The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 30, 2008

On weight and conscious humanity

Marty S. took exception to my comment that the older generation has to die off before certain social change will take place. Yeah, I know there are exceptions, but in general, attitudes frozen in place before puberty are hellaceosly hard to change. In terms of things like racial images in film (which I see as a litmus test for social attitudes in general) I've been asked hundreds of times what people can do to change the world in this way. Frankly, I get tired of trying to inform people why Indentured Servitude wasn't the same as slavery, or why sexual images matter. I am no longer interested in changing people's minds if they won't meet me half-way. But that hardly means I am pessimistic. Quite optimistic, in fact, and feel that when more of the white males born before 1950 are dead, the problem will take care of itself. If that sounds harsh, sorry about that--I mean you no ill will, and wish you and your family long life. But death comes to all, and in this context, I won't shed a tear.


I'll dig to try to find those stats about Japan and obesity. A clue: people don't pass laws without the perception of a problem.


I want to address the "fat" thing again, after reading the review of Wall-E posted by Nancy. I look at this issue a lot because it is a perfect example of the way human beings warp reality, twist physics and ignore data to protect their egos. We ALL do this--but we do this in different arenas. I can't point the finger, for Christ sakes: I hang my bleeding psychic laundry out in public view every damned day, and anyone who thinks I think I'm above this stuff hasn't been reading.

So the following comments are not, in any way, intended to say that fat people are less than anyone else: less moral, less intelligent, less worthy as human beings. It is intended to say that their particular wounds "cluster" in a particular quadrant of human consciousness.

The review complained that Wall-E was not "Fat positive." I completely understand why the ego of a person dealing with this issue would want this. But norming something socially isn't the same as making it positive. You can remove the social stigma to, say, illegitimacy, without diminishing the damage it does to the children, or to society, to grow up without a stable family. Norm away.

A "dis-ease" is something that diminishes functioning of organs, social interactions, psychlogical health, relationships, whatever. By almost any medical standard, anything that decreases life span, decreases energy, decreases function, would be a "dis-ease." And obesity certainly fits into this category. The problem is that obesity arises from some very positive genetic predilections:

1) To eat as much as possible when food is available

2) To expend no more calories than are necessary to survive.

For hunter-gatherers, this is great. For people living in an industrial society, these twin tendencies have become lethal. Human beings have NEVER had to expend so few calories of effort to earn a calorie of fat, protein, or sugar. Anyone who thinks that the explosion of obesity is genetic rather than environmental isn't paying attention to what happens as we move toward a post-industrial/information-age society...or as that happens anywhere in the world. People get fatter.

The very worst cases in my experience are those whose ancestors lived very physical lives. In the Pacific Northwest, where I lived for ten years, I knew a lot of VERY fat people. Their fathers and grandfathers were lean and muscular--I saw the pictures. They were also lumberjacks, one of the most grueling and dangerous professions in the world. What happened? The mills came in, people got desk jobs...but they ATE like they learned to eat as children. And got fat. Simple. That corresponds to physics, biology, psychology, and family dynamics.

I've heard the same story from people who live in farming communities. Instead of working from dawn til' dusk, people take desk jobs...but eat the same way. What the hell do YOU think is going to happen?


Now then. Does this mean there are not people with slower metabolisms than other people? Hell, yes! Everyone who ever played team sports knows that on a team everyone can do the same workout, eat at the same training table, rise and bed at the same hours...and have differing levels of body fat. This is a reality. But acknowleging this truth isn't the same as saying "I can't lose weight" or "it's my genetics." Everyone has a mixed bag of positive and negative characteristics: more intelligence, less grace, more compassion for others, less understanding of self. This is just the stuff we're given at birth, and we have to deal with it.

Is it wrong for society to stigmatize the obese? Define your terms. Should we stigmatize alcoholics? Unwed mothers? Cigarette smokers? People who don't pay their bills? The homeless? All of these things are combinations of biological and psychological factors, with differing levels of personal responsibility involved. In a spiritual world, we would see that all of these deserve our total compassion. In the real world, societies attach pain to behaviors that are damaging (or are perceived to be damaging) to the society. The cruelty of children toward the "Other" is legendary. And part of that is the driving fear of being just like whatever "geek" they are taunting, chasing, beating up, mocking, or shunning. Terrible, and damned near universal.

