The Fountain - a reflection on a celebratable movie!

Let it flow...

How to deal with loss? This seems a relevant question, after all we deal with loss every day: plans that don't work out, eloigned people, our health, age, surroundings, everything changes! That's an inevitable aspect of being in the world, even the planet which has nurtured us from cells to intelligence, will die some day, engulfed by the fire of our dying star.

Now, this movie may seem to be about this, about how to deal with loss, a young women in danger, the boy who tries to save her. However, seen in this perspective, it does seem a rather shallow movie. First of all it does not really give us a reply, in the end all we got is some confused message about accepting loss, but how exactly are we supposed to accept it. And, more importantly, is it such a great idea to accept loss? Where would science, medicine, and many of men's achievements be if we would simply accept loss? I mean, he could have saved her? The movie seems almost sadistic in that the monumental efforts of this young man, no matter how big they are, and to what extent they are taken, are always conquered by failure in the end. Is failure really the only possible outcome to everything we attempt? Is victory never achieved?

Some people might say that this reflects the Oriental spirit of letting things go, and see where that has taken them. Now they all want to come to the West, because here we have cars and food and heating. While in the East not only were despotic political movements just gently accepted, as no need was ever saw of supplanting the frail existence of men. And yet the technological advancement of the Western civilizations has shown at least one thing: that it is possible for men to discover much more that what seemed even imaginable just a few centuries ago, from spaceships, to a vision of the universe encompassing black holes and quasars, to engines run by vegetable oil, cellular phones, to a future seemingly offering possibilities we cannot even begin to imagine.

However this movie is not about that. Only at a superficial level that is. In a superficial level we might say it is the attempt to deal with the suffering caused by loosing what we love. But the images of the movie, a tree in a bubble surrounded by stars, a tree which, when eaten, gives life, and what we do with her. A man who is a soldier, a doctor, that is willing to kill in order to protect, that is willing to die in order to save, the conquistador (the conqueror), and the loved one, beautiful, apparently passive, but at the center of all things, understanding, guiding with almost imperceptible gestures. Two people divided by time and space, two minds, but united by desire, by love, a single heartbeat.

To me the movie is much more about what life is and how to deal with it. The most significant image in my eyes is that of the tree wondering in the infinite skies. Surrounding the tree, separating it from eternal night, is the volatile surface of the bubble, the I.

It seems to me that this is a good picture of just about everyone I have ever heard of. One wants to do things, wants to conquer things, wants this or that. It establishes a way, a path, and that path is the division from the rest of the Universe. For One can be recognized by having a wish. Without wishes there is the wind, the sea, but every conscious being is usually defined y desire. Snakes, penguins, men, kangaroos, all would mentally be undistinguishable from one another if not by what they desire, by what they do, or want to do, in face of some situation. What defines us psychologically is what we desire. Desire can also be defined as having a direction, some things become good, others become evil. To the flee, having babies is good, but not to her host. Some inflict pleasure, others pain.

In this sense the man in The Fountain could be a picture of almost anyone who has ever existed. But to understand the woman, we need to make a step further. First we should imagine what would happen if someone would cease to have desires.

To make it easier to imagine let's suppose that desire is like a stream of water, running to make itself even (for instance from a higher to a lower place). One way to stop desires would be to stop the origin of the water altogether, to stop the fountain, the fountain of desires. That would be like killing someone, or making them catatonic, or eliminating desire by cutting the prefrontal lobes (someone got a Nobel prize for proposing this as medicine). Another way would be to stop the flow of water, like putting dikes and barricades, this is repression of desire, found often in religious practices and ideology, as it promotes subservience and blind neglect. But the really interesting way is radically different, it consists in simply let the water go of the fountain in every possible direction it wants to go, making no barriers, imposing no limits. In this way desire will not have any direction, it cannot easily be called a desire, for it flows everywhere, with no predilect ground. Such a person would be free, not so much in the sense that she could realize her desires, but in the sense that her desires would run free inside her.

