Friday, July 13, 2012

Shelter from the Storm 

Michael Shannon as the troubled Curtis in Take Shelter, image via
“money is an illusion”
I thought quite a bit about the ending of the film Take Shelter and threw out the idea that it was what it was. If you've heard anything about the movie, you might know the ending is a head-scratcher, other than knowing that, I think I avoid all "spoiler alerts" here. The storm was allegorical, an existential angst, if you will. Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, suffers an irrational anxiety about future events and everyone thinks he's crazy. Then, everyone sees what he's seeing, and he doesn't seem quite so crazy anymore. I guess I thought that way because I'd just heard an episode of Ideas on CBC radio about "idolatry". At one point, they talk about money as the world's greatest religion, but one man, Daniel Suelo, came to realize "money is an illusion". He told his friends this and they thought he was in need of help. In 2002, he took his remaining $30 out of his pocket, set it on the ledge of a phone booth and hasn't touched money since. He lives in a cave, scavenges for wild onions and grocery store dumpsters for food. He's lost teeth and gets clothing from charity but hasn't touched money in 10 years.

The American Who Quit Money To Live In A Cave from David Eckenrode on Vimeo.

In 2008, when the market crashed, a friend of Daniel thought to himself, "God, he's right, money is an illusion." then wrote a book (The Man Who Quit Money) about the idolatry and illusion of money. I thought to myself, he's wrong, money isn't an illusion, it's an abstraction of credit or value. It's an abstraction that has been corrupted for greed, but it's an abstract concept we require. Therefore, I still think Daniel living in a cave, not touching money, is in fact, nuts and delusional. He hasn't touched money, but he seems to have no problem letting others touch money for him (charitable clothing was purchased somewhere, discarded groceries were bought and not re-sold).

“...he has a lot of weird anecdotes involving The Arab (?)”

This is mainly on my mind as I read Thoreau's Walden Pond because he seems to think we could be just as happy in huts as in mansions (and he has a lot of weird anecdotes involving The Arab) – also he doesn't see the irony that he bought another man's shack for six dollars just for the siding - and the other man just walks away with his possessions in a sack, homeless?

Many of the things Thoreau complains about, such as people becoming enslaved by their owning of property, or expensive life styles or that only unbelievably high prices would compensate an average farmer for their labour and cost of producing farm goods (thus making the profession untenable) are things we still talk about today. He does seem to understand that simple living would be nice but if you only bought one suit your entire life, how could a tailor live to make suits? Or if you decide to cook food, you need a pot, and that is a basic way we come to acquire things. Yet, he does kind of wash over the complexities that the current state of civilization exists in, which is really hard to get a grip on. Which is very similar to the mortgage and housing collapse of 2008. If, on one hand, greedy people didn't manipulate the monetary system to their advantage, none of this would've happened, but if we all stopped buying houses and putting money in banks, the system would collapse anyway.

This is a long winded way of saying, I think the film, Take Shelter, was more about one man's irrational fears, how they affected those around him, and what happens if his fears become real or others start to see or feel the same anxieties. If you think of it in terms of the current economy, it makes a lot of sense, without really saying it. It's a slow build, but I think that pace is required for you to become invested in the character's dilemma the same way an action film needs an uptempo pace to enthral you.

So, yes, I do recommend Take Shelter.

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