字幕列表 影片播放 列印英文字幕 (Upbeat music) - (Michael) Hey Wisecrack, Michael here. Today, we're looking at a cartoon after our own hearts--a show that combines sober discussions of philosophy with zombie hordes, parasitic clown-spiders, and magic-wielding fish-men--Netflix's The Midnight Gospel. A co-production of comedian Duncan Trussell and Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward, The Midnight Gospel combines audio clips from Trussell's long-running podcast The Duncan Trussell Family Hour with Ward's signature visual storytelling to create a one-of-a-kind animated series that is equal parts trippy, hilarious, and terrifying. But is the show just a compendium of shower thoughts to help your furlough go down easier - or is it a legitimate dive into quote unquote real philosophy? To find out, we're going to focus on one specific aspect of the show. If you've seen it already, you might have noticed one of Trussell's favorite subjects popping up repeatedly: - (Clancy) In Buddhism the idea is all of those, uh, mental forms of analysis- - (Michael) That's right: Buddhism. The Midnight Gospel asks us to consider: what are the implications of Buddhist philosophy for people going about their everyday lives? Should you become a societal dropout like the protagonist Clancy--or is there more to life than just microdosing and doing ritual magic? Well, we're about to find out. So select your avatars, merge with your simulators, and follow us as we rocket into this Wisecrack Edition on The Midnight Gospel: Deep or Dumb? As always, spoilers ahead. And now, a quick recap. The plot of The Midnight Gospel--insofar as a show about yonic multiverse simulators can be said to have a plot centers on Clancy, a music-loving burnout living in a trailer on the “Chromatic Ribbon.” On the Ribbon, Clancy and other “simulation farmers” spend their days shoving their heads into the aforementioned vulva-Matrices, hoping to collect profitable artifacts or marketable experiences from the multiverses within. Clancy, for instance, uses his trips to gather content for his pet project, a “spacecast” with a single subscriber. - (Clancy) And to my one subscriber, Hernog Jensen, I live for you. You're the reason I wake up in the morning with a smile on my face. - (Michael) Clancy's spacecast takes the form of interviews with subjects from wacky, dying worlds, usually centered around topics such as Eastern philosophy, the occult, or anything else worthy of a Keanu-Reeves - (Keanu) Whoa! - (Michael) Said conversations use repurposed audio from Trussell's actual interviews with people like Dr. Drew Pinsky and Anne Lamott. From the beginning, Clancy prioritizes thinking about and discussing these Big Ideas over more practical concerns, such as problems in his personal life or the day-to-day operations of his simulator. On an (admittedly simulated) planet overrun by zombies, for instance, he is so unconcerned with what's going on around him that he continues to talk about the positive benefits of mindfulness meditation while a man is eaten alive in front of his pregnant wife. - (Clancy) They say look at it as though you're sitting in a forest and you're getting to watch a rare animal walking out into a clearing. - (Michael) Clancy avoids mundane tasks--like reading the instruction manual for his simulator--dismissing them as distractions from his contemplation of the deeper truths of existence. - (Simulator) Good morning master. Did you get a chance to read the universe simulator FAQ I left in your inbox? - (Clancy) Nope. - (Michael) Specifically, Clancy, through his passing familiarity with Eastern religious traditions, has come to believe that the material world is unimportant--or even illusory. - (Clancy) And then you become pure awareness- - (President) Yeah, yeah. - (Clancey) And the concept is that that is what we really are, - (President) Yeah - (Clancy) And that this entire material universe including our body is a kind of… (stutters) I can't say it. - (Woman) Phenomenological - (Clancy phenomenological field of phenomena! A field of phenomena being encapsulated within- - (Michael) Put simply, Clancy is saying: the tangible universe that we can see, hear, touch, etc. is just an imperfect manifestation of a more fundamental reality, accessible through consciousness-altering practices like meditation, ritual, plant medicine, and so on. Therefore, the material world can and ought to be ignored, avoided, or ideally transcended. Everyday life, with its bills, sh*tty neighbors, and absurd laws, isn't the full experience of divinity, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it--therefore, it's crap. So here's the question: are Clancy's thoughts on Eastern religious philosophy deep, or more like the inane ramblings of someone who just escaped their first Alan Watts YouTube rabbit hole? To answer that question, we need to ask: does Clancy's line of reasoning fit within a Buddhist context? That is, do his beliefs hold water among Buddhist philosophers with a smidge more experience? Well...yes and no. Let's start with the idea that the world is unimportant and illusory. According to the Dalai Lama, this is somewhat correct, but only half the picture when it comes to living by the tenets of Buddhism. In MindScience, a collection of essays and dialogues, the Dalai Lama contends that there are two levels of truth