By Brian Prisco | Film | October 20, 2010 |
By Brian Prisco | Film | October 20, 2010 |
As Roland Emmerich foretold, on December 21, 2012, the Mayan calendar predicts the world will be destroyed by terrible special effects and offensively bad storylines. Only, this is not quite what they meant. The Mayans are predicting humanity will undergo a massive “change,” whether that means psychologically, metaphysically, culturally, or yes, even that a giant CGI wave will swallow our souls. Daniel Pinchbeck has been discussing this since the late 90s, namely in his books 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Breaking Open The Head. He’s been the foremost advocate of cultural awareness for shamanic practice and spiritual enlightenment. While many of his ideas are practical and intuitive, he just looks and sounds like a smug fucking douchebag. He’s the liberal Ben Stein, with a jack-o-lantern grin and greasy hair, and every time he speaks you want to curbstomp him in a urinal. Since Joao Amorim’s documentary 2012: A Time for Change is for all intents and purposes Pinchbeck repeatedly interviewing various “experts” on spirituality, including Sting and Ellen Page, its kind of hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. I dig on what he’s saying, but the way he says it and where he ultimately gets his information make him come off like such a sanctimonious fuckknob.
The film opens with a lovely animation and voiceover explaining the Mayan prophecy. Originally, the gods made man out of mud. But mankind was useless and didn’t worship them, so they sent a great flood to destroy them. Then, the gods made man out of wood. Man became violent and killed all the animals and cut down all the trees, so the gods sent a flood to kill them, too. The third incarnation of man was made from corn. This is our current state. The cycle lasts 5000 years, and we’re due for a soul change. Now, this may sound quaint to you — oh, look, we’re corn peoples! — until you watch the documentary King Corn, which essentially explains how through manufacturing, livestock feeding, and processed foods, all the products in our supermarkets are 90 percent corn. They tested human hair and found out that humans are 95 percent corn. If you took the average McDonald’s value meal and looked at how it was made, it’s basically all corn: from the beef being corn-fed to the corn oil used to fry the fries to the high-fructose corn syrup in the soda. So put that in your pipe and smoke it!
And that’s the problem. They kind of sugar-coat the message in the film (also corn!) with the whole “drugs are good for you” bullshit, but Pinchbeck’s major theory is that mankind needs to use psychotropic drugs — especially ayahuasca — with meditation and yoga to open our minds to the flow of the universe and to expand our global consciousness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with yoga or meditation and global consciousness being more eco-aware and living communally, eating organically grown vegetables and using less fossil fuels. It’s living by the theories of Buckminster Fuller, and that’s interesting — especially his city planning models. Advocating rooftop gardening in cities, moving towards bicycles instead of automobiles, getting more exercise — how can you be against that?
It’s when we get into the whole spiritual enlightenment through organic chemistry that I take offense. As my girlfriend said (also corn!), if you overheard these people talking in a coffee shop, you’d move to another table. Me, I’d scald them with hot coffee, but I grew up too close to Philly. When Ellen Page talks about how going to Oregon and digging mud to build huts helped center her after the traumas of being nominated for an Oscar or how Sting explains his only true religious experience came from a Santo Daime church service where he consumed ayahuasca tea and realized the universe was interconnected (and all his Police songs were about deviant sexual acts), it makes me pray for the cleansing rains of an angry god. If people want to use drugs recreationally, fine, but at least own up to it. All the pro-pot arguments that espouse the glories of hemp are so fucking ridiculous. Yes, I’m sure the second they legalize marijuana, you’ll all rush out and make inexpensive paper. Oh, I know the criminalization of our leafy pal was all brought about by William Randolph Hearst wanting to keep the timber mill industry booming, but that’s not why people want marijuana legalized.
The actual ideas and concepts expressed in 2012: A Time for Change are intriguing. But like all good things, when you trace them back to the source, it’s an epic letdown. The principles of the Law of Attraction are sound and intelligent and effective, but then you realize it was transmitted through a middle-aged woman who hears the voices of ghosts, and you sigh. However, when some haggard slag ripped off her ideas, distilled them like motorcycle gang meth, and shopped it as The Secret, you realize you need to get the good stuff from the source. Besides, a majority of Americans believe that we’ll all be saved by a long-dead beardy carpenter who pulled a Criss Angel after being nailed to a giant wooden T. Pinchbeck’s studies came from his experiences drinking ayahuasca tea and communing with the spirit of Quetzalcoatl. Why a Mayan spirit would feel the need to overlook the many Mesoamerican followers to tap into a hipster who’s four acid hits and a corduroy sportcoat away from selling hemp bracelets on Venice boardwalk is beyond me, but O sweet mystery of life, here we are.
Ultimately, he might be right. As a species, we’re fucked. We need to do something to better the world before its too late. Whether that’s simply taking strides to leave a smaller eco-footprint, conserving our resources, or taking a bunch of drugs until Jeebus and Jerry Garcia wash that mankind right out of their hair, there needs to be a change. If you can handle avoiding the smug sanctimonious patter, there’s a lot of good information to be had from 2012: A Time for Change. I just couldn’t deal. Pinchbeck looks like part of the roadcrew for Phish, the guy who reads them Castaneda as they drift off into glassy-eyed slumber on the tour bus. Plus, if our survival depends on living Burning Man 24/7, I welcome chilly arctic death at the hands of our alien overlords.
Full disclosure: I was provided a screening copy for review.