March 22, 2020

Metaphysics in Movies: Mindwalk (1990)

I love watching movies that do more than just entertain. For a long time now I've been meaning to start a series of posts on movie recommendations with themes of metaphysics. However, in order to ponder issues that are beyond everyday existence, a fundamental requirement is leisure. Unless you can remove yourself from everyday struggles and have the opportunity to focus on the bigger picture, there can be no inner growth.

These days, with a million distractions and the breakneck speed of life in which we engage, few can afford the luxury called free time. Until today. With a billion people under lock down in 35 countries today, now seems like the best time ever to reflect and contemplate about life and the meaning of existence. This is exactly what metaphysics is all about: contemplation of "the ideas" behind "the things."

In these posts, I'll write about movies that force us to think beyond the physical world as either part of their main plot or in certain sections. I will even include those films which are perhaps not written with the intent to illustrate a metaphysical aspect, but do so quite well nevertheless. First in the series is Mindwalk.

Mindwalk (1990)

Key theme: The interconnected nature of world problems

Section: Entire movie

Why is it Notable:

# 1) It includes a good primer on the difference between the two physics and what it means for us. The two physics, of course, are: Newtonian physics or "physics of the big things that fall" and the weird sub-atomic world of quantum physics (even though the film doesn't get into the truly weird parts like the observer effect and quantum entanglement);

# 2) it traces the root of modern problems to the idea of mechanistic thinking, which is fundamentally the idea of separation between man and nature, and shows through history, why this male principle is so deep-rooted in our society; 

#3) it emphasises the need to move to the feminine principle / right brain trait of nurturing, caring, and holistic thinking.

About the Film:

Few films are written by physicists, Mindwalk is one of them. This little known independent production is set in a medieval island in Europe in which nothing much happens except conversations between three people. One of the characters is Jack, an American presidential candidate who couldn't make it beyond the primaries. Another is a little known poet named Thomas, also an American who moved to live in Europe. Both of them are having a bit of a midlife crisis and are seen conversing while strolling around the city's picturesque spots until the third character, the main protagonist of the film, a woman named Sonia who is a physicist, enters the conversation.

One of the writers is Fritjof Capra, a physicist with a career spanning several institutions in Europe and America including a stint at a particle accelerator. Capra is most known for his 1975 book "Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism" which continues to sell well in spirituality category to this day. In it he argues: “Physicists do not need mysticism and mystics do not need physics, but humanity needs both.” The film is loosely based on his 1982 book, The Turning Point. I recommend this movie not for its recommendation in the conclusion (systems theory) but its diagnosis of society's problems (separation and left brain thinking / male principle).


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