The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gita and Synechoche

More in the "Gita:

"Spiritual progress consists not in actually achieving anything, but in simply removing the distrotions that obscure the nature of reality."

This was a comment by one of Paramahansa Yogananda's students, remembering the Master's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita. For what it is worth, this aligns beautifully with my own sense of it (which is very different from my thoughts, or research on the subject.) Basically, over the course of my life I've had enough moments of clarity to be able to define a direction. Those sacred texts that align with that direction, I pay attention to. For instance, the red text in a King James Bible (the actual words of Christ) pretty much line up. Some of his apostles...not so much.

But the question of clarity is an important one. This is central to the value of meditation, but also for a need to have nearby "targets" to focus upon. What can I look at TODAY, RIGHT NOW, that will tell me if I am heading in the right direction, or if I am still and quiet, that my internal world is not roiled by my outer goals and circumstances. I have found that if I concentrate on all three aspects of my life, defining them as health/fitness, relationship/spirit, and career/mind, that I have never gone wrong. That every time I have backslid or created havoc in my life, I have ignored one of these three. I can speak for no one else, but this path works perfectly for me: to study sacred texts, and words of wisdom that have sustained people over the centuries, and see which of them will keep me going right down the middle. And this is the course that I can coach others along. There are beyond a doubt other, better paths...but I am a householder, and this is the best Way I know of.


Watched Charlie Kaufmann (Writer: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind")'s directorial debut,

ᅠSYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. Now, Synecdoche is a term that means a small symbol representing a larger whole, and the plot deals with a neurotic playwright (boy, could I see Woody Allen in the role!) who, over the course of decades, tries to create a play that represents every event in his entire life, and a set that represents the entirety of New York. Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I think that Synecdoche is a flawed masterpiece, a work of almost staggering ambition, and a humbling experience. Kaufmann is just absurdly brilliant, in a manner suggestive of the best of Ellison or Vonnegut. He may have overreached with this piece, but I was just blown away.



suzanne said...

I watched Synecdoche, New York, last night
and I thought it was brilliant

gotta be watched at least twice
I figure

I imagine it BOMBED
at the box office
but WOWSERS what a movie

Marty S said...

Steve: Here's a Question. What if anything does the maker of a movie owe to the audience who will pay their money and invest their time in watching the movie. My personal all time worst movie is Federico Fellini's 81/2. When my friends and I left the movie they all turned to me and asked what it was about. I told them I had no idea. I heard the same conversation going on among other people leaving the theater. It sounds like Synecdoche is in the same category,made to fulfill the creator's self-image rather than entertain the audience.

suzanne said...


I don't think Kaufman,
if you look at his body of work,
is engaged in ego inflation
he's taking a post-modern approach
to a narrative

film makers don't have to pitch their movies
to the lowest common denominator
(& I'm not saying you are the lowest common denominator)

suzanne said...

Woody Allen is too much of a whiner, Steve
I think he would have ruined the effct of this movie

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

We've talked about exercise and diet a bunch of times here so I thought you might find this study of the exercise habits of African-American women in Chicago vs women in rural Nigeria.

The shocker? " Researchers had expected to find that the slimmer Nigerian women would be more physically active. To their surprise, they found no significant difference between the two groups in the amount of calories burned during physical activity.

“Decreased physical activity may not be the primary driver of the obesity epidemic,” said Loyola nutritionist Amy Luke, a member of the study team."

Diet is looking even more crucial than I thought.

Marty S said...

On the weight question, I will weigh in on it with an informal study by my son. He is a math professor and spent three years studying and teaching in Portugal and lost weight, when he returned to North America he regained all the weight. He has been friends with a number of professors who either visited North America for an extended period or visited Europe for an extended period. They pretty much all exhibited the same pattern of gaining weight here and losing weight their. He says they really didn't change their diet from their country of origin. His theory is that the additives we use particularly to increase weight or yield are making us fat.

Steven Barnes said...

Most comments about weight focus on diet or exercise. This is, in my mind, a complete fallacy and boondoggle. I ONLY pay attention to studies that look at BOTH. Calories in and calories out. Looking at one or the other is pointless.

Steven Barnes said...

I think an artist has only the obligation to tell his truth. If that artist wants money, on the other hand, he has to be sure he is communicating in a language others can comprehend. A studio, on the third hand, is a business entity, and must be primarily concerned with the bottom line. Not necessarily with every movie--they can afford to make a few "Synecdoches" for every "Transformers."
True about Woody Allan. He's a sick puppy, but brilliant.