For the most part I like HBO’s ‘Enlightened’. One of the angles it has going for it is the subject matter. I don’t think a dramedy about personal enlightenment and self-actualization would ever make it to the networks. Which brings up an issue that might doom the show. It is about enlightenment, but it just as much about anger, loneliness, individuality, selfishness, generosity of spirit and yet it also satirizes those things. The characters seem earnest enough. If nothing else it does get the audience to ask themselves questions. One of the aspects narrative that TV can do well when the powers that be let it. The twin narratives push against one another. Not to disparage them, but I read some of the comments at HBO and some of those people have a fairly deep emotional investment in the Laura Dern character ( Amy). They see her relatively good intentions and the walls she meets as she tries to help other people see what she sees. What some of them do not see is the anger, frustrations and some retentions on Amy’s part. She came back from a retreat after a kind of breakdown enlightened, but there is still plenty of journey left on her path to, let’s say inner peace. Seeing the twin narratives, almost contradicting, yet complimentary in a yen-yang way, I was wondering if that was what the shows creators had intended. Laura Dern and Mike White ( he plays her desk-mate Tyler in the show and does a lot of the writing as well) are the creators/executive producers. So anyway this interview with Dern caught my attention. I’m kind of right, though she does see the character a few degrees differently than I do. Laura Dern’s ‘Enlightened’ New Role
…She is so honest with everyone around her, which is why she is so hard to be around. She confronts everyone for their “lacking” -– she wants her mother to be better, she wants her ex-husband to be healthy, she wants the corporation she works for to be not based in greed, but the problem is that she has this need to fix it herself. Because there isn’t a real connection to faith, whether it is faith in herself or something greater, she still has this need to control.
[ ]…So I said to HBO that it would be interesting to see if someone who had rage could heal from the damage, heal from the rage, and that might be the gift that propels them towards a more conscious version of their own anger.
Pema Chodron speaks very beautifully about useful anger. We have a misguided understanding in many cultures that to be a true servant of God, or monk or minister, that attainment of peace is a constant, but I think anger is a part of it.
So I was really interested in playing someone who was going through all that but in a really misguided way; who gets it all wrong — like Lucy becomes Norma Rae. Having been so moved by the film “Network” many years ago, when I heard the line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” I was really interested in playing a character who was going to do that, but possibly in a really misguided way.
Immanuel Kant wrote a famous essay about enlightenment called What is Enlightenment? (1784). In comes the subject from both an historical perspective ( it is important to note that this was 1784) and from a philosophical perspective,
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance (natura-liter maiorennes), nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts.”(emphasis mine)
Not a complete eclipse of Kant but certainly more modern was Bertrand Russell’s take. Russel’s writing can be a little obtuse so I’m using this summary which continues that theme of a kind of immaturity, Bertrand Russell and science
According to Bertrand Russell, there were many conflicts between science and religion throughout the history of humanity and science is always emerged victorious, because it was based on concrete evidence instead of relying on the illumination as did religion. When a man of science tells us the result of experience, it also tells us how the experiment was performed. If other people can repeat it, it holds for real. In terms of religion, we must rely on the vision of a mystic who believed himself invested with a divine mission to assert something without real proof. According to Bertrand Russell, it is useless to talk to the mystic who claims to have experienced enlightenment and who has strong beliefs, but why should we force others to believe as well?
Actress Diane Keaton made a documentary in 1987 called Heaven. There is a remarkable echo of what Russell was saying in that film. The religious followers she interviewed share a belief in some fundamentals yet each has a different vision, a different take on the specifics of their enlightenment. Where as astronomers all have the have version of the earth’s rotation around the Sun. Chemists are all going to identify the same oxygen in a compound. Physicians are generally going to agree on the nature of physical pain.
Mary Wollstonecraft also wrote about what we think of as the historical Enlightenment, and within that both political and personal enlightenment. From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1872)
When women are once sufficiently enlightened to discover their real interest, on a grand scale, they will, I am persuaded, be very ready to resign all the prerogatives of love, that are not mutual, (speaking of them as lasting prerogatives,) for the calm satisfaction of friendship, and the tender confidence of habitual esteem. Before marriage they will not assume any insolent airs, nor afterward abjectly submit; but, endeavouring to act like
reasonable creatures, in both situations, they will not be tumbled from a throne to a stool.
[ ]…Parental affection, indeed, in many minds, is but a pretext to tyrannize where it can be done with impunity, for only good and wise men are content with the respect that will bear discussion. Convinced that they have a right to what they insist on, they do not fear reason, or dread the sifting of subjects that recur to natural justice: because they firmly believe, that the more enlightened the human mind becomes, the deeper root will just and simple principles take. They do not rest in expedients, or grant that what is metaphysically true can be practically false; but disdaining the shifts of the moment they calmly wait till time, sanctioning innovation, silences the hiss of selfishness or envy..
Militarized to Its Bones: The police occupation of the Wall Street area in response to the Occupy protests is the result, since 9/11, of a transformation of this country into a full-scale surveillance-intelligence-homeland-security state
At one level, this is all mystifying. The daily crowds in the park remain remarkably, even startlingly, peaceable. (Any violence has generally been the product of police action.) On an everyday basis, a squad of 10 or 15 friendly police officers could easily handle the situation. There is, of course, another possibility suggested to me by one of the policemen loitering at the Park’s edge doing nothing in particular: “Maybe they’re peaceable because we’re here.” And here’s a second possibility: as my friend Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, said to me, “This is the most important piece of real estate on the planet and they’re scared. Look how amazed we are. Imagine how they feel, especially after so many decades of seeing nothing like it.”
If you were just having a casual conversation with my police friends they would tell you that Saturday night is not their favorite night to work. In the south, and California as I remember, and the northeast as well – its get drunk and beat your wife, slap your husband, act threatening towards the kids so they hide in their bedrooms and kick the dog if you can keep your balance night. The lock-ups will be full of people who have no economic or social agenda. Yet the pepper-spraying, flak vest wearing, club wielding police are generally not out in the neighborhoods where this happens. It’s still OK to get drunk and violent in America without calling in the riot squad. It is still OK to steal billions from the U.S. economy. What is not OK is to get all uppity about economic justice.