Enough of AI stuff already, there’s one other aspect of the movie Her that I found fascinating – the society itself.
Maybe it the genre and there are plenty of movies like that but this one didn’t have a happy ending and it didn’t inspire any hope in humanity, that should be unusual. It also feels and looks real – sad little people trying to find happiness in a cold, cruel world. Sure, sometimes we do feel happiness and we always have reasons to have hope but the sober among us know that it’s just an illusion to help us cope with reality that is nothing but.
Birth, death, old age and disease are always lurking but even without them the world is a cold, cold place, and the modern society has not made it any better. We’ve made great technological advances and we shaped the world just the way we like it but we also lost ourselves in the process and this movie is a testament to that. Something about it just feels wrong no matter what we do, there’s always some internal conflict eating us away.
In this particular movie it was exposed as an irreconcilable contradiction between pursuit of our own happiness and seeking happiness in relationship with other people at the same time. Every character in this movie ran into this wall, everybody was in love or sought love and everybody lost it because it just doesn’t work that way. Love and selfishness are mutually exclusive but no one seems to realize it, just silently suffer and try to make it work until it results in frustration.
In the space of two hours we witnessed three attempts at love and three breakups, three for three, perfect score. First it was Theodore’s only real friends who were together for several years but couldn’t last it through the movie, then Theodore’s own break up with his wife, and, finally, Samantha leaving Theodore, too.
No one was happy about it, everyone was visibly suffering, and yet they couldn’t stay together in “happily ever after” mood and were forced to accept the reality that every relationship breaks. Why? Only a hundred years ago life long marriage was a pleonasm, a redundancy – marriage meant life long relationship but now it has become an impossibility. What changed? Atheism, science, and rationality – the three pillars of modern civilization that also ripped right through society’s fabric.
Everyone in this movie and, to be honest, practically everyone I know in the real world, assumes that he has a god given right to pursuit of his own happiness. Everyone is ought to put his own interests above anyone else’s. Everyone must do everything possible to become rich and successful, build a career and fulfill all his desires and nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of this dream. Some would call it American dream but it’s an international aspiration that each and every society has fully appropriated for itself.
Typical example – long distance relationships. Millions of people every year fall in love but then forced to live in separation because seeking their own happiness means living in different places. The idea that a wife should follow her husband to the end of the world is something I grew up with but is totally foreign to modern population. Job offers or even educational opportunities trump love and families.
When young people fall in love they feel it the strongest, totally swept of their feet, but it is also assumed to the most worthless kind of love that should not be given any chance to interfere with any of their other interests. Puppy love is one moniker for it. It’s the experience everyone must live through and everyone must see it brutally destroyed, it’s what separates teenagers from adults – [mature] ability to sacrifice their love to their careers and education. They should lose their virginity and become ready for a lifetime of meaningless relationships followed by carefully staged breakups.
So, a typical person lives through at least three-four major loves in his life – first as a teenager, then as a young parent, from mid-twenties to forties, then, as relationship runs its course and children grow older, as a step parent to their new partners. That’s three “marriages” before fifty and there’s still some twenty years of life left to go.
Love, therefore, becomes meaningless, just a feeling that needs to be satisfied, pretty much like hunger and lust. Isn’t it wonderful, though? Doesn’t it lead to detachment and renunciation? Not at all, no more than taking LSD means spirituality.
Falling in love is just a feeling indeed and as such it quickly passes, but love itself means commitment and surrender which is much much more than just a feeling. Detachment from love, therefore, becomes refusal to surrender and serve, and I doubt that it takes anyone closer to God in any way, rather the opposite.
That’s why traditionally marriage is a pact made in heaven and God is a necessary ingredient in it. Our marriages, our love, is supposed to be as eternal as our relationships with God, even for those who don’t believe in reincarnation.
A spouse, therefore, is like a guru – our spiritual progress depends on our full, life long commitment and service. To this day I meet some people, usually women, who still consider their first husbands to be the only real ones and, despite everything bad that happened, feel an eternal connection to them. They won’t get back together, of course, but they still feel and acknowledge their invisible power over their lives.
They won’t feel any obligations but they consider their very first marriage vows to be the only real ones and others that followed simply a custom or, sometimes, their personal commitment, but not the vows that are true in the eyes of God.
At the bottom of their hearts they know that they should have stayed in their first marriage no matter what and that everything else they did with their lives was just managing this failure.
Why should any of this matter to us as devotees? What value any of this holds in the face of advanced spiritual science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness? Should we be far above any of those mundane considerations? Shouldn’t freedom from family attachments be our ultimate goal instead?
I’m afraid we are getting too far ahead of ourselves. Śrila Prabhupāda might have taught us the advanced stuff but externally we are still in the spiritual kindergarten. That’s why he was so amazed that devotees couldn’t stay together and flooded him with letters of their marital problems.
Everyone was easily giving up eating meat, drinking, and gambling and everyone was eager to enter into a spiritual marriage, blessed by the guru and the deities, but no one had any guts to commit him- or herself to it.
That’s the story of our surrender. We want it, we declare ourselves ready, but we can’t stand even the simplest test of strength. Some took sannyāsa to avoid their marital responsibilities and this was caught very early on, even in Prabhupāda’s time, but no one was able to stop it. Today we are more mature about it and failure in marriage is seen as failure, not as sign of renunciation, and no one is poaching struggling gṛhasthas into the sannyāsa āśrama, but that doesn’t say much and it doesn’t stop us from failing again and again.
Perhaps it’s our own contamination with the idea of pursuit of happiness that stops us from surrendering to God approved partners and sacrificing our own interests for the sake of a relationship. We just don’t see such sacrifice as valuable anymore, no different from materialists around us even though our reasons might have spiritual undertones. That’s why our divorce rates are reportedly the same or even higher than the rest of the society.
We think surrender means praying and chanting and serving guru’s mission, far above a petty task of maintaining a family which we see as a material bond. Maybe we are fundamentally wrong and reject God manifesting Himself through our spouse for the sake of some imaginary concept we can interpret any way we like.
So when God comes in the form we can see and interact and have a relationship with, we reject it and pursue God of our dreams instead. Effectively, we surrender to our dreams instead of God. Isn’t it familiar – “This person can’t be a pure devotee, he can’t be a guru, one should surrender only to Prabhupāda”, and “You can’t seriously suggest I should see my husband as a master, guru, God, and everything in between. Have you met my husband? You can’t ask me to surrender to a lowly conditioned soul like him. He is totally not worth it.”
Well, this external, material energy is simultaneously one and different from Kṛṣṇa. Those who see it as separated live in perpetual illusion and those who see it as divine live in perpetual service and surrender. It’s the same energy, yet materialists deny its divinity while devotees see Kṛṣṇa behind each and every atom of it, however ugly and unpleasant.
When we refuse to surrender to our God given partners we act purely out of self-interest. We might not admit it but it means we tell Kṛṣṇa we can manage our spiritual progress better than Him, it means we still want to be in control. Surrender means surrender, surrender means surrendering control, and we are not ready for it. Even worse, sometimes we insist on our God given right to control whatever is it we want to control.
One giant waste of time, a life in giant pretense. We should let it go and trust Kṛṣṇa instead, in whatever form He accepts our surrender – through an “unqualified” guru or through a philandering husband. I don’t know how but I know this is what we need to learn