PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

Jeff Bridges on Emerging Ideas About Life

Jeff Bridges (Source: Living in Future's Past official website)

Reflecting on Susan Kucera's new science documentary, Living in the Future's Past, Bridges ponders new ways of thinking about who we are.

Director Susan Kucera's documentary, Living In the Future's Past (2018), produced and presented by Jeff Bridges, is an exploration of our human ontology. Sharing the screen with thinkers and scientists, including: Timothy Morton, author of Being Ecological (MIT Press, 2018), Leonard Mlodinow, physicist and author of Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change (Bantom, 2018), Daniel Coleman, author of Emotional Intelligence (Bantom, 1995), and the recently deceased scientist and astronaut Piers Sellers, Bridges engages in a discussion that offers a new way for us to think about our planet and our relationship to it.

In conversation with PopMatters, Bridges reflects on the personal resonance of the documentary, the concept of time and truth, and the heartening ideas of Buckmister Fuller.

Timothy Morton (Source: Living in Future's Past official website)​

From before participating in the documentary to now, what have you taken away from the experience that is continuing to influence your perspective?

One of the interesting things was the concept of emergent behaviour. That was new to me. I've been fascinated when I've been skin diving, where there have been shoals of fish, or watching flocks of birds, starlings, and how they flock together like that. [In murmurations.] How do they know to move like that? Why are they moving?

So by learning about what emergent behaviour actually is, this idea that there is a super organism, a larger entity that is made up of smaller little bits, and an ant for instance isn't an ant hill, but you get a bunch of ants together and pretty soon boom, you've got an ant hill. This idea of super organisms and emergent behaviour, looking at our own species, you can see that we are a kind of super organism that has gone haywire, that is devouring its home-base, its planet.

An aspect of being a human being is we have imagination, and we have the capacity to curb our desires and have a longer view, and that's of the things we have got to work on -- this long view. This is one of the things the movie points out, that the long view is also looking back, seeing what makes us tick, why we behave in the way we do.

So that was one thing I learned from the movie and also about this oil we've got, this toxic, precious oil that's under the ground that we've been using rather capriciously, when we should be -- and this is my view -- using it to create an alternative system that is more sustainable. We are going to need that power to do that.

The concept of time for the Incas was of past, present and future running in parallel, which contrasts to our notion of time. Is our perspective too chronological and would seeing time in more flexible terms be to our advantage?

I don't know if time even exists. I'm a big fan of the present moment, and the past, it is all very dreamlike; it all seems pretty dreamish to me at the moment. When you really get down to it there's no now. As soon as you say "now", that's gone, that's the past. It's really tricky stuff, time, so I just think you do the best you can do with what you have at the moment.

Alongside time, there is the Buddhist idea that there is no such thing as truth. Would you agree that these terms are oversimplifications of a world that is decidedly more complex?

Yes, I do. I like that objective ontology, which was something that I learned from the film, too. I thought that was fascinating, how basically everything is valued the same from the perspective of the universe, or whatever you want to say. But as individuals we create importance and it's interesting how things turn out.

What is the critical mass that's created by our emergent behaviour as a species? I think a lot of this kind of thinking is pretty new and you're throwing it into the cauldron to see how that's going to effect the outcome. I wouldn't say I'm hopeful, but I would say that I'm on the side of lets create a beautiful thing, a beautiful place to live. Everyone's got their own idea of that.

Are you a fan of Buckminster Fuller?

Bucky Fuller was an inventor, a scientist, and a philosopher. His most famous invention is the geodesic dome. He's a wonderful example of how individuals affect society. He paints a picture of a giant ocean-going tanker and the engineers were challenged by how to turn the rudder, to turn the ship. They found that huge rudder took too much energy and so they came up with a brilliant idea of putting a small rudder on the big rudder, and they call that small rudder a trim tab. So that little rudder, the trim tab, turns the big rudder and the big rudder turns the ship.

Bucky says that in fact we are all trim tabs. We are all attached to large groups of people, who have other talents than our own and who might be more powerful than us. This is how we can affect society, by our little rudder turning the larger rudder, and that rudder turning the ship.

On his gravestone he has engraved: Call me trim tab [laughs]. He says we are all trim tabs and that's a very heartening idea to me, and I try to live my life according to that.

I'll brush up on Bucky.


Oh, he's a brilliant guy. Oh man, you'll see. He's no longer around, but he's got great videos and I just recently participated in a documentary on him. He's a wonderful guy and he had a very famous book out in the sixties called Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968).

One of the more optimistic feelings I have is how, as individuals, we can feed into a shared discussion and construction of a shared knowledge. Sadly, politics and economics create borders or divisions, but in spite of these we have an opportunity to find unity.

It's funny, I don't know why I'm so resistant to declaring myself as an optimist or a pessimist. I guess this sounds weird and I hope you don't take it the wrong way, but I'm a lover, man! I'm not a optimist or a pessimist. I'm a lover of the mystery of what is, of what's going on and it's interesting how it moves me, and how I respond to that love.

Living in the Future's Past is released theatrically in the US on 5 October 2018 in New York, Los Angeles, and markets by Vision Films and Trafalgar Releasing, with a nationwide event theatrical release on October 9 2018. For more information visit: www.livinginthefuturespast.com.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.