RIP, Roy Batty

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments will be lost… in time… like… tears… in rain. Time… to die.

Rutger Hauer, Roy Batty from Blade Runner, died last week.

Despite all the contributions that make Blade Runner a classic – the imaginative creation of LA of the future, the direction of Ridley Scott, the atmospheric music of Vangelis, the story of Philip K. Dick, the script of Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, the acting of Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Rutger Hauer and others – I’d argue that it was the final words of Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty, that are primarily responsible for Blade Runner’s status.

Roy Batty’s words resonate because of everything that leads up to the moment on the roof – the parallel experience of Roy Batty and Deckard, the injured hands, the broken bodies, the loss of loved ones, the desperate scramble for life.  The words resonate, somewhere deep inside of us, in a way that is hard to articulate.

With a few brief words that appear nowhere else in the movie – Attack ships on fire, the shoulder of Orion, C-beams, Tannhäuser Gate – Roy Batty tells us of the uniqueness of his replicant experience, full of beauty, awe, richness and longing. Just like any other human being, unable to fully share with another, one’s experience  of the mystery of consciousness.

Then, with the next sentence ,  “All those… moments will be lost… in time… like… tears… in rain,” Roy Batty yokes his experience to our human experience of the universe, finite, yet infinite; unique, yet part of a multitude; universal, yet distinct.

Finally, with, “…Time to die”, Roy Batty accepts his fate, spares Deckard, and like a human, goes from Form to Emptiness. Like a human at the time of their passing, unable to control the transition. Something left behind, something going away.  Neither sufficient by itself, each part necessary, the whole greater than the parts.

Truly, “more human, than human.”

Thank you, Rutger Hauer/Roy Batty, your moments will never be lost in time, because you showed us what it means to be human!

Mixed Review

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Mixed feelings on The Last Jedi.

On the one hand, it had character development, humor and engaging set pieces. We learn more about Kylo Ren and how he emerged. We learn more about Rey, her deep feeling of abandonment, and her quest to learn more about her parents. We see the leadership and command of Leia. We meet Luke again, and see how he has become cynical, closed off from everyone and everything, even the Force. We continue to see the stories of other characters – Finn, Poe, Gen. Hux, BB-8 – and some new characters introduced – Gen. Holdo, Rose, Paige the Codebreaker, etc. Many of the new characters were women, thus continuing to add balance to the gender ratio of the series.

There were also unexpected flashes of humor scattered throughout the movie, moments providing welcome breaks from the story line of conflict, pain, and death. Poe talking to Hux. Luke being handed his light saber. Luke and Rey. Poe at different times. Finn and Rose. These felt refreshing and new.

Finally, the set pieces of space battles and personal combat, were also breathless and riveting, continuing the tradition of previous Star Wars movies. The arc of the Luke’s story was resolved in a moving manner. And the presence of Leia was touching, knowing as we do, that she will not return in Episode IX.

On the other hand there were superfluous characters, some slow scenes, and particularly egregious story holes. Porgs and the caretakers on Skellig felt cutesy and out of place. The scenes on Canto Bight also teeming with characters, all wearing tuxedoes, didn’t seem to make sense. For a while, in the middle, the story slowed down, with exposition and back and forth. Finally, there were big story holes – Leia in space, the lack of background on Snoke, Snoke’s monologuing and his sudden death despite being so powerful, Luke’s lack of understanding of the importance of the Force texts, and Luke’s presence at the end, both physical and ethereal. These seemed too convenient and didn’t seem to fit the Star Wars canon.

So the movie was enjoyable, but I wouldn’t call it a classic like The Empire Strikes Back.

A Decisive Moment

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While best associated with Henri Cartier-Bresson, the term “decisive moment” is actually a quotation from Cardinal de Retz:

There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment, and the masterpiece of good ruling is to know and seize this moment.”

We go through lives in a stupor, and don’t see this truth. When this truth becomes evident with startling clarity, often, it is as it applies to our health.

Health can change very suddenly, and then nothing is the same. An illness that turns out to be more than just a cold. A diagnosis of an unknown chronic disease. An accident.

When this happens, we look for causes, because human beings are storytellers. We create these elaborate chains of causality, trying to find the decisive moment. We try to explain, deny or fight what happened. We look for excuses or visualize alternate pasts, hinging on alternate actions at a particular moment .

“If I hadn’t stepped off the sidewalk, the car wouldn’t have hit me.”

“If I had been paying attention, I wouldn’t have cut my tendon.”

“If I hadn’t shared the ……., I wouldn’t have picked up ………”

But this dissembling hides the truth. The deep truth is, sometimes, there is no cause. The links of causality could not have been any different. There is no one decisive moment, a moment when everything changed, that can be pulled out and examined, revisited and relived with exquisite care –– every moment is a decisive moment.

It is only when we accept this truth, that we can find a way forward. Every moment of our lives, is a decisive moment.

