Things I learned from watching action films: Where to look for wisdom

Today, when I was reading some blogposts on yoga and especially Ashtanga Yoga, I came upon a discussion between some blogs; the main question was: does an Ashtangi (that’s a person who practices Ashtanga) need to travel to Mysore, the founding place of this yoga tradition or not. After I had seen more then one blog arguing in favor of or against it, I read these lines:

“I’d argue that the deeper dimension can be found on your mat on any mat, that you don’t need to go anywhere for that but rather within.” (Anthony Grim Hall, called Grimmly)

That was the moment, when I realized, that without being an Ashtanga teacher or having been at this place myself, I knew the answer (at least for me) and I knew it for some time now. This one I had learned through watching Conan the Barbarian, the fantasy film from the 80ies, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan.

While there are some scenes in that film, that might be worth a closer look, the scene I am talking about is the scene, where Conan and his friends are guests of king Osric, who has lost his daughter to a snake cult and wants the “heroes” to bring her back to him. He explains that she has left him to find the truth of her soul and rages “as if she couldn’t find it here“(that’s what he says in german, the original version is slightly different).

My perspective on that scene has changed over time and now is a symptom of how I think about questions like the Mysore or not question.

When I first saw the film, I was a young teenager with some interest in spiritual questions, reading about mystical things in other parts of the world or from other times (beside the usual interests of boys in this time and age: martial arts, computers, fantasy roleplaying games etc.). Without hesitation, I took the side of the misunderstood daughter against her bourgeois father. He was clearly wrong and not understanding his daughter.

After a few years, in my beginning twenties, I saw the film again and thought: Of course he is right. On one side, I was influenced in this by the different spiritual writings, that tend to say, that the truth, whatever it may be is to be found on the inside, in the heart, mind or soul of the seeker. Looking outside in “special” places only distracts from it. On the other side, the idea to travel to a special place (preferably in the east) to look for spiritual esperiences, seemed to my “adult”, “critical” mind (just beginning to study philosophy seriously) as only a form of orientalism. “What a stupid naive girl.”

Some more years had to pass, for me to find the answer that is still the one, that I would give to such a question: king Osric is right, that it is perfectly possible to find what you need at home, at the place, where you really live, but it is not always possible to get there on a direct way. Sometimes it is necessary to go a long way around only to arrive home. So if your think, you need to go, you probably really should, even when the result might be the realisation, that it would not have been necessary.

If you spot some kind of hegelian dialectics in this, you are free to do so. 😉


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