This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Long-Awaited Answer to the Question...

What the (bleep) Do We Know?

An admittedly derisive review

There are some important pieces of information the viewer needs to know before jumping down the “rabbit hole of death” that is What the( Bleep) Do We Know.

1) The three filmmakers studied at “Ramtha School of Enlightenment.”

2) This school is run by Ramtha, who is not a real person, but is a “spirit” channeled by the Zsa Zsa-looking JZ Knight.

3) There is nothing in the film that suggests this is the case – in fact, the only time JZ Knight is mentioned is during the credits. She is referred to solely as “Ramtha” during the main part of the film.

4) To get the most out of this film you have to be simultaneously super-skeptical about some things and super-accepting of others. To put it another way, the film doesn’t really believe its final statement that “Agreement is not necessary – thinking for one’s self is.” It seeks to choose for you what to be skeptical of (matter, Monotheism) and what to accept (positive thinking, Pantheism).

5) There is no 5), but that’s ok. You create your own reality, so make something up.

Once we know that, we can get on to the “movie”, which is about 80% crackpot infomercial and 20% the uninteresting story of a deaf photographer who cheerfully goes insane and sees things that aren’t really there, like CGI cells partying and a black boy who can go back in time. The infomercial part consists of 10-15 “experts” giving documentary-type lessons (unchallenged by any interviewer, I might add) about various subjects that the Church of Ramtha finds important. As the “experts” are speaking, CGI graphics are used to demonstrate and illuminate what is being said, both to the Deaf Photographer (played by Acadamy-Award-winning and token deaf actress Marlee Matlin. One wonders how much of Ramtha she believes in) and to the audience, which unfortunately means us. The filmmakers try to relate it all to Marlee’s storyline, but sometimes they go off the map and just tell us whatever they want to no matter if it relates to anything or not.

The film is divided into two main sections: The Quantum Physics section and the Peptides section. For purposes of philosophy and keeping my interest, the first part is about 150 times better than the second part. It starts out with a discussion on the surprising craziness that is quantum physics, which is not a problem until they start inferring things from it they have no right to infer, and then calling it “science”. For example, does the fact that all matter is made up of little particles that are moving around (and in fact is made up mostly of empty space, at least on a basic level) mean that nothing is real? This film thinks it does, or at least claims to early on. As we’ll come across later, claims that matter isn’t real always come with enough caveats and disclaimers (because everything is made up of, well, matter) to make the claims virtually meaningless.

The first time we see who I’ll call the main “expert” in the movie, a thirtysomething man (Dr. Joe Dispenza, a fricking Chiropractor who graduated from “Life University” – is that near “Bovine University”?) sitting in what appears to be a cabin, he says “Much of what we take for granted in the world simply isn’t true.” He uses the tired example of the flat earth – we thought the earth was flat, then found out it was round. What I’ve never understood about this particular line of reasoning is how it can ever be applied to anything. You see, whenever he applies that argument, it can be thrown right back in his face. If he uses it to open people’s minds up to the fact that matter doesn’t exist as we know it, we can throw it right back at him and say that whatever he concludes about matter is likely to be false as well. And so it goes. If you think about it, it’s just a nothing argument designed to get people to be skeptical of everything. Or just the things of which you want them to be skeptical.

I’ll warn you right now that this movie is hard to follow, and therefore so is this review. The first part skips around all over the place, throwing statement after statement at you to break down your belief in reality and get you to believe that nothing is real. It actually goes in reverse, starting with the idea that nothing is real and then gives meager “scientific” evidence to back that up. The thought pattern is roughly:

