Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thoughts on David Carradine, John Lennon, Bruce Lee, and the concept of enlightenment

December 8 is the birthday of actor David Carradine (1936 - 2009), who became famous as the star of the ground-breaking television series Kung Fu.

Previous posts have discussed the way that television series portrayed the use of physical force in a way that was entirely different than almost every television show and movie produced in the US up to that time (and, unfortunately, the vast majority of those produced since then as well).  One of the distinguishing features of that portrayal was the idea that the use of physical force is sometimes legitimate and even necessary, but only to prevent actual physical violence initiated by another.  

The show also attempted to explore some of the precepts of both Buddhism and Taoism, both of which have very ancient roots (and both of which seem to incorporate "precessional numbers" which are also found in ancient cultures from other parts of the globe, being incorporated for example into the Great Pyramid of Giza and the layout of Teotihuacan in modern Mexico).

One of the previous posts linked above explored some of these concepts in conjunction with Simone Weil's 1940 essay, "The Iliad, or the poem of force," which argued that one of the worst aspects of the use of violence is the fact that it turns another living soul into a thing, and that it ultimately does the same to the one who employs violence as well.  

In contrast, the Kung Fu series displayed a sensibility to the fact that a person is not a thing.  Many of the situations portrayed in the series involved displays of racial prejudice by "less-than-enlightened" characters hurling a variety of racial slurs against the main character (and others around him), such as the situation shown in this sequence from the "pilot episode" of the show.  Of course, the purpose of all such slurs, whether racist or otherwise, is to try to turn another person into a thing in much the same way that physical violence does.

Based on the above discussion, it is clear that the television series Kung Fu was actually exploring the concept of "enlightenment" in some way.  

One thought-provoking definition of "enlightenment" is offered by speaker and teacher Mark Passio in one of the many podcasts available on his What on Earth is Happening website.  In the podcast entitled "WOEIH Show #022" (which can be found on this page of his website), beginning at 1:19:15 Mark Passio says:
People ask me sometimes, "What is enlightenment?"  And I say: enlightenment is the full and complete understanding of every being's sovereignty and the total willingness to accept the responsibility to honor that complete sovereignty in all others.  That's enlightenment.  That is what enlightenment is.
It is interesting to consider this definition of enlightenment in conjunction with the various situations and scenes depicted in the Kung Fu television series.  It is also interesting to consider in light of the fact that the idea for that groundbreaking series almost certainly came from Bruce Lee, as discussed in this previous post, containing links to a 1971 interview in which Bruce Lee laments that up until that time, most kung fu pictures were "done mainly for the sake of violence."

In addition to being the birthday of David Carradine, December 8 is also the day that John Lennon was murdered.  Some have argued that there is evidence that the circumstances surrounding the deaths of both David Carradine and John Lennon may have been very different from the story that has been given to the public.  Some have argued the same thing about the death of Bruce Lee.  

There is no doubt that there are very powerful forces at work in the world which are diametrically opposed to the concept of "every being's sovereignty" and the "responsibility to honor that complete sovereignty in all others."  This fact, and the fact that these forces do not always act completely at random but sometimes act in concert and with great deliberation, makes the anti-violent messages of John Lennon, Bruce Lee, and David Carradine's Kung Fu, as well as the definition of violence from Simone Weil and the definition of enlightenment offered by Mark Passio, more urgent than ever.