Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Which Side Am I On?

I was deeply moved by the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. So many levels of meaning and metaphor, it is hard to know where to start. I saw at least the first two in theaters back in the 60's and 70s... and saw the “pre-quel” in 2011. None of them have moved me this much since the dramatic close to the very first of them, over 45 years ago.

The script and the images of the incredible sets are so powerful they help carry this story forward. It is a powerful morality tale about the power of fear that drives us to our lower levels of behavior.  It touched places in me that apparently want to be explored.

The movie speaks to our higher understanding - to our willingness to know more about what we do not understand. And, it speaks of the destruction that comes from following the path of our fears rather than that of our higher selves - our “better angels.”

Most of the adults in both sides of the story have experiences of “the other” that evoke their fear-based responses. In a way, it called to mind the ancient story of the blind men and the elephant - everyone was totally committed to the experience they had, unwilling to consider there might be another way of seeing things.

Justification tends to look only to the past for evidence on why I feel the way I do, why I believe what I believe. When I spend my energy feeling justified for my response, I am not open to new “evidence” that would have the power to change how I feel, how I behave.

The two key protagonists seemed able to call upon their higher levels to find common ground and build trust with one another. And, it gave a very clear picture of the pain in both casts of characters that gave rise to the fears that drove the action in the story.

As the character Malcolm is trying to calm things near the end of the movie, his friend Dreyfus screams at him “They’re animals!” - The script left unsaid the obvious truth that so are we.

What became very clear to me was that this movie and its message will be seen by all kinds of people, and with any luck the message of how complex our relationships are will sink in at some level. People will come to see the apes and the special effects. The fact is, this could be a story about Israel and Palestine, or Christians and Muslims, but not near as many people would go see it. This, hopefully, makes the message a bit more palatable.

In the end, I would like to think that I lean toward being a Malcolm or a Caesar, and I know full well that there is a lot of Dreyfus and Koba within me, as well.