Walk With Me
It was during this film that I came up with the term chomper to describe the way such entertainments make me feel. Some forty minutes into this documentary (or was it thirty minutes, or twenty, or ten?), I felt myself become drowsy. Silently, and yet in a feverish desperation, I sought out the chewing gum in my bag that would help me stay awake. Then for the remainder of the screening, chomp, chomp, chomp I chewed on my chewing gum, wondering if chewing gum can be worn down to nothing within the space of an afternoon.
For Walk With Me is a boring documentary, even as Benedict Cumberbatch provides the rich, contemplative voice-over. My view of course can be dismissed as the expression of one who just doesn't get it, and it's true that formalized meditation is not the kind of thing I enjoy. During the film's moments of utter stillness, I did what I often do when I've tried meditation, and wandered into the dark recesses of my bored unconscious, mulling over whether the San Francisco 49ers of 1983 would have beaten the Chicago Bears, instead of losing their regular season game 13-3, if they'd only had the brilliant Roy Green and William Andrews in their offence (both players were passed on by the 49ers in the 1979 draft, and this bothers me more than I can explain adequately).
Still, Cumberbatch punctured my nostalgic angst by occasionally reciting aphorisms of wisdom from the Vietnamese guru Thich Nhat Hanh, in a bucolic but cold-looking retreat somewhere in France called Plum Village. A deciduous tree in winter was referred to, on how to become strong and enduring one must accordingly not be fragile or immature like the leaves that die. It was telling that Hanh's Mindedness involved shedding one's family and friends, at least for the most part – as I strain to remember, members of his spiritual group were allowed to visit relatives every two years.
I don't doubt or dismiss the sacrifice involved; spirituality at its core, surely means stripping away your connection to the things that worry us. Didn't Jesus Christ say that his only family were his followers? But equally, seeing the joy that one particular member of Hanh's group brought to her father when she visited him in the US, in a care home, I couldn't help thinking that seeing her father was a really good thing to do, in the spiritual sense and in any other.
Well anyway, the documentary continued in this way, showing people who had gathered to find contentment living side by side, but strangely detached from each other. It was living, but not really, like a dystopian Shangri-la, waiting for the biker gangs to arrive. The followers of Hanh sought solace in nature, while waiting for death, and no one barely spoke a word.While I ventured on, as the followers of Hanh watched a final sunrise; I was in Soldier Field, Chicago, 1983, Joe Montana, rolling round the right side of a frozen stadium, floating a pass through an icy mist over the Chicago cornerback into the hands of the waiting Roy Green, who runs on to score the match-winning touchdown, and the 49er teammates on the sidelines embrace in exhaustion and exultation. The spiritual, I guess, is a personal thing.