I have lost many friends to obesity-related illnesses, and I've run out of bullshit on this issue. I will not be politically correct while people are dying.

1) No one's body disobeys the laws of physics. I have literally heard this from overweight people, and it is heart-breaking. These people are smart, good, as moral as anyone else...and flat-out lying to themselves. The lesson is NOT that fat people lie to themselves more than thin ones. Rather, it is that we lie to ourselves to protect from the pain of existence, and then beg our friends and families to cooperate with the lies. We bend reality to fit our emotional needs. When you hear a fat person doing this, ask yourself where in your own life you have done EXACTLY the same thing. Trust me. You have.

2) It doesn't take "hours a day" to work out. Jesus, what a crock of shit this is. It is based on ignorance (you stopped learning about your body after your last High School Phys Ed class) and fear (I don't want to do it, so will exaggerate the time involved so people will get off my @#$## back.) Where pure fitness is involved, no one can work out intensely for more than about 45 minutes--after that, GH release diminishe, and unless you are on steroids, diminishing returns sets in FAST. What is the actual minimum expenditure of time for a serious result? Including warm-up, less than 30 minutes. There are plenty of damned fine workouts taking no more than 15 minutes a day, requiring no more than body-weight and a willingness to be consistent.

3) Weight loss efforts MUST involve BOTH exercise and dietary modification. What people do is do one OR the other, and then fail, and say "see? I can't lose!" Weight is a two-headed snake. If you don't handle both ends, the other head will bite you in the ass. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. An hour of treadmill burns maybe 500-700 calories if you half-kill yourself. Do the math.

4) Don't try to lose more than 2 pounds a week, max. Trying one of these dreadful "lose a pound a day!" programs is just playing into the lie.

5) Diets don't work. Any eating pattern you are planning to abandon down the road is just setting yourself up for failure. Lifestyle changes work.

6) Your ego will kill you to protect itself. This is a nasty one. By the time you identify with a bulky body and think it is "you" you MUST change your self-image to be able to lose that weight. Visualization, therapy, hypnosis, etc cn be mighty allies.

7) Your social networks will support you staying exactly where the #$%! you are. Try losing weight and have your friends start inviting you to fondue parties. It is bizarre, and predictable. You may have to leave your social network if they have "normed" your negative behaviors.

8)You're going to get negative shit from society. Get over it. It isn't fair. It isn't "right.' We should fight to have compassion--without norming the damaging behavior. People who have to chose between being depressed and being obese pretty understandably choose being obese. I would. BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE. It isn't a binary universe. The fact is that the average person DOES live as if such choices are inevitable. The average person, given the genetics and social environment of an obese person, would probably be obese. That's part of the reason they give you shit--they're afraid of becoming you, and so anchor pain to that thought by being cruel. There's no excuse for such behavior, but there are reasons. Don't EVER attach your life results to whether other people change or not. I might have a goal of "writing and producing movies" that are partially based upon the behavior of others. But that is not a primary goal. My primary goal is to complete myself in my lifetime, to be happy, healthy, balanced and loved. And society has very little to say about that: my REACTION to society does. Children think they can't be happy unless they are loved. Adults should know better. We all resist growing up. We want to be children with the privileges of adults. It doesn't work.

9) There are no unrealistic goals. Just unrealistic time frames. It will usually take you less time to lose the weight than it took to put it on. But human impatience is a terrible thing.

