Stories of our Lives

Cloud Atlas

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A complex film that spans five centuries, it puts six distinct stories into our memories, telling them in a nonchronological way so that they seem to swing and sway in our consciousness. Good questions are raised ("If God created the world, how do we know what we can change and what we must leave inviolate and sacred?"); difficult choices are made; and we come away with the realization that, yes, this kind of storytelling is how people learn about the human condition and how to care for themselves and others.

"I would ask you to remember only this one thing," said Badger. "The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memory. This is how people care for themselves. One day you will be good story-tellers. Never forget these obligations." - from Spirituality and Practice review

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Read review from Spirituality and Practice
Read review from Roger Ebert

Questions For Discussion

1. What do we learn about storytelling from ‘Cloud Atlas’?

2. Which of the six narratives is the most compelling for you? Why?

3. Plato said because poets are liars poetry shouldn’t be part of the ‘new republic’. When can stories be like lies?

4. The movie talks about our lives not being our own. How does this affect the stories we tell ourselves and others?

5. In Watershed, we talk about getting the story ‘straight’ before getting the story ‘out’. Why does this matter? Does the movie have anything to say about this perspective?

6. What story is shaping you?

7. Comment on these quotations from ‘Cloud Atlas’:
“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present.
And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the Theory of Relativity and Principles of Uncertainty; phenomenon that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another. Yesterday I believed that I would never have done what I did today... Our lives and our choices, like quantum trajectories, are understood moment to moment. At each point of intersection, each encounter suggests a new potential direction.”

“If God created the world, how do we know what we can change and what we must leave inviolate and sacred?”

“What if no one believes you? Someone already does.”
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