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Sunday, June 27, 2010

PAIN AND PLEASURE

morgan freeman as nelson mandela



Today's movie was Clint Eastwoods INVICTUS, a new one with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The story begins with Nelson Mandela's release from 27 years prison at Robben Island, South Africa. I have paid attention to Mandela since the time he was in prison and it looked like he'd never be let out. I was impressed most when he became president of South Africa his refusal to let revenge get in motion when the black people became free to outnumber the whites in elections. He was mild mannered and toned down the popular will among the blacks to strike out and eliminate the whites. Mandela articulated the ridiculous in that approach and actually led the way for the integration of the races. Wise politician is an oxymoron, but that's what he was. He stabilized the country by example and inspiration. Alas, when he was out and Thabo Mbeke took his place was the beginning of political corruption and ineptitude. Mandela's purpose was to raise the people up and have South Africans working together instead of against each other. When the political machine people came in, that was the end of wise government in South Africa. Not much improvement for the black people has happened in Mandela's absence. Again, a founding father of genius to pass the nation to self-focused politicians, until in the American case Alice's Tea Party rises against a president who puts the nation first because he's the N-word, which word I'm sure is the password in Alice's Tea Party.



I used to have an issue with Clint Eastwood for making movies devoid of emotional experience. He must have seen it too, because that started to change from movie to movie. This one had emotional tugs all the way through, legitimately, not cheep Hollywood shots. There is the occasional obligatory American need to explain the obvious to be sure you don't miss it. It's a Hollywood truism that you must explain the obvious. In Hollywood they know very well about the American attention span, the level of American education that sinks in. In journalism courses it is taught to keep writing level down to the level of 4th grade comprehension. And they operate by cliches that work, like if it bleeds it leads. It's not like that's worse than any place else. It's no different in other countries. Like Ronald Reagan said justifying his regime at the end, "It could have been worse." Yeah. Eastwood's film had less than half a dozen of those American moments that say, in case you don't get it, here it is spelled out. Shakespeare did that all the time. I found every verbal enigma I came upon reading him was explained within a few lines. He made himself perfectly clear to his audiences that were largely illiterate but for the ruling class. He wrote to both. Hollywood does too.



I have to give this film 5 stars because of Morgan Freeman's rendering of Nelson Mandela that gave much insight into Mandela himself. Also because of Clint Eastwood's correction of his dearth of feeling in the films. Of course, he came out of the action genre into drama and they're different. The only emotion an action film plays to is fear. Other feelings distract. After UNFORGIVEN I quit watching Eastwood films because I found them consistently flat emotionally. MILLION DOLLAR BABY began to have some fairly strong emotion going on. By the time of this one, I find Eastwood cured. He has a good balance in his films now. I've never experienced a Clint Eastwood film until now that fully satisfies me as a worthwhile film. He named it after a poem he described "Victorian" that he passed to Matt Damon's character to study the poem that kept Mandela going through all the years of prison. It's title was INVICTUS, written by William Ernest Henley (1849-1902), English, from Gloucester. The poem has some powerful meaning, as did Mandela. You can find it online googling: invictus poem. Goes straight to it. This movie INVICTUS demonstrates that Eastwood has reached his potential he'd been working toward like on a staircase, one step at a time. Morgan Freeman was exactly right for Nelson Mandela. Freeman gave me glimpses of the silence in Nelson Mandela after 27 years of living in silence, nobody to speak to, only berated and knocked down.



Mandela, himself, made his prison cell into a monk's cell and came out of it a wise man. It's said that wisdom comes from suffering. The Buddha said this world is characterized by suffering. I take it to mean, then, that this world is the path to enlightenment, because it's all about suffering, our great teacher. I recall a time I was bent over with kidney stone pain for 40 hours. Came out of it with a little bit of wisdom I didn't go into it with. The 7 months of sorrow after Jr left the body taught me a very great deal too. It's like suffering drives us deeper into ourselves. I come out of it knowing myself a little better, a little better understanding. A bit of grace. The pain cleared my mind of its ongoing nigglings of memories, motivations, desires, worries in general. When the pain subsided, my mind came back. I hadn't realized how clear it had been through that time of pain. When mind came back, I wanted the pain again, but settled for mind. Didn't like the pain that much. When I see people with multiple piercings and tattoos I wonder if pain is a rush for them. There's enough pain going around in everyday life, I can't see paying somebody to help me feel pain. I wonder too, if pain is an affirmation of existence. It says: I exist. If so, an awful lot of people must question their own existence and need something to nail themselves to it. It couldn't possibly mean there isn't enough pain living in this world and we have to go out and buy some from time to time to feel existence. That's a little too complex for me.



A spiritual master named Upasni Maharaj recommended regarding pleasure as pain and pain as pleasure to help to hurry oneself along the Path. I've thought about that for years. I believe there is something to it, but I've never felt tempted the first time to try it. I can't quite get my mind around it. I suspect there might be something to it, like one of those things you can't foresee the benefit of. You have to try it on faith. On the other side, it's a deeper, more inclusive way of seeing. I have no inclination to martyr myself to pain because I have convinced myself it's pleasure. Maybe so, but I don't get it. I'm not one to go to S&M bars looking for somebody to beat me up so I can feel the pleasure of pain. The only way I can see that is twisted. I'd rather go on in ways I can believe a little bit and aren't so severely neurotic. I'm not one to sit cross-legged and practice little rituals. I think I prefer to face it straight on like Jr did. That's one of the aspects of who he was that I admired, even something I hope I learned and assimilated from his example.

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