A new issue of The Mormon Review is available, with a review of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Vertigo” by Joseph M. Spencer. The article is available at:
Joseph M. Spencer, “The Romance of Materialism: Notes on Hitchcock’s Vertigo,” The Mormon Review, vol.1 no. 6 [HTML] [PDF]
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Fantastic piece, Joe.
I’m reminded of the way in which precisely this same mechanism of “subtractive materialism” is starkly at work in many Buddhist meditative practices (Vipassana in particular).
When one starts meditating, one is drawn on by the (misunderstood) promise of a never ending bliss or serenity, by the (misunderstood) promise that suffering and difficulty can come to a definitive end, that one’s workaday problems, personal foibles, and idiosyncratic neuroses can be overcome in an act of definitive, meditative transcendence. When one starts, one is tempted to think that meditating is a way of escaping the difficulty of life.
But, (in a classic – and merciful! – bait and switch) it turns out that the only thing meditation is ultimately good for is to force one’s confrontation with all these problems, foibles, and neuroses in order to see them (without fantasy, excuse, or sugar-coating) for what they/we actually are.
And, even though deep meditation can produce states of off-the-chart bliss, rapture, and serenity, the whole point of experiencing these supra-mundane pleasures is to drive home the way that everything (even such a supra-mundane experience) is impermanent and unsatisfactory!
“May these uber-blissful states arise,” your meditation teacher may say, “and, in particular, may they strip you of all hope that something might remain that could finally satisfy your desires!”
The problem of frustrated desires cannot be solved by satisfying those desires.
May we subtract away for the sake of grace itself.
(And make movies about it.)