I saw the movie Cloud Atlas yesterday. I was interested in the message it sends that “We are all connected” and “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
The movie traces several souls over time, across six story lines. It is someone’s idea of reincarnation. To me it is another example of how deep into a new Dionysian world we have gone. The Western Tradition, as revealed by Hollywood, is exploring its roots and transcendence. I can’t say that this will become a blockbuster but surely the making of it with such a well known cast and crew is notable in itself.
The theme we are all connected might be the summation of much of our current techno-world. Every piece of new junk that gets coined is about staying connected--Twitter, tweet, ipod, and Face Book. All are used to grovel in a phatic social life, part raw and visceral, and part virtual. This is contemporary America.
And, it confuses the hell out of many, mostly those who lean to the conservative side of life. To them America is about Rugged Individualism and the American Dream. In their world, we are all individuals living free and bound to no one. Our lives are ephemeral and there are no connections over time. The theme of this movie should be very disturbing to the radical right.
The main theme also reminds me of an old Anthropology idea, the Psychic Unity of Mankind, from here:
The postulate of "the psychic unity of mankind" states that all human beings, regardless of culture or race, share the same basic psychological and cognitive make-up; we are all of the same kind. The postulate was originally formulated by Adolf Bastian, the "father of German anthropology", who was a classical German humanist and a cultural relativist, who believed in the intrinsic value of cultural variation. Bastian passed it on to his similarly minded student, Franz Boas, who, as the "father of American anthropology", transmitted it on to all of his students. Edward B. Tylor introduced it to 19th century British evolutionist anthropology, where it became a fixture, defended by all the major British evolutionists. The postulate, indeed, was essential to the great comparative projects of evolutionism, which would be futile if cultural differences were determined by differing biology. For the same reason, it has been central to later comparative projects, e.g. Radcliffe-Brown's, Barth's, Steward's, Godelier's etc. Today, the postulate is shared by all anthropologists (exceptions are hard to think of).
The spin off is the idea we are all connected psychically. The modernists hated that idea.
Yes, we live in a Romantic world; the 21st century is reincarnating the ideas of the 19th.