Life as it ain't

"I'm not really from outer space. I'm just mentally divergent."

Waking Life

Posted by Ronak M Soni on December 6, 2009

Still from the movie

The ongoing WOW... is happening right NOW.


Dear Mr. Linklater,

I think it is a lie on your part to say that you made the movie Waking Life. I also think that it is not a lie on our part to attribute the movie to you. I think that the only lie possible on our part is to say that we have watched it. We can merely say with certainty that we have viewed it. Viewed it multiple times, if that is so.

I, personally, have viewed it twice. I, personally, am going to view it again. And again. And again. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum. No, never ad nauseum.

I, after having viewed it twice, have many, many thoughts about this movie. Reproducing them here would be pointless, because they are, in their own way, as sprawled out as your movie, or this movie that we attribute to you.

Not producing them here, however, would be counter-productive. Because the reason I write is to communicate my take on whatever it is I’m writing on. I, in fact, think that communicating my take is so important that I have been known to ignore better points, for the sole reason that they were not my points. That is also why I make it clear everywhere – from the name of my blog to the meat of my introduction – that it is my take that you are looking at.

I, of course, won’t be mailing this letter to you. I, after all, am just a character in your extended dream. I think it is a curious choice for me to discuss the reasons for my writing, and writing this, in what purports to be a review of your movie.

All I want to say is: thank you, for giving us this. This movie, obviously, raises many questions, and answers fewer. But this is the movie that I can say taught me that it’s okay to broadcast the question that I do have, no matter how stupid. Not that I ever hesitated. So, what am I thanking you for? I don’t know, but I know that this may be the most important movie of the generation. Why? I’m not sure, but I know subsequent viewings will hold the answers.

Just like the boy could hold on in the face of everything around him telling him there was no point but the man chose to go up, into a state of enlightened drifting, you have brought back, here, that very important thing that we’ve lost: that concern that marked out the hippies and the rest of the sixties’ counterculture. The same hippies that went and learnt natural farming with Masanobu Fukuoka, and the same ones that gave us the divine music of The Beatles.

But, you’ve also lost out on the disconnect from life that negatively marked these people out. Your hero, the man played by Wiley Wiggins, chooses to drift, like a hippie, but drift in the state of being enlightened that he is in a dream, which is the choice open to most of my generation. You have shown us that it is good to take the path offered by enlightenment.

It doesn’t matter that you can’t know. The important thing is to ask. All your people, they ask. The old man wonders, seriously considers, being able, in the near future, to see evolution taking place. This sounds absurd, but it is the hope that is important. Your middle-aged woman is happy about change. My generation, we are happy about change. Exclusively in the forward direction. As long as we don’t have to change inside, as long as we can say that it is too big for us… it is true when the whiny-sounding kid says that it’s all happened before.

Of course, you understand, all that I’ve said is bullshit. But the best of bullshit. Bullshit that has come with feeling. Feeling, yes, but, more importantly, understanding that it is bullshit. Some of what your characters say can be classified as bullshit, but that is the other best of bullshit: it’s plausible bullshit. Some more of what your characters say, like the philosophy professor about existentialism, is the very opposite of bullshit.

But that, again, is not important. It is only important that they said it. It is only important, further, that you collected all this and put it in a movie, a movie that seems to end just before catharsis, between the swell of the music and the bigger swell that would be catharsis, but casting back your auditory mind reminds you that all that can possibly happen now is the addition of another instrument into the fray, like has always happened. It is true to the movie that your musician appears to say that it should sound wavy, due to being slightly out of tune.

And, thank you for those visuals – the visuals without which it is impossible to quote you –, for collecting the fears of a whole generation about a decision they are supposed to make between apathy and a waking life, and showing – to a complete extent – the waking life. The waking life, after all, is as unsteady as you show it. Borders shift, arguments waver, philosophies confound, thoughts take you to unvisited regions of life, and we always try to connect, try to reach our own holy moments.

Thank you, finally, for giving us this, this precise language to discuss the lack of language that our collective intelligence has taken us too.

One of the generation,

Ronak M Soni.

PS: Please understand that most of what I’ve said is bullshit, but I’ve learnt enough from you to not know better than to broadcast it.

PPS: I have one little tiff with your movie; by repeating an idea relating directly to your hero’s predicament, you have made it too clear what has happened to him.

PPPS: That’s just a little tiff. I ought to end with a thank you.

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3 Responses to “Waking Life

  1. S M Rana said

    It’s a nice movie to see a second time –I saw it last month and it’s hazy now. It asks the right questions–Einstein said if one doesn’t question the meaning of life when young, one is almost unfit for living. These unanswered, if not unanswerable questions have been around for 10,000 years and are yet fresh…

  2. I think you are right when you say that we can view this film, but we can’t really watch it. Or maybe, we experience the film, but don’t really see it. Like the hazy lines that get hazier and clearer at intervals, like the animation that dominates at times and at other times allows us to see the real people underneath, we can never really figure out this film, because there is nothing to figure out. Just things to experience, and contemplate, and travel past on our way to our own unique solutions, which are not the end of the journey, just moments when we stop and pause for a bit, and realize how what came before leads to what comes after.

  3. Were you by any chance cut out of the movie?

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