Pseudo-Buddhism, “The Fountain,” and the End of Life
Life is beautiful. Some would say that death is, too. I disagree. I warn with Donne: Death, be not proud…. I taunt with Paul: O, Death, where is your victory? However, there is something beautiful about the other side presenting their case as clearly and winsomely as possible.
Classical Buddhism teaches that enlightenment comes to those who deny themselves and their desires. Life, death, and suffering are all illusions. All are nothing. “Do not try and bend the spoon… that’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth: there is no spoon.” (This is a gross, pop-Tibetan oversimplification; like all religions, Buddhism knows infinite variations.)
However, this “classical” version of the religion stands starkly contrasted to that of “The Fountain,” which incorporates elements of Hinduism, Mayan religion, and astrophysics. In this pseudo-Buddhism, the past is the present is the future. Death brings life and beauty and awe. Ours is to embrace it. If classical Buddhism is the road to the denial of all things, pseudo-Buddhism is the road to the embrace of all things.
“Death is the beginning of awe,” said the Mayan priest, as he drove his sword through the conquistador, who would travel through time and space to save his dying Beloved. Dr. Tom Creo was trying to find a cure for his wife Izzi’s cancer. She had accepted her fate, but he hadn’t. She had been writing a book, which he would have to finish writing. In it, he was the conquistador, in search for the Tree of Life.
After the conquistador died, he looked back on his life as a scientist. He had constantly sacrificed time with his wife in order to seek her cure. He was forever turning away from the Tree of Life in order to pursue the Tree of Knowledge. But knowledge could not bring life. In the end, that was a gift which only death could bring.
Many people did not understand or enjoy “The Fountain.” It was too rich with raw emotion, with layers of story, and with visions of Nirvana. However, death is overwhelming — and rich, if we are to believe writer/director Aronofsky. His film would have been a dissapointment had it been any less.
Death is not beautiful in my eyes. But I see the hope of Life, even in the midst of it. I pray that I will one day be able to approach it as fearlessly as Izzi. And I have nothing but gratitude for Aronofsky for letting me see the end through his eyes.