B1 Intermediate US 151 Folder Collection
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What does it really mean to be connected to someone?
Generally speaking, we can break this question down in two basic elements;
Who am I? And how am I related to others?
This is what I believe is at the heart of Sense8
A show by the Wachowski sisters about a diverse group of strangers from all over the world,
who find themselves mentally linked to each other.
The show has been highly praised for including a diversity of ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations,
and yet, what makes it even more special to me is how it goes beyond this descriptive diversity
to explore these basic questions that are relevant to us all.
Or to put it rather corny; it uses our differences to show what makes us the same.
What makes Sense8 stand out though is that it doesn't just appeal to our sentiment.
In fact, it even shows how we tend to reject most of these platitudes and cheesy messages.
In the end...
we will all be judged by the courage of our hearts.
It's a stupid line from a stupid movie Hernando please.
Instead it bases its ideas on science and philosophy
and in doing so not only shows that connectedness is a real and tangible force,
but also reveals how it is vital to our well-being and necessary for a better world.
To understand how the Wachowskis came to this we have to journey back to their movie Cloud Atlas
in which one of its characters presents the following revelation;
To be is to be perceived
and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other.
The line 'to be is to be perceived' comes straight from philosopher George Berkeley
who argued that the only reality we experience is the reality we perceive through our senses.
Or in other words; "the only things we perceive are our perceptions".
What is real? How do you define real?
If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see,
then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.
It seems however that in their later work the Wachowskis stumbled upon a problem
with this philosophy when exploring its consequences for our ability to connect with one another.
For how can we establish real relations when we are limited to our own perceptions?
Or, as psychotherapist and Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello puts it;
How can I love you if I cannot see you?
Generally, when I see you, or you see me
generally, we don't see one another, we're seeing an image.
A husband; does he relate to his wife or to his image of his wife?
He adds, like philosopher David Hume also pointed out,
that our perceptions aren't based on logic or reason, but are rather formed through our intuition, our emotions.
Whenever there's a powerful emotion, whether it's positive or negative, I cannot see you.
The emotion comes in the way.
I'm projecting my own needs onto you.
In Sense8, the Wachowskis draw attention to the importance of our emotions
as the driving forces of our lives
and explore how they can be limiting as well as liberating in our relations with others.
This is what life is;
Fear.
Rage.
Desire.
Love.
For starters, we see this focus on our emotions reflected in the way the show is structured.
Whereas most TV shows are strongly driven by the plot or the narrative, which tends to be understood logically,
Sense8 feels more intuitive.
Driven by the emotional states of the characters,
often putting the plot in the backseat to focus on how the characters are feeling
which is exactly where we find the fundamental struggle of each of the characters
as they try to figure out who they are and what their place is in this world full of labels and presumptions.
A struggle that is perhaps most clear with minority groups, but is nevertheless a universal issue.
No, you're not trying to understand anything,
because labels are the opposite of understanding.
Sense8 shows how we struggle with these limitations that others put on us
which are mostly based on an intuitive close-mindedness and fear of those who are different,
and shows how they can lead to violent consequences;
One truth, our truth!
Please, no violence, please!
One truth, our truth!
Stop it!
It also shows how this violence, or even the potential of violence, leads to limitations that we put on ourselves
when we become too afraid to fully express who we want to be.
The real violence..
the violence that I realized was unforgivable,
is the violence we do to ourselves
when we're too afraid to be who we really are.
Then of course there is the main concept behind Sense8; the mental connection between the characters,
which is based on an actual theory called limbic resonance.
Limbic resonance, it's a language older than our species.
Presented in 'A General Theory of Love',
limbic resonance suggests that the limbic system in our brain is not self-contained,
but is measurably affected by those closest to us and allows us to share deep emotional states.
It recognizes the earlier mentioned dangers of limiting emotions such as fear and anxiety,
but more importantly; it also brings attention to the emotions that have a liberating potential,
in particular intimacy and love, when establishing meaningful relations between human beings
and building our emotional well-being.
The authors note;
"The benefits of deep attachment are powerful - regulated people feel whole, centered, alive."
