Friday, December 17, 2010

The Tao of Tron Legacy (Updated)

Before the creation of Universe, a presence existed.
Silent, void & unchanging... like a wheel, going eternally round.
Though it remains nameless, its vibration appears as...Great Universal Womb.

Giving it a name, we recklessly call it Matrix.

The Tao is alive and flowing in Tron Legacy, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic Tron. Although Tron Legacy’s mass appeal may lay in its flashy depiction of its computer-generated environment, the underlying fabric of the film is instilled with religious and philosophical memes. As in The Matrix, the philosophic mythology of choice seems to be Buddhism in general and Zen Buddhism in particular.

In the sequel, Actor Jeff Bridges reprises his role as the video game visionary Kevin Flynn, still trapped in his computer world. When his grown-up son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) discovers his dad’s arcade, and a portal (read: StarGate), he inadvertently ends up getting sucked into the same otherworldly grid ruled by Flynn’s corrupted program called Clu (a digital version of a much younger Bridges). As Flynn, his son and a fearless warrior program Quorra (Olivia Wilde) try to escape, they are confronted by the system’s flaws, including Clu and the flashy fixer Castor (Michael Sheen) — who may or may not be a friend. Also on hand is Bruce (Babylon 5) Boxleitner, reprising his Tron role of Flynn partner Alan Bradley.

Besides the (psychedelic) eye candy, Tron Legacy contains a few other surprises. For one, it comes across as “a cautionary tale” about modern technology. Jeff Bridges elaborates on the implication of Tron Legacy as a modern myth. In Bridge's view, the film is essentially a warning about how the drive for technological advancement and convenience can blind us to the cost of these innovations. Bridges' discussion of the film's approach to technology was borderline kōan-like…

“One of the things that brought me to this film was the idea of helping to create a modern-day myth to help us navigate these technological waters. I dig immediate gratification as much as anybody, but it happens so fast that if you make a decision like that, you can go far down the wrong track. “Think about those plastic single-use water bottles. Where did that come from? Who decided that? You can have a couple swigs of water and those bottles don't disintegrate entirely. Microscopic animals eat the plastic, and the fish eat those, and we're all connected.”

For another, the film features many philosophical references to Zen Buddhism, which Bridges champions… “You can be a slave to your preferences” the actor says of a Zen subtext…

“It's a finite situation here. I hope that people look at this film and glean some kind of wisdom from that. I brought on board a Zen master, a buddy of mine, Roshi Bernie Glassman. He came on-board to help add some spiritual depth to the thing. We didn't want it too cloying, and we didn't want it to feel like you were being preached to. We wanted some kind of substance in that way, and hopefully the movie will help people navigate the challenges of technology.”

Olivia Wilde's biggest inspiration for Quorra was Joan of Arc... 

“That occurred to me very early on… a good six months before we started shooting… and Joe Kosinski, our director, immediately agreed that that was the right historical figure to base her on, for a few reasons. She's this unlikely warrior, very strong but compassionate, and completely led by selflessness. Also, she thinks she's in touch with some sort of higher power and has one foot in another world. All of these things were elements of Quorra. It was so thrilling when I found this connection between the two people. I thought, "Oh my God, any time I'm at a loss, I can go back to Joan of Arc." It's really the jackpot when you hit that as an actor. Joe, to his credit, was completely supportive of that, and we sculpted the character in our rewrites and physical creation of Quorra to match some of these elements of Joan of Arc”.

Meanwhile, there was the Tron irony. To create Bridges’ younger Clu alter ego, a Digital Domain production team scanned the actor for 52 of his assorted expressions. “It was a digital facial,” Bridges recalls. “And it was bizarre because (the process) was a very Tron-like fantasy… and now it’s all real.”

It's nature implicates a network widening into space... still widening...
Until the great network meets the small.

The reoccurring reliance on Buddhism and science fiction in modern story telling is indicative of Earth’s emerging mythology. It is no accident that the cautionary tale, illuminating the delicate partnership between Earth’s domesticated primates and technology, resonates with many of us. This re-occurrence… this emerging mythology is permeated with synchronicity. The film’s release date is… of course… December 17th. Many among us will smile at the synchronicity implied… as championed by one of our mentors, Christopher Knowles over at the Secret Sun.

In this sense the Matrix is fulfilled.
Universe is fulfilled.
Mother Earth is fulfilled.
The Tekgnostic is fulfilled.

So... the Tekgnostic is of the earth.
Earth, of universe.
Universe, of the matrix.

The Matrix, of that which shall remain un-named.

Addendum 12-19-2010

Took in the 3D version last night with my 8 year-old… great action/adventure romp with striking and effective special effects. The story line is classic hero’s journey archetype with reluctant hero accepting the call to adventure… wise mentor providing assistance… etc. What impressed was the literal story-telling approach to the Buddhist concept of mastery of self, as depicted in classic Jungian interpretation.

Although the film has a handsome action hero in Flynn’s son, Sam… the essence of the tale is in Flynn’s struggle within himself. The struggle of Ego to integrate it’s many components. If “The Grid” is allegorical to the collective unconscious, then it naturally follows that Flynn must battle a younger version of himself… his own earlier arrogances. This straight-forward device is very effective in illuminating the transition of knowledge to wisdom.

What resonated with me was the multi media effects used to convey the presence of power (read: chi) and true authority within the story. In the “nightclub scene” Flynn performs one of the most beautiful images in Buddhist iconography… the "Earth Touching Buddha." In the Buddhist mythology, Lord Buddha was challenged one last time by Mara the Great Tempter (within the film… Castor/Zuse). Mara claimed the earth as his own domain, and said that now the Buddha had transcended this realm and should leave it. In reply, the Buddha called the Earth to witness by touching the ground at which the Earth quaked in recognition of his right to be here. Within the film, this demonstration is masterfully displayed using audio and visual imagery.

The movie-going experience was full of personal synchronistic triggers. Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” has been coming up alot within my personal syncrosphere. Annie Lennox caught my eye at the Presidential Chrismas gala… only to remind me that… “sweet dreams are made of these”… in the movie. The important lesson in this tale is undertanding that the real battle is fought... the real work is performed... within. The integration of the archetypes… the act of becoming one with self and universe. This too is the role, the teaching by example... of the synchromystic.

All in all, the movie was good synchromystic fodder.

Who am I to disagree?