Now, most of the time we direct the water. We say, I want this: to be a doctor, to save someone, to get along with this or that person, to understand something, etc. This is what we mean by giving our life a meaning, a direction, we want the water (initial/promordial desire) to flow through some predetermined path, and we build all sort of dikes and passages to promote it. So if I feel happy in the morning I take advantage to write, if I feel sad I take advantage to write, if I feel I want to take a hike I write about hiking, if I feel free I write about freedom. I consider myself a writer, and I will use the energy that comes from this fountain to direct it to my own set of goals.

This attempt is fine in that it produces a lot of work. After all, we should be called homo faber, for there is nothing we feel more pressured to do than working night and day. But all this work to achieve our goal in fact destroy our contact with what we desire. If, for instance, I desire a woman very much, and I'm always trying not to loose her, I will never feel free to just being with her. All the time I'll be thinking if I'm saying the right thing, or doing the right gesture. But to actually be with her demands something quite different, it demands flowing, being natural, being with, with no frontiers, no defenses.

So, for the conquerer, after a while, it all becomes terrible frustrating. He is always wanting to achieve, but, in fact, he never touches what we wants with so much ardor. In the movie, he wanted so much to assure that he would be with a girl, that he would also be working on that assuring, we would never simply let it flow, he would never simply enjoy the moment.

Now this enjoyment has a lot to do with letting it flow. For this water, this fountain, is in fact the fountain of life. It not only gives desires, in fact, I'm not at all sure that it gives radical desires. I think it gives understanding, premonition, joy, and all sorts of things, including some usually mild forms of desire. But we transform all this into something fixed, we give it some fixed role, we use this energy, this wisdom, this presence, this understanding, this consciousness, to some end, which end we do not fully understand the function (the end of having children, of having a job or lots of money: why all that??).

To let the water simply flow, is, in a very metaphorical, but also very real manner, to die. Why? Because we have defined ourselves in terms of goals, what we prefer, what we are willing to die for, and live for. And we say, this is who we are, the total sum of my decisions, of my preferences, of my goals and fears and nevers. When we remove all this, consciousness remains, freedom remains, even some sort of agency remains, but not the fixed directions through which the water should flow. Now the moment is unpredictable, you are dependent on "inspiration", everything changes, and you are ever changing. You have no control of who you are, or what you'll be or want to be, not even in the next moment. And each new moment will now be a mystery, an experience to be lived, unpredictable. In every and each new moment, a new world emerges and everything can be set a new. Only the present becomes real, for the past and future cannot define how the flow of water will now run.

And how will it run? Adapted to the situation of course. One time here, another one there. Like an inspiration that writes a story. Where do the words come from? What puts something here and another one there. If it is rational, well thought before in advance, then we know where it came from, it is a picture of what is possible, of all (or at least some of) the ways being can be. But an inspired story speaks about things even the author knows little about. It is the talk of the transcendent, the kiss of life, is also the kiss of the transcendent. When water flows freely in all directions, a new pattern emerges, the fountain gives way to a new language, new sayings to be said. Things that man could not have possibly know, now come to mind, as if inspired by some cosmic consciousness, that was with us the all time, but was repressed, contrived, distorted in its patterns and flowing, and, because of that, could not be known. It was there, but masqueraded, hidden behind concepts and meanings and defenses and theories. Repressed, distorted, utilized, it creates the face of the bubble that separates the tree from the rest of the universe.

Now the girl, the woman, to understand her, we have to see only that, in her, the water flows freely. She has no fear of the Inquisitor, for she knows the shadow has no power over light, she has no fear of death, for she knows everything lives in everything else, she understands the conqueror, although she cannot write his history for him, he must define his own future. She represents the fountain flowing in the life of men. He represents the passion towards what is divine, but a passion can only exist when it is nurtured by distance. Contact erases passion, transforming it to Joy.

One of the most beautiful images of the movie is what happens when the conqueror drinks from the tree of life. Instead of using the power of the tree to his own purposes, he becomes the tree. From an ego perspective, it's like a trap, the most awful future, the most awful death, like a prank, or a vengeance. But, if you watch it closely, what could be more desirable than to become a part of the whole. Obviously we already are a mere part of the whole. But now we live in the illusion that we are something else, something apart. For the tree to destroy our bones and flesh, for us to become Paradise, can only be fearful to the controlling mind, but not to the Loving Heart.

Expansion and Flowing of Consciousness

That is the End...