At no point in my life can I remember a time when there has not been at least a half dozen self help philosophies circulating their way through popular culture. From mail order courses teaching you to master the art of the meaningful stare to pick up women, to videos that offer you the car of your dreams through positive thinking, self help has been a palpable force in the market since the early 70s, but recently, thanks largely to the emergent field of quantum physics, some of these programs have finally begun to make sense.
The most high profile of this new breed of philosophical works was the cult hit What the Bleep Do We Know?! which burst on the scene in 2004, proving that esoteric discourse on the nature of reality can, somehow, do well at the box-office. Since then, various films have tried to capitalize on this idea including Nova’s Elegant Universe and the phenomenally successful book turned movie The Secret. This last, being the least scientific of the bunch, used the ideas of quantum mechanics with regard to the changeable nature of reality to argue that intention and positive thinking can get you anything that you want in life. It even went so far as to provide a wish-list that purchasers of the film could fill out listing all of the wonderful things they hope to have as a result of the process.
Personally, I have never been much for any school of thought resembling those 70s self help plans: there is something suspicious in the idea that, for $30, I can learn a secret that will get me a great car and the house of my dreams. For this reason I was hesitant to watch What the Bleep and The Secret on the chance that they might not amount to more than so much snake oil. While I will keep my views on the latter to myself at this time, I was pleasantly surprised by the former which seemed, rather than an elaborate process for self gratification, to be an earnest attempt at understanding the nature of the world around us. Consequently, I was excited when I discovered that the University of Oregon’s Amit Goswami, one of the theoretical physicists and philosophers featured in What the Bleep, had come out with a new film called The Quantum Activist.
The film, which seeks to apply scientific understanding to spiritual subject matter, tackles such weighty questions as “what is the nature of the soul?” and “why do bad things happen to good people?” with sophistication and intelligence. The editing style is a superb blend of archival and pop culture footage, interview and lecture reels from Goswami, and computer generated esoteric symbolism that is as entertaining as it is thought provoking. What’s more, it never once resorts to the questionable tactic of offering an unrealistically simplistic road to ultimate success but deals with spirituality in an analytical and socially responsible way. All of this in a local film from Bluedot Productions out of Yachats, Oregon.
While you will not see this film on TV or at your local video store for a while yet, it will be playing at this year’s Cottage Grove Regional Film Festival on Friday August 28th at Centro Del Sol and on Saturday August 29th at Cosmo Café. Viewers are encouraged to get their tickets ahead of time at Abraxas Video at 504 E Main Street in Cottage Grove or call 942-6906 for more information. If you want the keys to all future success for just three easy payments, watch a late night infomercial and I am sure it will be happy to oblige, but if you are interested in a less sophomoric approach to mysticism, try The Quantum Activist: it won’t get you a new car, but it will help you to understand why you don’t have one.
By James Kiser
Cottage Grove Film Festival Organizer
Owner of Abraxas Video