I saw Cloud Atlas on opening day at the IMAX theater. Given that I make it to the movies maybe once or twice a year, this was a special event.
I was in college when The Matrix came out and in a period of Awakening. It was 1999. I had a boyfriend then who was very bright and loved to philosophize. We would climb trees on campus and pontificate about the world. We played chess in quaint coffee houses. He taught me to think, to question.
When everyone else was hating on the “Trench coat Mafia” after the Columbine shootings, he begged me to have compassion and to wonder, why would someone be driven to such atrocity? I began to look, really look, into what Ani DiFranco called, “The Milk-fed suburban blues.” Suddenly, nothing was as it seemed and I wanted to understand way more than I wanted to blame.
The Matrix showed me the ways in which our culture was still plugged in to systems that were unhealthy and didn’t work. It highlighted the ways in which we choose ignorance as bliss over doing the hard work of waking up to reality and choosing what’s real.
Art imitates life and the Wachowski family does this well, and Cloud Atlas is no exception.
I will try to make my point without spoiling much of the movie and I will declare spoiler alert ahead of time, so no worries. 🙂
Cloud Atlas begins with a quick pace as we follow a variety of characters throughout history. From futuristic islands, to ships in the 1700’s, we see the lives of characters and the way they weave a tapestry. Cloud Atlas’ over-arching point is that we are all connected.
One of the best lines from the movie is this:
Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past & present. And by each crime & every kindness, we birth our future.
I believe this to be true. This sentence reads much like the message given to me in my ten-day Vipassana meditation and is similar to the teachings of Gotama the Buddha, who said, “Our thoughts become our actions.” In the moment of our death, whatever our thoughts, they give rise to our next incarnation.This is Karma.
Cloud Atlas paints a vivid tale of exactly how our Karma could play out and just how much we may impact others through our actions and how often we may reincarnate together, life after life, until we get it right.
What we still long for, cling to, have shamed, hidden, or shied away from must be dealt with. Someday, sometime, some way, we pay.
The overall theme I carry with me from the movie is that we each do matter, very much, like the ocean is made up of drops of water, we, each our own unique drop in the huge pond, make up the fabric of life. Without you, or me, or all of us, it wouldn’t be the same, “all that is.”
We truly are bound to one another, in deep and profound ways and perhaps the best we can do in life is to show kindness to one another.
On the flip side, the most disturbing part of the movie for me, aside from the violence, was the factory worker women, created solely to serve. Turns out, they begin to “wake up” and have desires, thoughts, feelings of their own.
One escapes from her bondage, and in one scene is shown that when the women leave their station, once their “shelf-life” has expired, they are actually sent to a factory and chopped up and turned into food and fed back to the others. They have been eating each other. The reason for this is quite simple and a lot like real life, it is the cheapest form of protein to keep these women alive.
As disgusting as this is, I feel that this is exactly what is happening in our culture today. Money is God and consumerism in the house of God in which many worship and those in power seem to only care about cheap labor and cheap food.
*************SPOILER ALERT OVER!!!!!!*********************************
From my 10+ years in the education system, I saw what we feed our children, day in and day out. It is food I would not want to eat and would never want to feed my own children. It is chemical laden, genetically modified, full of starch, salt, gluten, and fat. They eat fried foods and apples in plastic bags coated in chemicals to help them last longer. It is little more than a crime, if you ask me.
What kind of culture stands by while the masses consume poisoned food that is genetically altered (known to kill other species) and consumes flouridated water?
How asleep to we have to be to let this happen?
How much are we like Neo in The Matrix, enjoying our bliss, until we finally see a glitch in the system and begin to wonder?
Eventually, we have to wake up. Eventually, we will all choose the Red Pill and go down the rabbit hole. Only then will we transform our culture, come out the other side, and create systems that serve our health and well-being, instead of allowing us cheap thrills, fast-food, and huge health care bills.
We are feeding our children in this country, by the masses, food that causes cancer, disease, and sickness.
We do it because it is cheap.
We do it because it is part of a system, bigger and older than we are, and we’ve known not how to stop it.
It is time to wake up, my friends, we MUST question what we eat! We must question everything!
As I came out of that theater, I watched the young people at the soda fountain and popcorn machine. The machines are shiny, new, updated, flashy, sparkly and fun. The products coming out of the machines are genetically modified, full of white sugar, corn syrup and caffeine.
The popcorn is genetically modified. Corn is one of the top ten food irritants for humans.
We want our ignorance, we want our bliss.
It is easier to let our kids have their treats and turn the other cheek. Besides, it would take effort and money and time to educate ourselves and eat well; but the time has come my friends, the time has come.
As Cloud Atlas so clearly shows, this day and age is about waking up to our addiction to consumerism, our idle acceptance of factory workers, enslaved, so we can have our nice shoes or iPhones.
Today’s revolution will be about food.
Systems too small for our light. Working conditions that don’t work. The ways in which we still enslave one another so we can have our cake and eat it too, even if it is the poison that takes our life.
We are not there yet, like Slavery in the States and women being denied the right to vote and Jews killed in concentration camps, every generation has their plight, the thing they must speak up about, and shine a light on and break out of for the sake of loving kindness to all beings.
As Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ”
As long as there are people still enslaved to sex trafficking, or working in harsh conditions, or children and adults being fed fake food and poisoned water, and we are forcing indoctrination into outdated systems simply because we are comfortable, we are lying to ourselves.
We, many of us, are still not free. It looks different today, I don’t own you as my slave, but I own you through the worship of money, or consumerism, or corporations. I own you because you are trapped to live your life in a dysfunctional system. I own you because you are required by law to go to school, force-fed information that forwards my agenda, and I feed you crappy food that tastes great because it’s full of artificial ingredients, but it makes you grumpy, angry, irritated, bloated and fat.
Art imitates life, folks, and if Cloud Atlas is any indication, we are in trouble.
The Revolution will not be televised. Wake up!
Above all, Cloud Atlas reminds us of what MLK, Jr. said, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”
I leave you today with quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr. He is my idol and not a day of my teaching career went by without his picture in my room.