Captain Fantastic: Living, Breathing Truth
“May the Light bless us all, and make true our tongues,
and truer our hearts, and truest of all our deeds.”
(Alison Croggon, The Riddle, p.64)
The new movie, Captain Fantastic, is fantastic because it actually tells us a story our world needs to hear and see and understand right now. And it tells it to us with beauty, grace, wit, sorrow and keen insight. It is a story about Truth and how we never know what that Truth really is until we fully live it, especially when it comes up against another's Truth.
The cast is amazing as well. Viggo Mortensen is intense as Ben, the father, wholly believing in his philosophy of our modern world. He's the old hippie, unwilling to bend to the world. He's dedicated to enriching his children's minds and hearts and bodies. He's a drill sargent, a college professor, a trickster and a loving father all roled into one character. As I mentioned. Intense. He believes in the rightness of his truth, even when others see it as wrong. He is a revolutionary and he is raising his kids to be revolutionaries as well. When he holds a celebration with his kids, it's called Noam Chomsky's birthday. Every time. Enough said!
The children are all a delight: training, learning, creating, being brave, speaking the Truth. The oldest, Bo (George MacKay ) is brilliant and brave and kind, and yet socially inept for an 18 year old. The two older sisters, Kielyr (Samantha Isler ) and Vespyr (Annalise Basso), both redheads, look and act like sisters, and both take on the older sister mothering role—fierce and creative and wise—very much as I imagine the priestesses of Artemis were back in ancient Greece. The troublemaker Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton ) is just as smart and creative as the others, but the secret Truth he knows is eating him up. The two youngest kids, Zaja, (Shree Crooks ) and Nai (Charlie Shotwell) are still young enough to show us the rigorous standards Ben sets for all of them, regardless of their ages or strengths. And how well they learn and prosper, especially when life, including sex, is explained to them matter-of-factly. Truth is the central value of this amazing family.
And then there is their missing mother. In a fairy tale, when the mother or queen is dead, it indicates a lack of the feeling values of life, the waters of life having vanished. There is something brittle about life without the nurturing Mother's presence. And so it is in this 'off the grid' primal paradise Ben and Leslie (Trin Miller ) created once she's gone. We discover that Leslie is being treated for bi-polar disorder. The kids miss her but Ben is stoic about it; she's sick. A fact is a fact is a fact... But as a astrologer, I'd rather think that she's got some Gemini doubts going on. We find out that she goes back and forth, changing her mind, about the rightness of this life they've created. She gets excited and then depressed about their life experiment. And the writer/director Matt Ross chose a perfect metaphor for the shadow aspect of this rigorous lifestyle—its extreme position gives rise to its opposite.
Every Truth has a shadow. Too rigidly holding to our Truth can hurt and even kill life.
When Leslie takes her own life, Ben and the children leave their Pacific Northwest forest home and travel down to Las Vegas (?) for the funeral. This is the journey and the testing for both Ben and the children. For Ben, we see that his memories of Leslie are all about her love for him. Is this the total truth or just part of it? For the children, we get to see how well they deal with the world their parents left behind. We see how they hold to their father's moral sense of right and wrong by stealing food from a store since there's no game off the roads to be killed and cooked. When they meet their aunt's family, we see the depth of their education and knowledge of life as opposed to two adolescent boys playing their video games and being jerks. As Ben says, his children will be philosopher kings – and queens.
But it's when they get to the funeral that we meet their biggest challenge. Their mother's parents. We've heard that their grandfather, Jack (Frank Langella ) doesn't want Ben at the funeral. So when he shows up with the children, we expect a showdown, which Ben percipitates by reading Leslie's will at the altar, which states she wants to be cremated and doesn't want to be buried by the Church. He is taken out of the church and the kids follow.
But the surprise comes when we see the love Leslie's mother Abigail (Ann Dowd ) has for Ben and the children. And that Jack loves them too. That's why he's going to sue for custody of them. He's worried for their safety. Then Rellian says he wants to stay with his grandparents. He's the most upset over his mother's death and the secret he's carried makes him turn against his father. The secret: that they argued over the life they'd created for themselves and the children. That Ben hadn't listened. And now Mom was dead.
