Richard Linklater: ” I was always intrigued by what people said”

Q: Why is it that your movies are so verbally driven? Almost all of them are built around conversation and speech. Do you see language and verbal expression as the place where we really see who people are?


Linklater : Well, I always thought so. If you look at the world around you, we define ourselves more by speech. I remember Sam Fuller saying, “You don’t talk about things. You show it.” And I said, “He’s right. That is cinema.” But when I turned on the camera, it really was about people talking. That was the world I had experienced. I hadn’t been to a war. I hadn’t been a crime reporter. I was always intrigued by what people said, what that meant about what they were saying, and what that betrayed about them—regardless of whether what they were saying made any sense or not. I had done that first film [It’s Impossible to Learn to Plough by Reading Books] that’s very much a kind of structural thing that was about a lack of communication. And in Slacker I wanted a world where the interior was brought forth—kind of like in theater. That’s just the way it came out once I really started to do stuff that felt personal to me. It was people just rapping, talking a lot, with not much going on, technically speaking. It wasn’t really conscious. I’m not that verbal. I’m more of an observer than a talker. So I was as surprised as anybody, really, that that’s how it came out.

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Wangari Maathai :”if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference

Q: Sometimes people look out at the world or they hear these scary stories about global warming and climate change and it feels so overwhelming, and often times it can make somebody just feel helpless to do anything about it. What can people do to get involved? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a part of the change, but just doesn’t know how they can make a difference?


WM: Well, if we had a lot of time I would give you a story of a hummingbird – I usually give the story of the hummingbird and say that this hummingbird – well, I can’t tell you it all but if you google it you might get that story because I have told it so many times it is now in the Google [note: here is the link]. But it is essentially the story of a hummingbird that refuses to join the rest of the animals when a forest is burning and instead decides to go and bring water from the river, with its little beak, takes a drop of water every time and brings it and puts it on the fire. But the fire is so huge. But the moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter how small the action is, if we all do the little we can, collectively we can make a difference. 

And there are very many little things that we all can do. For example, I learned in America a long time ago, the three R’s, the principle of three R’s – reuse, reduce, recycle. And as I say those words, there are so many things individually we can do to reduce – we don’t need to consume as much as we are consuming. Reduce. And by reusing, we can reuse a lot of things we just throw into the dumpsite. And reduce the production. The more we reuse, the more we can reduce. And in Kenya, one of the ways in which we do that is to promote the use of reusable bags instead of using plastic which is then thrown into the environment, especially the very thin plastic. The other thing that I learned from Japan was that you can also try not to waste, especially people who live in very highly industrialized worlds – they are so wasteful. And we waste because there is plenty. 

And this concept in Japan, by the way, is called “Mottainai” and it is a concept that is based in Buddhism and it used to encourage Japanese before they became so rich – it used to encourage them to be grateful about what they get from their resource, from their world, from their environment – to not waste resources, and to be grateful. And also to be respectful. Respect, be grateful, do not waste. And I was told as the Japanese children would eat rice, even if they left one grain on their plate they would be told by their parents, “Oh, what a mottainai! You finish your food!” And it’s only one grain of rice. So, there is so much wasted of resources where we have a lot of it. 

And let me give you a story – recently I was in the Congo, and I was visiting a very commendable milling factory in the middle of the Congo forest. And that factory is supposed to be harvesting trees sustainably. That is why I had gone to visit them. And they did demonstrate to me how they take these huge, 200 year-old trees, and they actually mark the tree that they are going to harvest. And I was very impressed. But – eventually when we go to the factory, I asked them, “How much of this tree do you use?” And they told me only 35% – the rest is wasted! The rest is put on fire because they have nothing to do with it – they say they don’t know what to do with it, so they allow people to come and burn it into charcoal – literally burning it, reducing it into ashes. That’s waste. So when we say, please do not waste. Be respectful. And be grateful. You know, when I looked at that tree and realized that only 35% will be used, I just thought to myself – what a mottainai! Wasting 65% of a tree that is 200 years old. Honest. 

