It seems the main goal of Downsizing, according to the scientists in this latest Alexander Payne movie, is to prompt people to consider ‘what imprint am I leaving on this earth?’
It holds the premise that over population, which has been well researched, is the biggest challenge we face. Given this, we need to accept that the destruction of the planet is due to humans, in particular, human waste. The film’s answer, is to ‘downsize’! Shrink humans to being 12.9cm tall which will reduce their use of resources and waste, thus decreasing the human impact on this fragile environment we call home – planet earth.
The film starts by showing the first colony of 36 downsized people who produced only one garbage bag of household rubbish in 4 years between them! Argument sold!
Human default setting – ‘what can this do for me?’
As usual though, humans are often misguided in how they view a new initiative (you may consider the current wave of mindfulness) and Downsizing reinforces this. Humans inevitably take an idea and personalise it to their own situation. We tend to see only our own problems and wonder “is this is the answer?” This seems to be the default setting of the modern human being. We are consumed with the impact on ourselves rather than looking for the common good.
The main characters in Downsizing played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, see themselves caught in a humdrum existence. They are trapped by financial circumstances and so they seek ‘downsizing’ in order to answer their problems. “Downsizing is about saving yourself” they are told by ‘downsized’ friends. They soon find out that ‘downsizing’ will enable them to get all the luxury living they desire. This however is not the scientific goal of downsizing, and so it is bound not to deliver what they so desperately want.
I do my bit
I went to this movie with a heightened curiosity. After all, it appears to be a well-timed political commentary on modern day living. I believe I am conscious of my environmental impact and try to prevent it as much as possible. I recycle and compost as much as I can. I try not to buy bottled water and take my reusable cup to my local café for my hot chocolate. I turn off lights when I leave a room and I don’t leave televisions going if I’m not watching. I pick up other people’s litter on my morning beach walk, amongst other things – I do my bit.
So was this movie going to strengthen my conscientiousness? Was it going to match my values?
Overall, the movie is slow moving. I felt the script didn’t offer the opportunity for us to see Damon explore a character or the issues as we have come to expect of him. It delivers in some respect but it seems to miss opportunities to really hone in on its basic premise.
What imprint am I leaving at this moment?
This film did get me thinking. There are so many imprints we leave everyday not just the important question of “do I reduce, reuse, recycle?” There is an imprint I make with every personal relationship I have, with loved ones. Imprints I leave on work colleagues, social and sporting connections and those I meet for only a few moments in a cafe, the supermarket or on the roads. Am I as kind to them as I could be on each meeting?
Mindful relationships calls on us to be fully aware of the person we are with.
When we are mindful, we can reject the stories and judgments we tell ourselves about what this person is ‘like’. We can let go of expectations about how a communication will go. This letting go allows this interaction to be our experience of ourselves with this person, at this time. For most of us this is a very tall order!
We like to think we ‘know’ exactly what this person is like, how they are alike or unlike ourselves, or how they are going to react. This ‘knowing’ brings about a certain level of security in our relationships. However it can also prevent us from seeing growth or change in people, strongly reinforcing stereotypes, which can be unfair to them and to us.
What imprint am I having on myself?
Another imprint to consider is the imprint I have on myself with my self-talk and my own behaviour? Do I really live true to my values or am I inclined to please others, not be assertive, or not stand up for inequalities?
Am I as kind to myself as I am to others? Do I show myself compassion not only when things go wrong, but in everyday times. Like when I’m getting dressed, what do I hear in my head as I look in the mirror? When I’m talking to someone and referring to my weight/body fat, age, or my grey hair, do I put myself down or refer to these as if they are defects of some kind?
Mindfulness invites me to explore these imprints.
Mindfulness encourages me to observe this moment, and be aware, that some of these imprints keep me fixed, stuck, often in emotional pain, and sometimes distressed.
Mindfulness reminds me that at each moment I have choices. I can choose to be harsh, unkind or judgmental, or I can look at this moment as a new event in my life, with an openness, curiosity and generosity.
With full present awareness and a foundation of compassion I can continue to find opportunities to reduce negative imprints and choose to create positive and generous imprints that enhance everyone’s wellbeing, especially my own.
(not quite a spoiler alert) Just like Damon’s character comes to understand and appreciate – I understand I have choices
I can choose my imprint …what imprint will you leave in this moment, and the next, and the next?
#mindfulness #compassion #selfcompassion #happiness #pospsych #wellbeing