Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Killing of an Egg / Karma Essay

Paul Driessen's The Killing of an Egg

When I was much younger this animation short was occasionally shown on Nickelodeon(!) and I remember seeing it at least twice. And it haunted me! Even at a less intellectual age I was very conscious of how this brief film implies a kind of infinity of murder, on micro and macro scales going in both directions presumably forever. But of course all we are shown is one immediate stage of the chain, featuring only one visible character that we can relate to, and that's important. Joseph Campbell liked to remind people that Karma, like Heaven, is a metaphor. The idea of specific, linear karmic consequence (this happened to you because you did that) seems very cumbersome and mechanical, not to mention strangely impersonal. This is like saying that the protagonist/antagonist in the Driessen short crushes an egg with someone in it and is in turn crushed by someone outside. But that's him inside that little egg, and that's him again, as a massive, unseen force that terminates himself forever. So this brief film at least does not work so much with cause and effect as it does with a kind of flattening totality- everything happening at once. Maybe I'm reading a lot of intensity into a little cartoon- but thats what metaphors are all about! I directly relate this to an idea I heard somehow in connection with David Lynch's Inland Empire. Lynch associated his film with an old Polish proverb* that all of us are weaving our lives around ourselves, like spiders in the centers of their webs, and in doing so we walk around in them. I love this idea! And it provides my favorite, poetic description of karma- the thought that, very abstractly and symbolically of course, our lives can be said to be made up of regions, variously flavored depending on personal experience. But these places are like permanent constructions and we are always capable of wandering or falling back into them, for better or worse. Its up to you of course to decide which verbal abstraction better suits your attitude to life: are you moving through it on a linear track, or are you wandering around in it.

*Edit: Old Polish proverb or not, since I first wrote this I've realized the idea originally comes from the Upanishads:

We are like the spider.
We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
This is true for the entire universe.

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