March 5, 2004 [Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring]


The little floating monastery on the beautiful lake in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring at first seems an Asian Walden, hidden and quiet, a tidy little miracle amid a gorgeous valley.  But the movie's circle begins and ends in childish cruelty--we don't want it, but there it is, certainly inevitable, perhaps then necessary.  

But the rules of causation aren't important here.  As the monk and his child acolyte make their way through a lifelong year, the world outside shapes the one they float upon with its own desires and necessities and suffering--and not in the lockstep of physics but the responsive curl of growing things watching everything around them, bending and rising as required.  

So even on the floating monastery we are not alone after all--but when are we ever? Thoreau seemed to have had more visitors in the woods than he did in town; and the monk as well plays host--if that's the right word: He seems more to watch and wait--so that, when he acts, it is certain and decisive.  I didn't want to, but I kept thinking of Yoda, his admonition that "there is no trying. You either do or you do not."  As his acolyte falls into error and passion, the Master gives commands and the acolyte surrenders, as though some Force had pressed against his temple to lean him toward the truth.
And when the Master holds back the boat until he is ready to wave goodbye then brings it back--all without touching, just standing on his Buddha-raft and making it happen--in my head the little Star Wars puppet lifted his wispy chin once more, tired of the foolish errors we make as children and pay for as adults; but the bright light in his eyes promises that, if we're lucky, we can tie our sins like a stone to our waist and climb the mountain to worship one more spring, the burden lifted just in time to be born again.

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