This is what happens when we can't see how our Truth might not be someone else's truth. Perhaps Ben couldn't compromise his truth even though Leslie needed him to hear her. Something about their life was too hard and Leslie couldn't sustain it. But Ben wouldn't listen.
There is a feeling componant that is missing in Ben and his teaching and truth. It's only when the family tries to kidnap Rellian back and Vespyr gets hurt that he understands that his children are vulnerable and could be hurt by his truth. Then he steps away and actually cries for his wife and children. And that's when he gets everything back, even Rellian's love. Because Love is just as necessary as the Truth.
I won't spoil the movie by letting you in on what happens. But I will say that I was living in the desert when they filmed this movie and there's one shot of the night sky that I remember quite well. The Moon, Venus and Jupiter in Leo formed a bright triangle in the sky in June of 2015. Look for it in the movie. It's magical! You might also think about how we express our truth, faith and love in the most generous and open-hearted way. Isn't that what this movie is about?
Speaking of this unusual configuration in the sky, I'd like to speak a bit about how this movie resonants with what's happening in our skies at the present moment. Once again, sychronicity comes into play. As Above, So Below. As Within, So Without.
Whenever we compare the connection between two planets, we talk of cycles because of their orbits around the Sun. Since November 26, 2015 (Thanksgiving), Neptune and Saturn have been at a roughly 90* angle to each other, in what we call a waning square. If you think in terms of the Moon's cycle with the Sun, it is like the last quarter Moon that rises after midnight. At this part of the cycle, we astrologers say that we have to face a crisis in consciousness, an important turning point in our beliefs. We have to look at what we know and believe and see if it's still viable. If you think of the cycle of a plant's life, this is the time when the plant dies and drops its seeds to be the beginning of a new cycle of life. What's important enough to seed the future?
This is what is happening between Neptune in Pisces and Saturn in Sagittarius. Saturn is at its last quarter square to Neptune while in the sign of the Truth-speaker and Truth-seeker. Sagittarius is where we look at Cosmic Law, the foundational truths of the universe we live in. Saturn sets limits and tests us to make us responsible for ourselves and our choices. In Sagittarius, Saturn asks us to stand up for our Truth. For what we really believe in. Of course, it is only our truth, perhaps a part of a larger Truth, so the test is how we use that truth to shape our lives.
Neptune in Pisces invites us into the world of Spirit and the Creative Imagination. On one hand, it takes us deep into the Collective Unconscious, those aspects of collective Life that our culture rejects and ignores, while on the other hand it invites us into the storehouse of Life, the repository of life experiences here on Earth, the Anima Mundi or World Soul.
The aspect between these two planets calls for some kind of action—the action of conscious choice. We can fall into delusions and illusion and martyrdom (Neptune in Pisces) about our beliefs and our truth (Saturn in Sagittarius) or we can open ourselves to new possibilities that our imagination shows us (Neptune again) and find ways to integrate this new awareness and possibility into our belief system (Saturn). That's what Ben ultimately does. He takes in both sides of the story and finds a new balance so the kids get to be both brilliant and socially adept. He does this by bringing in the feminine feelings that were missing before. He listened to his children and saw their needs.
This face-off between Neptune and Saturn is about our apparent reality vs. our true reality. The question is, 'What is true and what is false?', not just about American politicians but about our own lives. Sometimes we hold onto our truth without thought of real-life ramifications, like Ben does. Sometimes we can look at our truth and let our imagination take us to new places and new visions of that truth. Just like Ben does. The lesson of this Saturn/Neptune square is to value both realities and find the transcendent third way that Jung spoke about. It's about finding the balance.
This month of August will bring us face to face with the challenge of this Saturn/ Neptune square, as Mercury, Venus and Mars all come into contact with these energies. How will our minds (Mercury), our hearts (Venus) and our actions (Mars) address our Truth? These planets met for a 2nd time on June 17th and will meet for the 3rd and last time on September 10, 2016. We are faced with the cosmic task of finding and owning our Truth, because the planet is at a tipping point. Will we make true our tongues, and truer our hearts, and truest of all our deeds? This story, like the old mythic stories, can be a guiding light for that task.
Weaving the magical unity of Above and Below, I urge you to go out and see this marvelous film. And then think about your own relationship to your Truth.
From the Bard's Grove,