10) Our bodies, like our finances and relationships, reflect our actions, beliefs, values, and positive/negative emotional anchors. We HATE this. We want people to look at us and see our spiritual essence, as if it is divorced from the reality of temporal existence. We desperately want to define ourselves by our ego-images rather than our behaviors. And become angry and afraid when people judge us as we judge them...and ourselves. One of the harshest moments in any lecture or class I give is when I say that people should be attracted to themselves, physically. When they strip and look in the mirror, they should want to screw their own brains out. They know EXACTLY what I mean, but will blame society, heterosexuality, or whatever for their inability to find themselves lusty. They want, in other words, other people to find them more attractive than they find themselves. Life doesn't work like this. If you want a relationship with someone who is healthier than you physically, you can have it--if you are healthier than them emotionally. Or have greater financial resources (this works REALLY well for guys). But there is no cheating, and no way around it. You just cannot attract and hold someone above your own energetic level. Either compensate in another arena, or make your peace with it. If you want others to see your "inner essence" but aren't satisfied with those who are attracted to you, who are you trying to kid?


The most important thing, that I want to say again, is that in no way, shape or form have I seen the obese to be any less than other human beings. But unfortunately, they are like alcoholics who wear vests made of whiskey bottles. We KNOW they are out of balance, whereas many of us can hide our flaws, our wounds, our inabilities to cope with the changing world or the disappointments of our childhoods. That's the only real difference. They cannot hide.

Ultimately, none of us can. Ultimately, there is no world "out there." There is just us, and our illusions about our existence. I am totally unattracted to fat bodies, but have been VERY attracted to some ladies who were fat. They were trapped in fortresses designed to protect them from childhood trauma, struggled against it, and often failed...but kept trying. And I loved them, and found them desirable. When you feel sorry for a fat person, feel sorry for yourself--where in the hell do you hide YOUR pain? Where do YOUR lies fuck you over? How do YOU distort your understanding of the physics and metaphysics of reality to protect your ego? Unless you can see the universal humanity in each and every one of them, you are kidding yourself, shielding yourself from the pain of real discovery: inside every cloak of flesh is the same spark of humanity that exists deep within us, the same sacred signal distorted by a different type of static, unique to that person's experience.

Do NOT support people in their lies and think you can tell yourself the truth. And the biggest lie is that there is some essential difference between the fat and the thin. If there was, they wouldn't scare us so damned much

We're all together in this, but walk alone. We're all alone in this, together.

Monday Morning

Purchased the complete 1st season of "I, Spy", the 1965 television series that played as a more realistic answer to Bond and U.N.C.L.E...and was my first glimpse of a respectable, powerful, intelligent man who looked like me anywhere in the media. There had never been anything remotely like Alexander Scott on television, and the camaraderie between Culp and Cosby was just sublime. Filming on actual locations made it even better. No, I haven' t the slightest complaint that Culp got most of the girls. The Scott role was originally an older Spiritual Guide, and they changed it to a pair of equals because they liked Cosby. And America made another little change. Tiny in isolation, but it was part of an overall pattern...and it wasn't accidental, either.

Sheldon Leonard was just another of the Hollywood producers who made a deliberate decision to make a contribution to civil rights. Jews in Hollywood did this, and they did it at risk to careers and bank books. I have friends and acquaintances who were there at the time, and this was social engineering, no doubt about it. Yeah, there's a "Canary in the Coal Mine" aspect of this: having just experienced the Holocaust, Jews in America knew that the forces of intolerance would strike at blacks, who were more visually identifiable, before they came after Jews. Protecting our rights was protecting their own: an early warning system. Brilliant, wonderful, and enlightened self-interest at its best. An entire series of Sidney Poitier movies were specifically created with the idea of promoting race relations. The results were everything from "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" all the way to "Shaft" (no, I'm not saying they were all consciously political--but many were, and they created the opening for others).

I wonder who I would have been, had I grown up with such images. I was 13 years old before "I, Spy"--with many of my basic self-image and world concept patterns set. I've spent decades working to repair the damage, and probably won't do it until I actually dissolve those layers of my ego shell. The cracks, I suspect, go too deep.


Watching the episodes, I realize I'd forgotten how much martial arts was in them. Culp studied Kenpo with Ed Parker ( the early episodes contain some absurdly mis-cued kicks and chops. Fun.) But as the series progressed there was some pretty decent judo, and both Culp and Cosby were a LOT more athletic than, say, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum on U.N.C.L.E.

And more importantly, every episode takes me back to that 13-year old I was when it first started running. Wow. That kid was starving. He's still there inside me. And right now, he's smiling.


