The Unconditional Love of "Juno"

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, March 7, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:

Singapore -- Winner of Best Original Screenplay for 2008's Oscars, "Juno" (played by Ellen Page) is a light-hearted comical yet cautionary tale about the usually heavy issue that is teenage pregnancy. Answering her conscience, the witty Juno faces up to her mistake of having unprotected sex and decides against an abortion.

Thus begins the heartwarming drama. She is so smart though, that one wonders why she was so unwise – to have made such a mistake!

The screenplay was partially based on the writer's (Diablo Cody) experiences! Its insights could be hers upon hindsight! The film is a skilful way of illustrating how one needs not face unexpected problems in life with excess grief, guilt and shame, of how we should support one another without blame or preachiness.

Where there is love, there will be hope. And where there might be little love from others, we can have healthy love for ourselves too – while not at the stake of others – including unborn babies! With realistic positivity, even the problems faced in life can morph to become blessings and invaluable lessons.

Just do the right thing best you can - even after you might have done something wrong, which could be the worst as yet! Make the best of the worst – and all things can only become better – in your mind at least, if not in real life! Then again, how you mind your mind is your real life!

Juno asks her Dad whether is it possible for two people to stay happy forever. Dad replies that it is not easy, but hints that it is possible with effort… "In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you… The right person will still think the sun shines out of your ass! That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with." Dad then hilariously assumes he was such a person to her, while Juno was speculating about romantic love! Much familial love is indeed less conditional than romantic love, though we might connect more closely with those beyond family.

What Dad was talking about unconditional love – the ability of someone to love Juno despite any changes in her. Ironically, he gave a list of conditions that unconditional love must meet! While we yearn for unconditional love, do we love anyone unconditionally? And how do you "find a person who loves you for exactly what you are" – if you change? Who are you exactly? Are you the one in a good or bad mood, the one when you are prettier or uglier…? True unconditional love then, must embrace all changes in the loved, while not being attached or averse to any particular state of change, be it for better or worse. Thus, enlightened love understands the truth of Anicca (constant change of phenomena, including people) and Anatta (lack of unchanging personality or self). True love is selfless loving of those without self too!
Juno's decision to have her child was unconditional love too – for the child, and for the child's adoptive parents. Since she was not ready for motherhood, giving the child away also constitutes love for herself. The whole story revolved around love among friends (family included) and strangers. Though family too, the unborn child was in reality a stranger! Juno's love for the child must be unconditional - for she did not really know the child well, or how the child would grow up to be. In Buddhism, this is the spirit of Metta (loving-kindness), described by the Buddha as the quality of love that a mother has for her only child. This love is not to be constrained only to one's child though. So wholesome is it that it should pervade the whole universe.

From the Metta Sutta (Discourse on Loving-kindness) - "Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life even so let one cultivate a boundless love (Metta) towards all beings. Let one radiate boundless love towards the entire world - above, below, and across - unhindered, without ill will, without enmity." As such, Metta is the basis for all forms of love, which develops to be immeasurable Karuna (compassion), Mudita (rejoice) and Uppekka (equanimity) for all beings. While all Buddhas have these four sublime states perfected, Buddhists aspire to perfect their love for all. Lovely!

Related review on unconditional love
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