Whatever "The Happening" Might Be

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, June 18, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: www.thehappeningmovie.com

Singapore -- Audiences yearning for a brilliant twist in M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller might not be too thrilled to know that the ingenious twist to their expectations is that there is none.

While it is understandable why many might see this as one of the director's least appealing works, it is however his most urgent and thought-provoking one - for it provides social commentary on a spectrum of important global matters at hand.

For no apparent reason, humans "freeze" and kill themselves, while many honey bees disappear en masse mysteriously. The second seemingly "trivial" incident hints of a greater disaster to come, based on the theory that if bees all disappear from the surface of the earth, we would have no more than four years to live - due to the end of pollination and thus all vegetation for the food web.

This ecological note in the light of global warming is crucial indeed - as raised temperatures threaten to disrupt the botanical and biological cycles of flora and fauna. With all in one, and one in all, the world is an "Indra's net" of interdependence indeed, as discovered by the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. Because no living being is insignificant, all should be respected equanimously. Disrespect of nature could lead to "unnatural" wraths of nature.

The usual list of suspects as to what caused the mass suicides are run through... Could it be a terrorist-released toxin? Could it be chemical weapons that leaked? Could it be water contamination? Could it be nuclear poisoning? Could it be the suddenly evolved defense systems of plants that deadly chemicals are emitted? Could it be mass hysteria due to the climate of fear? Could it be a mix of all? Could it be something else beyond imagination?

The enemies are probably unseen because mirrors are needed - because the enemies are also us - even if there might be other unidentified sources of danger out there. We are the terrorists - who terrorise the planet with pollution, deforestation, wars, disease... In selfish desperation, humans breed fear towards one another - to the extent of the "innocent" but hungry "terrorising" the suspicious for food, while the latter demonise them as enemies.

It is reiterated in the story by "experts" that if the happening was a natural disaster, certain acts of nature are such that they will never be fully comprehended. This seems to emphasise the limits of science - though it is science's task to push these limits - to outdo itself. A reminder to be awed by nature - even as one seeks to understand it. Plagued by the virus of delusion, as long as we are unenlightened, nature works in mysterious ways!

There was a scene where a woman views a video of an "infected" man feeding himself to a lion. She exclaims in shock - "What kind of terrorists are these?" This is ironic - for humans demand the breeding and slaughtering of animals in the billions. The self-reflective question would be - "What kind of terrorists are we?" With the increasing problems of over-population, the climate and food crisis, why are we not choosing a greener and kinder diet for the planet? (See diets' links to these crises at http://www.moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=2265)

While new outbreaks of bird flu spring up now and then, WHO had already warned of a bird flu pandemic that could strike and kill millions of humans - and of course, even much more birds. It is insensible that humans demand meat at such high risks out of greed. The happening also suggested that just as the red tide generated algae that killed much fish, nature too could suddenly evolve viruses that wipe out humans specifically.

Another scene shows a man with misplaced faith in his precious stash of hotdogs. They offer no salvation though - not for the animals who became the hotdogs, and not for the consumer. According to the UN's FAO report in 2006, up to 18% of greenhouse gases are generated by the meat industry - more than the gases created by all transport in the world. If so, increase in meat-eating is surely a one-way ticket to a hothouse hell on Earth.      

Yet another scene shows a woman who has abandoned concern for the world praying to a silent God - before she gets "infected" and kills herself unwittingly. And the closing scene shows a young man exclaiming "My God!" when the happening "re-happens". It was ominously hinted that there would be no divine intervention. Humans will need to bear their own collective karma, which can have long hands that reach individuals just as the air does. 

The film wasn't about a complex conspiracy theory on the end of the world. However, it does show how it can happen. The speculations on the cause of the happening together constitute a grave general warning of the multiple possibilities through which we can self-destruct. There is no definite answer as to what really happened. What is the moral of the story? We should just do whatever we can in our knowledge to prevent any ill happening from happening!

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv