Walk with Me (2017)—France and the USA
The novelist David Foster Wallace lamented how we now live in a culture of Total Noise. I recently read a newspaper article about a man who was searching for a few places where there were literally no sounds at all — an almost impossible task. And what about the cacophony of voices inside one's head, the passions and the emotions? This movie explores a refreshing alternative from the perspective of the famous Vietnamese Buddhist Thich Nhát Hanh (born 1926), who, among other things, has published more than a hundred books as a peace activist. Exiled from his country in 1966, he founded a meditation center in southwest France called Plum Village, where much of this documentary is filmed. The movie is narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, who reads passages from Hanh's Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962–1966. It's inspiring to watch the monks work at the discipline of mindfulness, of living fully present in the here and now. It's not easy, though: a distracted younger novice yawns and looks around, a young woman complains that she's bored with her repetitive tasks, and kids banging on a piano during a weekend retreat have to be quieted. For more on this important subject see my reviews of the book by Erling Kagge, translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, Silence in the Age of Noise (New York: Pantheon, 2017), 145pp; and the marvelous movie Into Great Silence (2005) about the remote and reclusive Monastery Grand Chartreuse. Christians have their own traditions of silence, of course: "Be still and know that I am God." One thinks of the Trappist monks who take a vow of silence, or the Eastern Orthodox mystical tradition of contemplative prayer called hesychism ("stillness"). In one of his better sound bites, Kagge appeals to the French polymath Pascal: "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." Indeed. I watched this movie on Netflix Streaming.