"A Series of Unfortunate Events"... & Other Fortunate Events

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Mar 10, 2005

Singapore -- In this quirky and not exactly dark adventure comedy, the Baudelaire children lose their home and parents in a mysterious fire, after which they are unwittingly placed in the guardianship of Count Olaf (played by Jim Carrey), who is unfortunately more interested in their inheritance than their welfare. The children are forced to use their inventive wisdom to outsmart each of Olaf's ploys to kill them.

Exactly because Olaf is continually outwitted, every "unfortunate event" becomes fortunate. This means there is always one more "fortunate event" than the sum of unfortunate ones! Well, as a Zen saying goes, which describes the Japanese Daruma (Bodhidharma) tumbler doll, "Seven times down, eight times up!" As a tagline of the movie goes, "Mishaps. Mayhem. Misadventures. Oh Joy." Well said! Why not just bask in the adventure of it all?

Filmed with elaborate sets in gloomy yet interesting hues of dirty brown, black and grey, it ironically strikes the audience that the darkest moments of children's lives were their most "colourful" and fulfilling. It was their initial misfortune that sent them reeling freely into adventure, during which their sibling bonding was strengthened and their collective ingenuity was put to good use. Truly so is it that "dawn breaks upon the darkest hour" - it is when they discovered the luminous lustre of their courage and wisdom. Along that line, it was the Sixth Patriach of Chan, Venerable Huineng, who taught that, "Even as the light of a lamp can break up darkness which has been there for a thousand years, so a spark of Wisdom can do away with ignorance which has lasted for ages." Just as it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, it is better to accept the darkness than to curse if you can't find a candle... as yet!

In a found letter written by the late Baudelaire parents for the children, they said, "At times the world can seem an unfriendly and sinister place. But believe us when we say there is much more good in it than bad. And what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may in fact, be the first steps of a journey." First steps into more and more high adventure! In fact, this movie attempted to summarise only the first three books of "Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'" - the latest in the series is already "Book the Eleventh", with more to come! Come what may, there is in truth no such thing as an endless series of unfortunate events, for our blessings always seep in between our misfortunes - that is how we can survive with hope for a better tomorrow, or next life! Things change; nothing lasts forever. As Stonepeace would say, "Sunshine comes after rain, which comes after sunshine." Worldly life is but a string of alternating encounters of the fotunate and the not so fortunate. Since the "unfortunate" can led to the "fortunate" and vice versa, why be too hung up on either? Have equanimity instead!

"There's always something!" Those were the words of Violet Baudelaire, when she was desperately looking for a brilliant idea, for something appropriate to invent, to rescue the children from an oncoming train. Yes indeed, there's always a solution in our darkest hour, a better alternative than to give in to despair at our misfortune... if only we look hard enough. Remember! "Seven times down, eight times up!" That's the spirit!