Came across a list of actors who are also martial artists. Fact is, most of the list is actually martial artists who acted in movies (like, Chuck Norris, for instance). Elvis was mentioned, as he had a 5th degree black belt in Kenpo (hmm...are we sensing a pattern here?) and maybe an honorary 7th. But I've heard that it was all mostly honorary, and am hard-put to remember a scene in an Elvis movie that a reasonably coordinated actor couldn't fake with a few hours' practice. Can anyone out there remember an Elvis movie with a karate sequence worth a damn? Love to check it out.


Tananarive's been gone for a week. She took off the Monday after that butt-whipping all-weekend workout, leaving me with the Li'l Monster. Then, I had a copyedited manuscript dumped on me, and then it turned out they'd copyedited the wrong draft, so I had to go over it line by line, comparing drafts until my eyes bled. Was so overtrained that I had trouble know the drill. Finally my groggy brain remembered that a light whole-body workout can actually flush some of the toxins and speed recovery, so that helped. But MAN will I be happy to see her tomorrow.


We'll have 36 hours to finish our edit, and get it back to New York. Then, we have to finish our rewrite on The Good House. Lucky for me, T is taking lead on that now. I'll maybe do an NPR piece, and hopefully put some good hard hours in the Dream Park novel. At some point Betsy Mitchell will have a manuscript for me to rewrite. And we have to put together a proposal for the next Tennyson novel. Maybe two. I want to start integrating a bit of espionage into his world. Considering some of the resources I have, it would be stupid not to.


Wow. Miserable meditation this morning. Nothing but junk and clouds in there. The last week has definitely been taxing. The fact that I haven't done enough yoga of late probably factors in. Fitness isn't the same as connection. I think I've been doing the rough equivilent of putting my body on a hamster wheel while my mind and emotions floated away elsewhere, concerned with "stuff." That's better than not exercising, but vastly inferior to actually diving into the meat to see who's home. That ends today. Bikram at 9am. Won't be fun, but it will be instructive.


I think that we have a Life drive and a Death drive (being dualistic for a moment) and that we have to balance them. The Death drive allows us to burn away our ego, try risky things...but when it is in control, it can destroy our health and relationships. The Life drive connects us to love and growth, whispers caution. Out of control, it makes us too afraid, too cautious...and ultimately destroys our potential. We act as if, if we tip-toe through life or are vewwy vewwy quiet, Death won't notice us. Guess again.

In other words, Death can protect life (the true function of the Warrior) and Life can become Death. Just like Yin becomes Yang and Yang turns into Yin. One must remain conscious, and aware. Our urge to protect ourselves turns into a preservation of our ego-walls. Which allows them to make the mistake of thinking that they are "us." Dangerous.


Those of you who have been trying the Tibetans and/or Intermittent Fasting, I would expect that you've run into some really odd internal monologues and negative tapes, doing everything in their power to distract, delay, excuse and discourage. I'd love to hear about it. I'm still working on the project currently titled "The Hero's Journey: the 100 day body-mind challenge." The more clearly I understand the demons arising from working these patterns, the more fully I can serve the world. Five years ago, I created the "Five Minute Miracle", an attempt to put in condensed form, all the basic pieces that created my current perceptions of the world. The "Hero's Journey" (unless I change the title once again. I'd bet that I will) is the same thing, but deeper. The attempt to create a framework within which people can discover for themselves the truth or falsehood of what I've been saying.

1) Intermitten Fasting forces you to deal with your hungers, and differentiate between wants and needs. The internal voices (and their kinesthetic equivilents) bark loud and clear.

2) The Five Tibetans are the simplest practice I know that will create a body-mind link. Especially if you commit to doing them first thing in the morning. MAN, if you don't have that link already, are you ever going to hear every conceivable excuse jumping up! What a show!