in the Buddhist worldview: 1. an “ultimate” truth--subscribed to by Clancy and your stoner roommate--which acknowledges the emptiness of and impermanence among all things; and 2. a “relative” truth, having to do with the facts of existence as they relate to our daily lives. Both of these truths are equally important to living a good life. At least within the particular version of Tibetan Buddhism the Dalai Lama represents, the relative world, with all its disappointments, frustrations, and heartaches is not merely some illusion to be seen through. This is contra Clancy who tries to sidestep the problems of the material world by fleeing to some supposedly “higher” plane of existence. The Dalai Lama “accepts the reality not only of the subjective world of the mind but also of the external objects of the physical world.” In other words, while the mind-blowing cosmic insights gained through meditation and/or study in the Buddhist tradition are all well and good, they are not an excuse to fuck off to a trailer somewhere and abandon one's responsibilities. Which is what Clancy has decided to do--as his computer points out to him: - (Clancy) I don't need you to f***ing tell me, who the f*** I am or how to live my goddamn life! - (Michael) If the show were merely to stop here, we'd be forced to call “dumb” on this delightfully bizarre series. Getting half of Buddhism right at the expense of the other half is not, in philosophical terms, “cool.” But the show DOESN'T stop there. Instead, it explores how the pure “universal truth” approach to life does not qualify as enlightenment. On the contrary, it creates very real harm. Throughout much of the season, Clancy's disdain for the material world keeps coming back to bite him in the ass. Early on, we learn that Clancy's dismissive attitude towards humdrum, everyday life has begun to affect his relationships. For instance, he is funding his spacecast ambitions with money borrowed from his sister, who explicitly told him not to blow it on a multiverse simulator. - (Clancy) As I stare out at this majestic scene, I can't help but think of my sister, Sarah, who said: 'Clancy, I'll loan you this money, but you have to promise not to spend it on a used universe simulator. - (Michael) He ignores her attempts to call him, which rightfully pisses her off. - (Clancy's sister) Clancy it's your sister. You need to call me back right now! I'm freaking peeved off man there's no reason that your space- - (Michael) What's more, by repeatedly ignoring his computer's requests for basic maintenance, he winds up damaging most of the worlds in his simulator before he even gets the chance to visit them. - (Simulator) Due to operator error, there are no longer living things on this planet - (Clancy) Agh, what about this one? - (Michael) All this avoidance doesn't help Clancy transcend the very real problems of his busted computer, broken family ties, and weak-ass spacecast. In search of the “ultimate truth,” Clancy has forgotten the “relative” truths and nuisances of everyday existence - which, no matter how much ayahuasca you chug, have a funny way of hanging around until you actually do something about them. When Clancy's sister finally gets through to him, she explains that she doesn't even care about the money anymore-- - (Clancy's sister) I love you. And if this is about the money, you don't need to pay me back. - (Michael) She's just worried about her brother and how his refusal to face up to his role in the world is hurting him. This confrontation with the real world puts an unprepared Clancy in a full-on, sweaty panic attack, which he follows with an angry outburst against the one person who cares enough to check up on him: - (Clancy) Voicemail full! Message not received! - (Michael) Clearly, Clancy isn't finding lasting peace and happiness from taking refuge in the platitudes around “ultimate” truth favored by hermits, Burning Man attendees, and Jedi. To achieve what we might call real “enlightenment” within a Buddhist framework, sentient beings like Clancy--and like us--also have to come to terms with the painful, sometimes downright nasty facts of physical existence. And to do THAT, we need to look at zombies. No, seriously. In his book Dharma of the Dead, scholar Christopher M. Moreman explores some of the parallels between zombie fiction and Buddhism. Particularly important for our purposes, he demonstrates how your typical glass-eyed zombie wandering around in a stupor can serve as a model for one of the potential pitfalls of meditation practice: The deliberate cultivation of a pleasantly numb, trancelike state of being, devoid of mindful attention. Fictional zombies, in other words, can represent one of the very real dangers of sloppy or misdirected spirituality. Zombies can be a metaphor for those practitioners of a given tradition who try their damnedest to paper over the difficulties of “relative” existence with “ultimate” truths about God, the universe, or whatever else is in that pamphlet they're shoving in your face. From the Dalai Lama's point of view, this kind of zombie-zen existence would seem to stand in stark contrast to the real goal of meditation: cultivating a moment-to-moment engagement with the present, also known as 'mindfulness'. In describing the difference between helpful practice and self-imposed zombification, Moreman also