We cannot explain it, deny it, or fight it. We can only accept it. And when we accept it, we can find a way forward. Because then we give up the self-indulgence of an alternate past. Because then we give up the hope of a prior imagined future. We stop blaming ourselves and others for what happened.

We face the reality of this immediate moment, every moment, a decisive moment, with gratitude for what we have, without blame for what could have been and without regret for what wasn’t.

Thanksgiving Day Observations

Nalin

Yesterday seemed like a good day to think about what I’m grateful for. These would be adversity, family and my puppy (dog).

“Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”
—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, AS YOU LIKE IT

Adversity grounds and challenges us. One aspect of adversity is that it is nothing more than missing future expectations. We lost the round in the debate tournament, and won’t go on to the elimination rounds. The contract went to the other team. The offer extended was turned down. The meeting didn’t go as planned. At this point, we can resist and feel sorry about the adverse circumstances, still desiring the missing future. Or we can accept, and see what information this holds. How can I improve my performance in the debate round? Why did we lose the contract? What was missing in our offer? Why did the meeting go off track?

As we think about these reasons, we challenge ourselves for the answers. This requires examination of the evidence, creativity in coming up with solutions, and the drive to change our behavior for next time. These hard but necessary steps keep us motivated, help us grow and change for the better. All due to adversity, and so I am thankful for its “sweet uses.”

I’m thankful for my family. My immediate family that supports and loves me. My extended family that I only see from time to time, and talk to, infrequently, but still has warm feelings towards me. My friends with whom I have shared experiences and have common past. They infuse my life with richness and joy, and I am thankful for their presence.

Finally, my new puppy. Always happy to see me with his wagging tail, a welcoming sniff, and numerous licks of affection. Ready to offer his belly for a belly rub. Curious about every sound, smell and new individual he meets. He is full of life, and he reminds me to appreciate every day.

Thanks to adversity, my family and my puppy, for enriching my life by adding experiences and joy to all the moments of daily life!

A Visit to the Hospital

Entry to the Cath Lab at Stanford Hospital

Cath Lab at Stanford

Yesterday, I had an unscheduled visit to Stanford Hospital for a relative. Chest pain, Emergency Room visit, then the Cath Lab. While waiting for the doctor to come out and give us an update, I reflected on the transience of life.

One moment and everything is different.

Thinking is clear. Priorities are uncomplicated. Relationships regain importance. Words have urgency. Time is finite.

Why can’t we carry over this clarity of thought into our daily lives?

Perhaps it is because we suppress thoughts of our mortality, that we will all exit stage right. Constantly thinking of our own mortality could lead to a defeatist attitude – why does anything matter anyway.

Perhaps we make ourselves the center of the universe, and think everything revolves around us. Since we are so important, of course, we will always be there.

Perhaps it is the mystery of an event that has no experiential answer. If there is no answer, why think about it.

Perhaps societal norms guide us to ignoring the finiteness of our bodies. No one wants to strike up a casual conversation about mortality. When such a conversation is necessary, it is accompanied by uncomfortable emotions.

Perhaps thinking about our own physical transience is accompanied by too much regret and remorse. We revisit actions that we would do differently, and mull over actions we should have taken.

Then the doctor came out and gave us an update. All had gone well, the angioplasty was successful, the patient was recovering.

But I am still reflecting on these thoughts and feelings and hoping to carry the urgency and clarity of those moments into my daily life.

 

 

 

Habit vs. To-do

A human being sitting in Meditation

Meditation

For a long time, I struggled with creating a meditation habit. I would meditate consecutively for a week, at different times during the day. Then I’d miss a day of meditation due to a change in my routine. Perhaps it was a late evening, or travel, or a day that wasn’t great. The one day missed would turn into two, and then three, and I’d struggle to create a chain of days meditated.

I had read that 21 days was a myth, and that creating a habit takes much longer. I had also read about the parts of a habit – the cue, reward, routine. I also knew all the benefits of meditation. Despite knowing all this intellectually, I still struggled with the practice of meditating daily.

On some days, I would meditate in the morning, just after I woke up. On other days, I would meditate before going to bed. I had set a reminder alarm, yet I would ignore the notification when it popped up on my phone.

If I missed my morning slot, I would run through my other daily activities, and then try to check off my daily meditation at the end of the day, before going to bed. There were days when I was so tired that sitting was easy to skip. On other days, if I didn’t have the 20 minutes I thought I “should” sit for, I would convince myself that I should miss it, since I wasn’t doing it right. It was a daily struggle.

Then I read a post (perhaps here – I don’t remember), that helped me make sense of my struggle. Instead of a creating a habit with an automatic trigger, I had put meditation on my daily to-do list – as in I have to meditate sometime today. As the day went on, my desire to sit was overcome by the daily schedule, or by tiredness, and it didn’t happen.

But by not seeing meditation as a to-do daily list item, instead as a commitment to a habit, meant I had a different sense of urgency when the notification appeared on my phone. I knew I had to drop everything and do it right now. A small tweak in thinking, but it had a big impact on me.

So – 25 consecutive days and counting…..