3) Triangle Goals. You can hallucinate about your emotional/spiritual development, unless you couple it to some external measurement. For instance, in the last week, I lost my temper with Jason a few times. Clear evidence that I was off my game spiritually. But our intimate relationships with adults are vastly greater tests. You simply can't have a co-equal relationship with an adult without becoming an adult. You can, however, have children and remain a child. Your ability to create legal goods and services, and negotiate their value with the community demands both compassion, understanding, and self-love, as well as creativity, time management, emotional resiliency...all aspects of the adult personality. And your ability to balance your metabolic checkbook, to create a body that supports you energetically and is both a visual and tactile gift to your lover, as well as expressing both your aesthetic sense and animal simply cannot be childish. Children want to sleep late, play when they want, eat what they want. The adult personality must discipline this--until, ultimately, the child nature considers the healthy behaviors to be "play." THAT is bliss. To spontaneously do those things that are actually good for you? Yowsa! But it takes time, and care, and nurturance of your inner selves, in the same way that you would condition a child to be honest, hard-working, and compassionate, and to have those qualities emerge from WITHIN the child, to arise from the natural expression of their encoded values.

(In a deeper way, this is exactly what spiritual disciplines try to do to those walking the path of enlightenment. By the time you actually de-construct the ego shells, brothers and sisters, it is way past too late. You could just as easily be an enlightened serial killer. You've GOT to balance the basic aspects).

In other words, while you CAN become an adult without being "balanced", I don't think you can be balanced without walking the path to adulthood. So...ONE (and not the only or exclusive) path to genuine Self-realization would be:

1) awareness

2) balance

3) Adulthood

That's probably as far as most people should want to go. Any further, and you break the bonds of socialization and enter the danger zone. The next step

4) Awakening

Makes it very, very difficult to be lied to, or misled--which makes you a danger to society. The last step that can be described would be

5) Enlightenment

At which point language breaks down. You're off the map. ARE the map. Oh, crap, there's no point in trying to talk about it, really--all I can do is suggest that these steps, or things quite comparable to them, I have found in every spiritual tradition, and the esoteric aspects of every religion I've ever heard of. "Awakening" is useful. Enlightenment isn't. Unless it is.

Damn it, there I go again.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wanted: Wall-E

Saw Angelina Jolie's "Wanted" Friday, and was disappointed. I mean, I love an ultra-violent movie more than most. But this was only slightly better than "Shoot 'em Up", with no theme, and dozens of totally innocent people killed (mostly off-screen, but still...)

The plot revolves around a dweebish, extraordinarily gullible young man recruited by an ancient league of assassins. After a month of intense training, he becomes insanely lethal, including psi-powers and advanced martial skills. Yeah, O.K.--I've seen this in many movies, but they're rarely stupid enough to actually tell you the time frame involved. On the mere word of Spiritual Guide Morgan Freeman, he starts killing whoever he's told to kill, supposedly because "Fate" demands it. Yeah, right.

Once the thread of morality or even logic is so severed, you're forced to sit back and just enjoy the visuals, many of which are really quite nice. Angelina Jolie is frighteningly thin, but oddly erotic as always. I'm sure she'd be great fun for a fortnight, but I'll bet Brad sometimes wonders what the hell he's gotten himself into. Anyway, even though I was in the mood for some R-Rated slaughter, this one felt kinda...offensive. I'll give it a "C".


Someone said that I was dismayed that some whites voted against Obama on the basis of race. Nonsense. Such voting patterns are exactly what I would have expected. What does dismay me is that so many people seem surprised, or that they don't seem to factor that, and it's implications, in when they talk about how his race has been an advantage.

What I am incredibly proud of, regardless of what happens in November, is that, so far as I know, this is the first time in history when an oppressed ethnic minority has come so close to being elected leader of a country. Has that happened anywhere? America is an extraordinary country. We really, actually do try to live up to our ideals. "America a racist nation"? Really? As opposed to what country, where? It is human beings who have the tribalism meme (if not gene). The American egalitarianism meme is in conflict with it, and causes cognitive dissonance on a massive social scale. We're working through this stuff. I frankly didn't think we'd get this far in my lifetime. Just need another decade or so for more older white folks to die, that sounds brutal. Truth hurts.


