Movie Dharma Review: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
- Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:
Basking in the "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
Tagline: You can erase someone from your mind. Getting them out of your heart is another story.
Plot Outline: A couple (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories when their relationship turns sour, but it is only through the process of loss that they discover what they had to begin with.
Will we become happier simply by erasing our unhappy memories? If "once bitten, twice shy", then not knowing our past mistakes means "never bitten and never shy." Will we not get bitten again? Will we not trip over the same old obstacles by walking the same old way? Mary (Kirsten Dunst) quotes Nietzsche, "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders." But isn't the reverse also true? - "Cursed are the forgetful, for they repeat their blunders endlessly!" It is never quite enough to just forget; we need to forgive too - those who have hurt us, and learn to love with less and less strings attached, seeing every little reciprocation of love as a blessing, instead of a deserved right.
Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) find themselves attracted to each other all over again, despite having erased each other from their memories. This is reminiscent of our forgetfulness of our past lives after rebirth. We carry over our karmic affinities and habitual tendencies, both the good and the bad, from the previous to this life. In fact, we carry over these tendencies from one moment to the next in this very life, as they condition us to make repetitious mistakes - for as long as we do not realise them. As George Santayana said, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Deja vu ad infinitum, time and again - but whether for better or worse is entirely up to our active choice. Discovering themselves to be falling in love the second time, the couple courageously decide to give their relationship one more shot, wiping the slate clean. Likewise, we should strive on diligently, life after life, towards Enlightenment. Afterall, there's no goal more worthwhile.
We see Joel desperately trying to cling onto his memories as they are being erased, much like a dying person hanging on to precious fleeting scenes of his life. Similar to being in a bardo state between the end of one life and the beginning of the next, his happy memories of being with Clementine flash by. In his mind of rapidly fading memories, the following self-created inner dialogue takes place, as he learns to accept and let go:
Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.
What good advice! In this fleeting life, let us happily treasure the moments we have with each other without the burden of attachment and regret.
Back to the issue of forgetting unhappy memories... What we need is not to erase our unhappy memories, but to erase our delusions about them - by spiritually growing through self-reflection and learning to forgive. Who are you trying too hard to forget? Maybe you should meet him or her instead, and reconcile - not necessarily to be lovers again, but at least as friends. True closure is possible only in being open. We will still meet those we fail to reconcile with in the future, in another life, if not this one - simply because we have karmic affinity. Why not heal this affinity then, instead of leaving it sore? As the melancholic Beck song goes in the movie, "Everybody's gotta learn sometimes." Why not learn now then? Let's get it over with and move on to learn other lessons on our path to Enlightenment. It's always time to clear the spots in your mind by letting in the light of understanding - especially those dark parts with residues of regret.How happy is the blameless Vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd.
-Alexander Pope (from "Eloisa to Abelard")
May your mind be spotlessly pure too. May you be appreciative of the blessed karmic connections you have with those around you, and not be resentful when they seem to bring us unhappiness - for it is your own past karma ripening and your present attitude towards it at play. The world may forget, the world may have forgotten, but may we never forget to love, unconditionally, more and more, just as the "eternal sunshine" shines on all.
- shian @ TheDailyEnlightenment.com