Dharma@Cinema: Not 'The Final Destination' Yet
Not 'The Final Destination' Yetwww.thefinaldestinationmovie.com
Just when you think the ‘Final Destination’ trilogy was already complete, here comes ‘The Final Destination’ (also known as ‘Final Destination 4′). I guess the first title is so to differentiate it slightly from its three predecessors, though the movie rides on similarly disturbing yet thought-provoking themes. Is this instalment is really the final finale? In Buddhism, death’s never the true finale, because as long as we are far from enlightenment, we will be reborn out of delusion. In this sense, the true final destination, not that it’s a tangible place, is Nirvana. Surprisingly, there are still many Dharma lessons we can glean from this latest addition to the series. Death is not ‘overdone’ yet!
Before the 3D movie began, there was an announcement to put on the special glasses, to watch the movie ‘come alive’. Ironic indeed, because the leading star is death. Here I am, immersing myself in the ‘pop-up’ world of death. Then again, since I am alive, am I not already within a death-prone world? As I braced myself for grotesque scenes of death, I think I felt more alive. That’s another irony. A few minutes into the story, a screwdriver flies ‘out’ of the screen right towards my face, as I tried dodging it. Woah! Thank karma it’s virtual!
Seeing ‘creative’ manifestations of the ‘grim reaper’s ways up close, death (personified by Yama and Mara in Buddhism, whose ‘clutches’ we are in) does literally feel closer, and life does feel more fragile… and precious. Make the best of it – whether you have had a close encounter with death or not! A serious but ‘tweet-worthy’ thought came to mind while watching - ‘Life is just missing one death trap after another, till you fall for the final one.’ Does this mean we should be paranoid for every moment, in dread of fatal carelessness? Life would be nothing but constant fear then. Sounds like Avici Hell – the plane of uninterrupted suffering! Now, that’s worse than dying once. We just need to live wisely, with a good measure of calm mindfulness.
The protagonist in the story has premonitions of how deaths would occur. With his friends, they go on a race against time to cheat death. What would you do if you know you would die in advance? Wait! You already do know! What are you doing about it? What would you do if you know when and how you ‘will’ die? Whatever you choose, let’s remember that attaining Nirvana is the only way to truly cheat death. And yes, one of the most amazing facts ever is that we all live as if we will still be alive tomorrow, while some of us will not be.
Narrowly missing their deaths with cryptic warnings, the characters assume that the visions of their passing hint of a predestined sequence of things to come. Fretful of death catching up, they attempt breaking this sequence to cheat the deadly chain of cause and effect, thinking that somehow, one death is linked to another. Then again, didn’t they already do so with their earlier escapes. Once again, the only way to cut the links of causality related to death is to realise enlightenment.
Is there an ‘order’ for every upcoming death? This is only true in the sense that deaths do occur karmically in time, while one death might be linked to another if the two parties have closely connected or collective karma. However, karma is dynamic and whatever one does has the power to alter the course of life, death and rebirth. Karma is always operating as it should, at the right time and place, every time and everywhere. And you are always creating fresh karma with free will. If there is anything fatalistic about your karma, you are ‘fated’ to be its director! Death is not a calculative or intelligent trickster, just as the natural law of karma is not set by a cosmic policeman. Even if death is averted for a while, it is still impending and eventual. Breaking free from the cycle of birth and death is the only long term solution.
As in the Final Destination series, death can strike suddenly and brutally via accidents, though there are no truly random or chance ‘accidents’; just interplays of networks of causes, conditions and effects. Fatal freak ‘accidents’ do happen in everyday life, though most assume they will never happen to them. The good news is that there is a way to prevent untimely death – by creating bountiful merits, by doing many acts of compassion with wisdom, to create positive karma which ‘dilutes’ the otherwise potent effects of death-inclined negative karma. Karma, that is double-edged thus prevents untimely death too, unless you create fresh karma to deserve it fast! Reality check again… all survivors of near-fatal accidents still die later – in some other way. You can only stall death for so long, because with birth, there will be death, lest transcended in time.
Final Destination flicks are known for their complex yet believable portrayals of mechanistic chains, or even webs, of cause and effect, of how a small slip can lead to life-threatening results. A ‘grave’ reminder perhaps, of the importance of exercising mindfulness in handling even seemingly ‘insignificant’ matters. At the same time, the films hint of death as a mysterious force that has a mind of its own. But there’s only karma at work, and it works mindlessly, with precision though, just like other laws of nature. (As a law of nature, karma works with and through other laws of nature too.) For example, if you miss death by an inch, you deserve just that – not an inch more or less! Death is karmic, just as life is. Seize control of your karma then!
The ending of the film, though a terrific twist, hints heavily of fatalism. Not a very positive ‘final’ message for the Final Destination series! What if all our struggles against so-called fate are totally futile? What if our attempts to change everything doesn’t really change anything? Let’s just say life wouldn’t be worth living if we are to just sit back passively and let life (and death) happen to us. Even if you do subscribe to fatalism, it still makes sense to live life as meaningfully as you can – because you obviously do enjoy the fruits of your efforts! They are really your personally created karmic rewards though – of your gladly self-chosen ‘fate’!
- Shen Shi'an
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