So there is a lot that we individually can do. In our homes, when we go shopping, as we travel, there is so much we can do. And even though we think that that particular action at an individual level may be very small, just imagine if it is repeated several million times. It will make a difference. So that hummingbird’s actions may look very small, but it is very powerful if it is repeated many million times.

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Eckhart Tolle:”you learn that it is possible to choose to be present rather than being identified with the mind”

Q: Is there anything we can actually do to bring about enlightenment, or is it a state of grace that is bestowed on us, like winning the spiritual lottery?

Global Alliance For Transformational Entertainment's "Hollywood Embraces Consciousness"

ET: Let’s briefly look at what we mean by enlightenment. When you continuously know and sense yourself as the space of consciousness rather than what appears in consciousness – sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions – then it can be said that you are enlightened… except that you wouldn’t think or speak of yourself as ‘enlightened’, because that would instantly create another mind-based conceptual identity and so it would be the end of ‘your’ enlightenment. So, strictly speaking, “you” cannot become enlightened, because who you take yourself to be is like a ripple in the ocean of consciousness – or a little wave if you’re a VIP – and the ripple doesn’t become enlightened until it realizes that its ripple-identity is ultimately a misperception, that it is the ocean taking on a fleeting ripple-form. So, to know its true identity, the ripple first needs to recognize its nothingness. And when that happens, then, paradoxically, it is not the ripple, but the ocean that is awakening!

Now for most people, awakening is a gradual process of disidentification from mental positions, opinions, viewpoints, reactive patterns and so on. What disidentification means is that those things are no longer endowed with a sense of self. This makes life much easier, as you no longer need to defend a mental fiction! The first glimpse of non-identification with the mind and the recognition of yourself as formless presence comes when one is ready. Often suffering is the trigger, or a spiritual teaching, or both. Call it readiness, or grace. This is the beginning of the awakening process. Now, increasingly, an element of choice comes in, and you learn that it is possible to choose to be present rather than being identified with the mind. This is the most helpful way of looking at it, but not the ultimate truth, of course. In ultimate terms, all we can say is: consciousness is awakening, and even that is not absolutely true, in the same way that saying “the sun is rising” is not absolutely true, but implies that the observer’s perspective is limited. So words can only serve as pointers.

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Darren Aronofsky:”when you’re limited by your resources you have to get more creative

Q: Do you think that the “money-first, movie-second” quagmire many young filmmakers must face hinders their creativity?


DA: No, I think it totally expands your creativity. The problem with many big-budget films is that they have the money, and then they’re just walking though the moves. I think when you’re limited by your resources you have to get more creative. Your boundaries create your reality, and within that reality, you try to turn those limitations into your strengths. The bottom line is that if something doesn’t work, you have to cut it. You can’t just say, “Well, it was three o’clock in the morning, and my actor was barfing, and it was cold, and that’s why it looks like this.” You can’t do that. Either it works or it doesn’t work. Period. The end. So we didn’t even want to get into that situation. We basically asked, “What can we do?” And once we knew, we said, “Let’s push it as far as we can and make it as exceptional as we can in that direction.”

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Mirzakhani :”doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight”

Q: What do you find most rewarding or productive?
Maryam Mirzakhani :Of course, the most rewarding part is the “Aha” moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight. I find discussing mathematics with colleagues of different backgrounds one of the most productive ways of making progress.

Charlie Chaplin :”Many a jack-of-all-trades has been mistaken for a genius”

Q: Do you think there is such a thing as a genius?


CHAPLIN:  I’ve never known quite what a genius was. I think it’s somebody with a talent, who’s highly emotional about it, and is able to master a technique. Everybody is gifted in some way. The average man has to differentiate between doing a regular sort of unimaginative job, and the fellow who’s a genius doesn’t. He does something different, but does this very well. Many a jack-of-all-trades has been mistaken for a genius.

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