  • What’s happening within us will create what’s happening outside of us (so, our attitude affects how others react to us? You don’t say!)
  • What we see and what we remember affect our brain in the same way (of course they do. What does that prove?)
  • We see more with our eyes than we are able to “consciously project”, so says Ramtha, who could not look more like a gypsy if she were sitting in front of a crystal ball. She just looks shady. (our eyes are designed to focus on one thing. This is good. Peripheral vision is peripheral for a reason.)
  • The Indians couldn’t see Columbus’ ships approaching because they had never seen ships before, or so an “expert” (Dr. Candace Pert, PhD, who teaches at Georgetown U(!))tells us, and calls it a “Wonderful story she believes is true.” (of course you believe it. It fits right into your philosophy.)
  • The Indians couldn’t see the ships because our minds don’t see everything that’s in our field of vision. Only the stuff we can make sense of gets through to our brain. (So, the movie’s point is that those ships didn’t really exist? I’m confused. They seem to be sending mixed messages.)
  • Particles of matter pop in and out of existence all the time – the only way we can know they are there is if we’re looking at them. (Is this true? This seems like an overstatement of some scientific principle or crazy theory I don’t know.)
  • “The universe is mostly empty,” says the Indian in the funny hat (Dr. Amit Goswami, Physics Prof. at the U. of Oregon(!)). This means that it must not exist in the way that we believe it does. (instead of making grand pronouncements about how matter is not real, how about we study matter to find out how this “emptiness” can produce solid objects? Why do we have to jump to crazy conclusions that fly in the face of all logic?)
  • Basketballs (and everything else) are made up not of synthetic leather or rubber, but of “thought and information”. (I think they’re thinking of NBA Live 2005. Actually, if the situation is as this movie describes it, my last “season” of that video game is as valid a reality as the last season of the real NBA. Yay! The Bucks won the championship after all! I’m going to hang a banner right now.)
  • Deaf people should never cuss (ok, that’s not the movie’s point, it’s mine. But it’s just so…jarring to hear Marlee garble a profanity.)
  • “In quantum physics, you can go back in time.” As that booze hag Ramtha points out, “We remember the past and affect the future.” Otherwise, the past and the future are identical. This brings us back to the point about memory and experience affecting the brain in the same way. They must be the same thing, then. (See what I mean? Jumping to inappropriate conclusions. The DVD should come with a “Jump to Conclusions Mat”.)
  • “The material world around us is just possible moments of experience.” They show that matter can be in two places at once by digging up that one experiment with the “colored light”. (ok, maybe that light can be in two places – but how about studying why instead of applying that to all matter? Can this computer be in two places at once? This gun sitting on my table? Can I beat a murder rap with this argument somehow? And what does “possible moments of experience mean”?)
  • The body is a “4-layered bio bodysuit” that holds the spirit, like in that Police song. I forgot who said this in the film, but it’s in my notes and I had to mention it. Why four layers? (I’ll find a fifth, don’t worry.)
  • A suited man (John Haeglin of Maharishi U. – yes, it’s that Maharishi, the one who hung out with the Beatles. And yes, David Lynch has been sucked into all of this. Grr.) tells us that crime went down 15% in Washington D.C. when a bunch of people started thinking happy thoughts there. (Just a thought – how do you scientifically study this to make sure it’s not just a spurious connection? You can’t. But feel free to believe in Maharishi U. anyway.)
  • Armin Shimerman (sp?), the Ferengi from “Star Trek”, creepily shows up and points out an exhibit on the lovely water-thought experiments of a man appropriately named “Emoto”. Apparently, Emoto studied the effect of different emotions on glasses of water. The Ferengi then points out that the body is 90% water, which overshoots it by at least 20%, but oh well. Oh, and the exhibit happens to be in a subway. What’s up with that? (Emoto is almost universally discredited by scientists, not that it necessarily matters. But can we really come to any conclusions even if his experiment is true?)

It is at this point that the second part takes over, but I want to touch on something that I’ve always thought about quantum physics. We know that quantum physics is valid, right? We’ve done the experiments, verified the results, done the math, etc.? We don’t know what it means, but we know it’s really part of how our world works. We also have Newtonian physics, right? That’s what in large part our physics is based on. It’s why our buildings don’t fall down on us and why certain basketballs end up in the hoop and certain ones don’t. Why can’t we just reconcile the two somehow? Why does what’s going on at the subatomic level have to mean that this table doesn’t really exist? The thing is, it does exist, and Newtonian physics applies to it. Is it so wrong to have different physics apply to different sizes of things? I’m just sayin’.

The second part is all about things like “creating your own reality with your mind” and “thinking disease away” and “addiction is a sexual fanatasy” (not making this up) and “We are God” and blah blah blah. It’s presented in a way that jumps around from idea to idea a lot, and incorporates “what we’ve learned” from the first half of the movie.