Do I care about humanity despite its ultimate insignificance? Sure. Not because we have some ultimate importance, but because I choose to. Why is my son any different from a half-billion other kids? In one sense, he isn't. But I choose to care. He is mine. It is pleasing to me to accept that responsibility. My attitude toward humanity is the same. Ultimately, nothing matters, and everything matters the same--the life of an ant, and the death of a galaxy. That's nice. Within that rather cosmic perspective, I play the game of being human, male, a father, an American...because it pleases me.


Biased against Conservatives? When did I ever say Conservatives are worse than Liberals? Never. I think they have DIFFERENT negatives, not MORE of them. Included in that is a greater amount of racism. On the Liberal side, I see an excessive egalitarianism that says "nothing is better or worse than anything else" and tries to run a society that way. I DO think that we have had excessive Conservative influence over the last decades, an attempt to put the 60's genie back in the bottle. I admit that this is fueled by countless negative comments about the Civil Rights movement, The Bell Curve, Martin Luther King, people who proved to have Conservative politics. I had no opinion about this stuff at all until I started adding up those comments, and came to the conclusion that my butter wasn't on that side of the bread. I have never suggested, and do not believe, that Conservatives are in any way shape or form less moral or intelligent than Liberals.


Do I think that there are ultimate values? Not that we can grasp with our ego-minds or put into words, no. But I think that, from the perspective of human life, certain things come damned close--close enough for "Government Work" as they say. Anything that decreases the net amount of pain and increases the net amount of love, is good. Deliberate cruelty is bad. Harming children is bad. But dammit, I can think of situations where even those things don't apply.

Humanity has searched for permanent, universal truths for thousands of years. Except in very specific frameworks, like mathematics, you just don't get "absolutes"--you get "so close it doesn't make much sense to argue about it." I think you can go crazy trying to find absolutes in life. Will I kill or die to protect my Country, my family, my sense of honor? Yes. Is that because my Country is better than others? By my values, yes. But are my values some kind of absolute? Hell, no. Is my family "better" than others? Well, I love them more, and they're my responsibility. Yeah, I can say anything I want to about "biological imperatives" or "social norms" or "childhood imprintation" or whatever, but ultimately the responsibility is mine. I CHOOSE to act as I do, to care about the things I care about. I could strip away as much of that as I want to (not quite selectively, though--to not care about Race, for instance, would distance me from some of my other human emotions. A lot of this stuff is tightly interlaced).

This is why the paths to enlightenment are generally textured with moral laws and strictures. By the time you have melted away the absolutes, all you have left is residual behavior patterns. Fear of outside authority, or even "God" is replaced by a sense that the "I-thou" or even the "human-divine" dichotomy are illusions. And fuck me Freddie, if you don't have the basic behaviors that sustain body and mind, let alone relationships and society, deeply encoded at the unconscious level, you will spiral into...well, what most people call madness.

So it's better not to chase after enlightenment, and settle for being an aware, awake adult. That is so far above what most people aspire to, or experience, that it is often mistaken for the enlightened state. Genuinely enlightened people are dangerous as hell to society or those who believe in consensus reality and absolutes. The best thing to do is nail them to a cross. Seriously.


I'll see "Hancock", but I can guess that since the filmmakers have to avoid sexuality (even as much as you saw in "Iron Man") they will substitute flash and spectacle, and their dramatic arcs just won't work--I'm ahead of them. I know where they WON'T go, even if I don't know exactly where they WILL. And that, regardless of what they do, will lay their plot machinations bare, diminishing a dramatic experience to a series of scenes and special effects designed to entertain without actually touching the genuine human experience. And that is such a waste.


WALL-E on the other hand, is part of the ongoing miracle that is Pixar. How they manage to create excellence on such a sustained basis is comparable to nothing other than the Golden age of Disney...and frankly, I think they're operating at a higher moral level. As much as I love Disney, we've discussed what I consider to be their failings in the past.