notes a parallel between core tenets of Buddhism and philosopher Martin Heiddegger's concept of “Dasein.” Dasein is Heiddegger's term for the uniquely human experience of existence. In describing the parallels between this thinking and Buddhism, Moremon contends that, according to Heidegger: “the authentic self [i]s that which acknowledges its own [mortality] and incorporates it; the inauthentic self is one that denies death and flees it. Here, Dasein sounds much like the [Buddhist] anatta, a different perspective on selfhood that acknowledges the truth of its impermanence.” So what does that mean for our favorite spacecaster? Put simply: Clancy can laser-focus on the ultimate truth, rhapsodize about phenomenological fields, and be a dick to his sister as much as he pleases--but doing those things will not help him become an authentic self. Like everyone else in the universe, Clancy is an “anatta,” a not-self, which is to say a being subject to change--including discomfort and eventual non-existence. Authentic living follows not from a narrow emphasis on the wonderful things in life--its beauty and pattern, for instance--but from an acceptance and integration of its shittier aspects, such as pain, violence, and death. Which is not to say that Buddhism is all doom and gloom. Far from it! Through his interview subjects, Clancy comes to realize that a worldview which integrates both a love of life and a deep awareness of death is the gateway to a precious mode of being which he could never access through his spacecast alone. In other words, he starts to care about the world outside his simulator as a valuable part of existence in and of itself. Over the course of his journey, he comes to accept the at-first-glance contradictory notion that struggling with life's hardships can bring immense pain, but can also bring a profound peace that isn't so affected by the ups and downs of the multiverse. For example, during one of Trussell-slash-Clancy's podcast interviews, Buddhist teacher Trudy Goodman rides through a graveyard while explaining that - (Goodman) Time of death is uncertain, but death is certain. If we really got that, we would have fewer of the kind of moments where we regret having wasted our time or somebody else's. And it's so precious. And just as horrible and brutal as the world can be, it's gorgeous and exquisite. - (Michael) But the point really hits home for Clancy when the multiverse simulator brings him in contact with his mother--voiced by Duncan Trussell's real-life mom Deneen Fendig, who passed away of cancer in 2013. As part of a heartbreaking scene in which Clancy and his mom undergo a full life, death, and rebirth together, Deneen explains how she's holding up so well despite her diagnosis: - (Deneen) “The reason I look better now than I ever have is because I'm more fully living. - (Clancy) Right. - (Deneen) Because I'm living and dying. Consciously, simultaneously. I'm holding both. - (Michael) In a similar way, Clancy finally arrives at a degree of authenticity by dropping his pretensions and learning to engage in his own life, mess and all: - (Clancy, singing) Even though your life is out of tune, you can still sing along with it. And it's better to be you and out of tune than acting like someone else who has found enlightenment! - (Michael) To put it another way--Clancy learns to embody both the ultimate truth he's so stoked about, and the relative truth that the Dalai Lama or Heidegger would argue is so vital to human existence. We see his new awareness play out in the final moments of the series, when a raid on Clancy's unlicensed simulation farm ends with Clancy and his dog diving all the way into the simulator to escape the feds. Moments later, Clancy winds up on a bus, surrounded by the people he's interviewed throughout the series. This is a situation that ultimate-truth Clancy could dissect for hours. Is this the afterlife? Is he still in the simulator? What the ever-loving f*ck is going on with the driver playing the spoons? But instead, we see Clancy experience a real moment of awareness and clarity. After walking to the back of the bus, Clancy half-heartedly starts to interview a stranger: - (Clancy) You mind if I interview you for my...um, am I dead? - (Michael) Only to realize that something way more important than the spacecast is happening right in front of him: The man in the robe turns out to be Ram Dass--a practitioner of Eastern meditation techniques and one of Trussell's heroes--who answers Clancy's question by saying: - (Ram Dass) Just be here now. - (Michael) In other words, Clancy rides off into eternity with the knowledge that a more specific answer to his question doesn't really matter. If and when the bus reaches its final destination, whatever's waiting at the end can take care of itself. What's really important right now is focusing his attention on every precious moment. And that seems way closer to whatever real enlightenment looks like. Which is why, graveyard penis notwithstanding, this series earns a solid 'Deep' from us. What do you think, Wisecrack? Have we oversold this kooky cartoon? Or is it even more brilliant than we're giving it credit for? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe and ring that bell. Big thanks to our patrons for supporting the channel and our podcasts. Thanks for watching, guys. Later.