We start out with Cabin Boy, the chiropractor, telling us that he wakes up every day and “intentionally creates his own reality”. He says that we just need faith in the power of our mind, and we’re too “immersed in defeatist thinking” to change reality. We just need to learn how. I love this. If I was able to create my own reality, I’d be eating steak every day that I’d never have to buy – it would just materialize in front of me when I was ready for it, tender, juicy, and medium-rare. But that’s not exactly what they mean, is it? We have to “learn how” to create reality, by learning how these things work. But if it’s my reality and matter is an illusion, why can’t the world work how I want it to work? I want it to give me some steak. Would Dr. Joe Dispenza be able to create me a steak? If he’s God, he sure could.

This is why we ultimately die – to stop us from wasting our time on these fruitless notions of being “gods”. We humans can do a lot, maybe even some things with our minds. I don’t know. All I know is the only reality we create is what we think, say, and do. The only reality we are responsible for is the consequences of those thoughts, words, and actions. If I get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to get some money today,” and have done it just today, not fruitlessly for the last two weeks, and a $500 check comes to me out of the blue in the mail somehow, that still was not me creating my own reality. Another entity (human spirit in a “bio-suit”) had to send that check to me, for reasons that are entirely their own. I didn’t make that happen, but someone wants me to think I did. Who could want that? Hmm…I don’t know…let’s see…who could it be….

(anyone who remembers the SNL Church lady skit can insert the finishing word here. I don’t feel like writing it. I realize this last paragraph could make me seem as crazy as the people on this movie. I’m sorry for outing myself, but hey, at least I’m thinking, right? That’s what the movie wanted, right?)

So at this point in the movie I was like, “somebody get this blonde chick away from me” (referring to JZ Knight, creator of Ramtha), and I got real tired of everything real fast. I don’t want to relive it any more, but I will say that Marlee Matlin goes to a wedding where she learns that: our emotions can literally kill us by attaching “peptides” to our cells; “Our mind literally creates our body” -- therefore she can make herself thinner with her mind (that quote was from a fat woman, btw. Can’t she create something a little thinner?); love is just another wacky emotion to become addicted to; people with I.V.’s can polka; our cells have wacky personalities all their own that come out when “peptides” affect them; some of our cells are disturbingly attractive; and, going crazy is a positive personal change. At one point, Armin Shimerman shows up in her bathroom mirror, which causes her to laugh at nothing and spread toothpaste all over the bathroom and get naked write runes all over her body. If those things don’t add up to crazy, then I don’t know what does. She’s finally happy in her crazy created world, and the movie’s credits reveal exactly who the “experts” were, The Chiropractor, JZ Knight’s imagination, and professors from: Columbia, Penn, Oregon U., Thomas Jefferson U., Georgetown, Harvard, Stanford, and Arizona. Is this crap-grass philosophy being taught at all our universities? Cancel the education funding now!

I will close with a word about the Theology of this movie: Don’t. As in, don’t think, don’t protest, don’t believe in anything you’ve been taught except those things that were taught to you by JZ Knight. Her and her Irish henchman (who is a Christian – no, really – you can tell by the church in the background) tell us that “At the deepest level, all is one”(Monism), “We are all gods – how did that get taken out of Religion?” (Pantheism), “Religion has done all this harm” (Misreading-Historyism), “All you need is faith like a mustard seed” (Using Scripture For Your Own Endsism), Christianity has an “ugly, superstitious, backwater concept of God” (I don’t have an –ism for this one), and finally, “There is no such thing as right or wrong.”

Isn’t it possible that there is?


  • At 7:03 PM, Blogger Danny said…

    It appears that you were really worn out trying to figure out just why that movie was such a piece of dung. I haven't seen it, but I did watch Priscilla Presely on Larrry King Live talk all about how great Scientology is and how Elvis would have obviously been a fan of the religion. Point being, I'm an open guy, but I do have to admit that over time hearing more and more stupid people talk about what they consider to be salvation and religion takes a lot out of a person.
    Good luck on the recovery and hope to read some new stuff soon.
    Take care.


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