Bright Lights Film Journal

The Tao of Cash

I’ve been reading Sogyal Rinpoche’s THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING and almost had a heart attack when I read Rinpoche’s response to a student who said (referring to the idea of impermanence and being in the moment) “All this seems obvious, tell me something new.”

Rinpoche replies ” Have you actually realized the truth of impermanence? Have you so integrated it with your every thought, breath and movement that your life has been transformed? Ask yourself these two questions: Do I remember at every moment I am dying and that everyone and everything else is, and so treat all beings at all times with compassion? Has my understanding of death and impermanence becomes so keen and so urgent that I am devoting every second to the purpose of enlightenment? If you can answer yes to both of these then you have really understood impermanence.” (p. 27)

Dude! I totally understood that… once. But what about cinema? Is there a film that brings this urgency to light, strips away our petty samsara blindness and makes us feel and embrace impermanence as opposed to the endless “gimme more bling” parade of gangstas, dorks and superheros who all firmly deny death?

I can only think of one film, and it’s rather short. That’s right…. the video for Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt.”

Even the staunchest republican can feel what Sogyal Rinpoche means by “understanding impermanence” in Cash’s wavering voice and in the haunting imagery from director Mike Romaneck. It’s the sort of real bravery that reduces phony Hallmark hand wringing to dust in the wind, then follows it.