren’t my mother, this would be illegal,” you’ll say, seething as you unwind the power cord and plug it into the wall outlet.
That will be in the house on Belmont Street. I’ll live to see strangers occupy both houses: the one you’re conceived in and the one you grow up in. Your dad and I will sell the first a couple years after your arrival.
I’ll sell the second shortly after your departure. By then Nelson and I will have moved into our farmhouse, and your dad will be living with what’s-her-name.
I know how this story ends; I think about it a lot. I also think a lot about how it began, just a few years ago, when ships appeared in orbit and artifacts appeared in meadows. The government said next to nothing about them, while the tabloids said every possible thing.
And then I got a phone call, a request for a meeting.”
– Excerpt from the beginning of Ted Chiang’s, ‘Story of Your Life’
“What I love about the short story is that it has a lot of layers,” [The film’s director] Villeneuve explains, referencing Ted Chiang‘s “Story of Your Life,” which Eric Heisserer adapted into feature-length form.
“One of them that deeply touched me is this idea that someone is in contact with death.
What would happen if you know how you will die, when you will die?
What will your relationship with life, love, your family and friends, and with your society be?
By being more in relationship with death, in an intimate way with the nature of life and its subtleties, it would bring us more humility.
Humanity needs that humility right now.
We are in an era with a lot of narcissism.
We are at the point where we are dangerously disconnected from nature.
That’s what this beautiful short story was for me –a way to get back into a relationship with death and nature, and the mystery of life.”
“We hear it everywhere these days.
Time for a new story.
Some enthusiastic sweep of narrative that becomes, overnight, the myth of our times.
A container for all this ecological trouble, this peak-oil business, this malaise of numbness that seems to shroud even the most privileged.
A new story.
Just the one.
Lovely and neat.
So, here’s my first moment of rashness: I suggest the stories we need turned up, right on time, about five thousand years ago.
But they’re not simple, neat or painless.
This mantric urge for a new story is actually the tourniquet for a less articulated desire: to behold the Earth-actually-speaking-through-words again, something far more potent than a shiny, never contemplated agenda.
As things stand, I don’t believe we will get a story worth hearing until we witness a culture broken open by its own consequence.”
“Psyche, Hillman said, is not in us; we are in psyche.
And I believe that if psyche is shaped by myth, by mythical images and symbols, then myth is not in us: we are, in some deep and indefinable sense, in myth.
‘It is not we who imagine, but we who are imagined.’
What if we are not imagining myth, but myth is imagining us?”
“One of my favorite aesthetic sources is the work of the great Danish film director Lars von Trier.
His movie Melancholia depicts brilliantly the conflict between two very different types of human subjectivity.
On the one hand, the affirmative subjectivity of Justine (played by Kirsten Dunst), who is the main character of the movie and sees the coming of the end of the world and addresses that in a way that allows her to live a beautiful life on her last days.
There is a wonderful contrast in the film between the affirmative and poetic subjectivity of Justine, and then the hysterical and neurotic subjectivity of her sister, Claire, played brilliantly by Charlotte Gainsbourg.”
“When you read the reviews of Melancholia, or even the scholarship on it, you continually encounter this description of Justine as depressed and as a melancholic individual.
But actually, if you watch the film, the discourse around Justine is one of depression.
Her sister, family, friends and colleagues continually describe her as depressed.
She is someone who is diagnosed as depressed, but if you look at her actions and her way of being, I think she is actually very well.
She is the healthiest person in the film.
For me, that is one of the brilliant things about the movie.
The care and genius with which von Trier depicts the actuality of Justine’s subjectivity in contrast with — and in antagonism with — the discourse which surrounds her.
Which is precisely one of depression.
She is diagnosed as depressed by people who really are fundamental, hysterical and neurotic, and most importantly, her sister.”
Jim Jarmusch, who has a unique cinematic vision, has a new film that has had its debut at Cannes this week titled ‘Paterson’. For me most of his recent films have a poetic aspect to them in that they paint a picture involving the characters that inhabit each of them as opposed to being structured in a strictly narrative form. This latest effort continues in that vein in that it is a story of a bus driver who quietly listens and observes his surroundings with the heart of a poet. Partially influenced by the work of contemporary poet Ron Padgett, the character Paterson composes poems based on the small details of life.
Here is an example of Padgett’s work
“The morning coffee.I’m not sure why I drink it. Maybe it’s the ritual of the cup, the spoon, the hot water, the milk, and the little heap of brown grit, the way they come together to form a nail I can hang the
day on. It’s something to do between being asleep and being awake. Surely there’s something better to do, though, than to drink a cup of instant coffee. Such as meditate? About what? About having a cup of
coffee. A cup of coffee whose first drink is too hot and whose last drink is too cool, but whose many in-between drinks are, like Baby Bear’s porridge, just right. Papa Bear looks disgruntled. He removes his spectacles and swivels his eyes onto the cup that sits before Baby Bear, and then,
after a discrete cough, reaches over and picks it up. Baby Bear doesn’t understand this disruption of the morning routine. Papa Bear brings
the cup close to his face and peers at it intently. The cup shatters in his paw, explodes actually, sending fragments and brown liquid all over the
room. In a way it’s good that Mama Bear isn’t there. Better that she rest in her grave beyond the garden, unaware of what has happened to the world.”
Prose Poem (‘The morning coffee.’) Ron Padgett
Jarmusch in an interview described the relationship portrayed in the film between Paterson and his wife, who spends her days in creative pursuits as
“ a portrait of a very tender love of people who accept each other for who they are. Only Lovers Left Alive was very much the same. The pure form of love is letting people be who they are. It’s a Buddhist thing to be accepting.”
In the same interview he does not ignore the larger world we inhabit but leaves this small tale of two lovers as a poignant reminder of how we can bring beauty to our world even as catastrophe is upon us.
“There are things wrong in this world. The way people treat each other. For us human beings, time is limited on this planet. There are too many people and nature is soon going to rectify this. It is going to be difficult and tragic. We are already in the 6th mass extinction of species. We have to be very grateful for very small details of life. Like this moment here. Here we are talking about a film and it is just a ridiculous thing.”
Please read the rest of the interview here.
Finally it is always a treat for me to hear Jarmusch and his ensemble discuss the films. His graciousness and thoughtfulness toward his partners and those who ask or comment ab0ut his films is very inspiring. For those who enjoy press conferences, please see the short video below.
In the video above, Chris Hedges and Tim DeChristopher discuss the deadly failure of the industrial world to confront the effects of climate change. The following is a brief excerpt from that conversation.
HEDGES: Let’s talk about grief. I feel it. I read the climate change reports, I have children. It fills me with despair. How do we cope with it?
DECHRISTOPHER: I think part of the way that we cope with it is admitting that we were always headed towards that path. That we were always going to die.
HEDGES: As a species?
DECHRISTOPHER: Well and as individuals as well. You know we like to have this progressive notion that we do these good things to make a better world at some point in the future and even if consciously it sort of falls short of a utopia or a sort of promised land in the future. It’s still sort of this outcome based value system, that’s based on things being okay in the end.
HEDGES: It’s the myth of progress.
DECHRISTOPHER: Yeah, but I think that’s also tied to a myth of immortality. That when we talk about some of the most honorable things that we can do. We use language like we saved someone’s life. But that person’s still going to die. Every person that we do something nice for is still going to die. So if it’s really outcome oriented then we’ve always been kind of deceiving ourselves with that value system.