What this theory gives us is a reasonable counterargument to a society of cynicism,
a world that only seems to acknowledge the worst of humanity as scientifically valid,
a world without connection.
In Sense8, this concept of sharing deep emotional states is taken to the extreme
by fully merging the selves of a group of people,
allowing them to fully experience each other's being.
It gives us a glimpse of what it would be like to be truly seen by other people;
to be vulnerable and feel truly connected.
I know you wanna lay down here and never get up again
I know it because I feel it
I can feel it.
I've always found it interesting how the show chose to portray this newfound connection.
For it is not done with a big dramatic reveal,
not with the characters freaking out as one would expect to happen when strangers suddenly appear in your mind.
Instead, the sensates just kind of ease into each other's life with an instant sense of familiarity and comfort.
Opening up their hearts to each other as if there never was anything to separate them in the first place;
No fear, no suspicion,
just empathy, acceptation and support in its purest form.
A reflection of what is perhaps our deepest desire:
To know, to really know, that we're not alone.
It is through this concept that the Wachowskis reveal how we can establish meaningful connections,
for if to be is to be perceived;
we can at the very least become more aware of the ways in which we allow limiting emotions
to put up barriers between ourselves and others and try to be more open-minded.
To love means at least;
clarity of perception, accuracy of response.
I see you clearly as you are.
That's the least I could demand in love.
This is made clear not only by the interactions between the sensates,
but maybe even more so by the interactions between the sensates and their significant others.
Proving that even without extraordinary capabilities,
we too as normal human beings can have more healthy relations if we make a conscious effort to empathize:
I understand what you're going through.
And I'm not judging, or trying to fix it, or tell you what to do.
I just wanted you to know that I love you.
And that you aren't alone.
The Wachowskis also emphasize the importance of celebrating the intuitive phenomena
through which we can express our connectedness and break down the walls that would otherwise prevent it.
We see this in the discussions on the inspiring power of art,
in the many extensive montages of the characters enjoying music,
which is referred to by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as the universal language of mankind,
and of course in the act of sex:
We exist because of sex.
It's not something to be afraid of.
It's something to honor,
to enjoy.
Ultimately, Sense8 is a show about us.
A show that connected us to the lives of a diverse group of people
and through them told us a story about the best of humanity;
a story about love, empathy, friendship, compassion, joy and sincerity.
A show that despite having great action scenes and suspenseful moments,
shines brightest in the interactions between its characters.
In the profound heart-to-hearts,
and in the beautifully meaningless and silly moments that are shared between them.
It is these interactions that the show reveals how our emotions and their expressions
the part of ourselves and our society that we tend to dismiss as irrational and inferior,
end up being the most important.
This is not out of some woolly desire to sit in a circle and sing Lennon's 'Imagine',
this is to remind people that free societies are stronger societies.
Unfortunately, we live in a time where most popular television shows,
as great as they may be in themselves,
tend to focus on the darker and cynical side of humanity.
And in this time, there apparently is no place for Sense8
as Netflix decided to cancel the show after just two seasons.
Cutting short what could have been a beautiful journey with beautiful characters.
Luckily, not all hope is gone.
Last week, Lana Wachowski published a very personal letter announcing a final two hour special
made possible by all the fans who have been voicing their love for the show
and their sorrow for its cancellation.
It's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless for all those who see the goodness in life
and long for shows like Sense8 that make an active effort to counter the cynicism
that is so prevalent in today's society.
A struggle that was already understood decades ago by the great Mr. Fred Rogers,
who dedicated his career to create meaningful television that promotes life.
Because, in his words;
Well, life isn't cheap.
It's the greatest mystery of any millennium,
and television needs to do all it can to broadcast that.
To show and tell what the good in life is all about.
But how do we make goodness attractive?
By doing whatever we can to bring courage to those whose lives move near our own.
By treating our neighbor at least as well as we treat ourselves.
And allowing that to inform everything that we produce.
We all have only one life to live on Earth.
And through television,
We have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways.
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The Philosophy of Sense8 | Emotion and Connection

151 Folder Collection
Yuka Ito published on July 28, 2020
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