I felt the call to watch it again recently, then I read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness….Where is that place at the headwaters of the river in my life. Where did Kurtz go? The book and movie is a metaphorical map that is both factual in that it takes place in space/time, but it also takes place in that intermediate zone where our known and unknown meet..at the headwaters of our own mind, the mysterious place where our river of life is created…what is the wisdom hidden there?
I was watching an Anthony Bourdain adventure to the headwaters in the Congo to visit a remote tribe, and they had a feast where as guest he had to kill the pig. Oh…the terror, the terror of life eating life to life. Is life death? Is death life? Are they the same? One or two?
Did our hero have to kill Kurtz to live? Was Kurtz the sacrificial animal? Kurtz was the fisher king in the Romance of the Grail; he had the wound that would not heal. When Percival won the grail and healed the Fisher King, he did not take on the wound of the king. He because the king without the ground. Did our hero in the movie take on the wound of Kurtz when he went back into society? Did he have a boon? Had he won enlightenment like Indiana Jones at the headwaters of his mind. What was the act that healed the wound?
Watching this clip I thought I was watching the Sky People slaughter the Navi in Avatar with their flying machines. The American inaction of Vietnam was an America Myth or Story of itself being superimposed over a jungle. The Triumph of American Will. What was real to the Americans was their Story or Myth (the Stench of Lies) not the destruction of human life. Reality was bent by the myth of the Story.
The same thing is happening today with Trump and the GOP. The Myth of the American Savior Party, the Triumph of Will, is being superimposed over the real ground of America, so in order that the Myth to be true, America must be destroyed like Vietnam. When your story is about the Triumph of the Will, a savior complex, there has to be an enemy to fight. This is the Don Quixote syndrome. The dragons are really just windmills. You own people become your enemy so you can save them.
This morning I see Apocalypse Now in a new light, the NOW light. Life is always a contest between our story of life and real life, between the unreal and the real. We fear the Apocalypse, we welcome the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is ambiguous, two faces of the same coin. Life is death; death is life. Ambiguous isn’t it…and that’s the Terror…the Terror of Kurtz.
Ah…another insight. Our hero is assigned the duty of killing Kurtz. How does he do that. He is Arjuna in the Gita, a warrior who has doubt about his role because the cause or the war is ambiguous; you kill you family as well as your enemy. So Arjuna quits and seeks wisdom at the headwaters of his being, Krishna.
In the end our hero rises out of the river reborn. He now kills Kurtz cleanly, without doubt and confusion; he does his duty and returns to the madness with wisdom, whole and human.
Apocalypse Now has many metaphorical layers; it’s a Realization Feast. But you can only go as deep as you are ready for, a depth that you will accept. You only get the teacher (teaching) you deserve. If you cup is full, you can’ pour anything else in it. This movie is meant to empty your cup. Can you go to the Terror, the Terror in. your own well? Can you go the center of the labyrinth of you mind where the Minotaur lives? Can you kill the Minotaur, Capt. Kurtz? Can you get out of the labyrinth alive, or do you wander in the maize for the rest of your life, many more lives, perhaps? Can you kill your own Pain Body, Capt. Kurtz the Minotaur within? So many insights to discover in this movie that is a metaphor not only for our collective mind now, but you who are also Now.