Pixar is winding deeply into the warp and woof of what it is to be human, and WALL-E, the story of a romantic trash compactor dreaming of love amid the detritus of human society is a marvel. In the WALL-E's future, the only sign of life on earth is a cockroach--who happens to be a true friend to the eponymous robot, a little tractor with binocular eyes and R2-D2's anthropomorphic qualities. When a "female" robot EVE arrives seeking signs of life, the movie swings into gear. The first twenty minutes or so are pure visual poetry. The plot doesn't really arrive for almost an hour in. Children might grow a bit restless. But whereas I place this, over all, in the top third of Pixar's work, there are moments I felt I was watching a great piece of popular art. It touches on the question of disassociation: from our world, our emotions, our bodies, each other. It is heart-breaking and important. When you find out what happened to humanity, (I'm not spoiling anything to say that we DO find out--and that human beings have become insanely obese creatures unable to walk or care for themselves) you realize just how serious this film's intent is.

Dare I suggest that the bond between mind and body is the same stuff as the bond between humanity and earth? Between mother and child? Between one human being and another? That these are all intertwined inextricably?

There was a woman sitting in our movie row, almost as fat as the people on the screen. I wonder how she felt about what she was seeing. Reading about the health/obesity problem in Japan and China, I am convinced that this is the pale side of industrialization, of the information age, of a time when we've stopped using our bodies to earn our bread.

It's killing us. And maybe that's appropriate. I don't know. Did you know that "It's a Small World" at Disneyland had to be shut down, so that it could be dredged deeper because Americans have gotten so fat they're sinking the boats?

Dear God in heaven. Those of us who believe Global Warming is real, human-generated and dangerous, who believe overpopulation is reaching a tipping point, listen to those who believe the world can healthfully sustain more billions and feel real fear for the future of the world. It's not hard to understand that attitude: most of the length and breadth of human history has been about surviving, eating as much as we can, making as many babies as we can. It just didn't matter 99% of the time. And the core message encoded in so many cultural norms and philosophies is one of consumption, because that actually increased the chance of the next generation's survival.

That has changed, but it takes time to turn the Titanic around. On this issue, my opinion is that the wacko wing of the Left says "We're destroying the earth!" and the wacko wing of the Right says "It's impossible for humans to change this planet." The truth, I think, is that we are perfectly capable of damaging this planet enough to cause a crash in our civilization. We can poison the air and water enough to kill most of us--that's really all the Far Left environmentalists are saying, even if they say it poorly. And the Right? All they're saying is what has (from one perspective) been true for most of our history: that nature will kill us if we don't dominate it.

Because I think that the basic human perceptual filters are set in childhood and only altered with great effort thereafter, everything else you learn is seen through that. Every event you see, every philosophical speculation you hear is more readily believed if it agrees with what we already think.

This one, I honestly believe, is baked in the cake: the Earth cannot sustain our current population AND the American lifestyle. And because we have been beaming our lifestyle to the rest of the planet, telling them that they should all live like this, we have been instrumental in popularizing some of the very best and very worst ideas imaginable.

Movies like WALL-E are somewhere beyond political. Politics is a level beneath what Pixar is doing here. They are speaking to a human yearning for connection. Doubtless many of the creators have political points of view, but it is tragic that this issue has become mired in politics when the issue is the survival of everything 99% of humanity holds dear. True--if the doomsayers are wrong, industry will be penalized, economies will suffer, governments increase their power--all for naught. If the other side is right, we're talking functional extermination of our species.

Sorry, but that isn't "six of one, half a dozen of the other." If there was EVER a debate that needed to happen outside the poisoned domain of politics, this is it. And perhaps the best venue is art. If Art is Self-Expression, then a piece of popular entertainment that suggests we are losing what made us human in the first place, losing our sense of X amount of sweat equals Y amount of security...then WALL-E is so much more than mere "commercial art." It is a statement of position on the most important issue facing mankind--not "Global Warming" but the root of all human evil: treating ourselves, our fellow human beings, and the earth itself as an object, a means to an end rather than an end in itself.

If investigating the role of the human heart in the creation of the world our children will inherit is not the proper role of art, I don't know what is. If we lose touch with ourselves--as I see us doing--to the point that only the trash compactors and cockroaches remember what love is, we have lost our way. And our children's way. And our children's children.

Whatever Pixar chooses to do next, I'll be there. I give WALL-E an A+. Instant classic.

I don't know who they sold their souls to to achieve this level of mastery, but I suspect they got the better end of the deal.