What is the purpose of life? Are we spiritual beings having a human existence or human beings waiting to become spirits? What are we doing here? Should we allow our fear of the unknown to govern our behavior or is there a greater message, and if there is, what is the best way to search? Can you trust your senses or must you learn to trust in your inner guidance system? Is it possible to separate darkness from light or do each rely on the other for existence? What is the function of society? Bird Box features Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Sarah Paulson, B.D. Wang, Trevante Rhodes, Danielle Macdonald, Machine Gun Kelly, Tom Hollander, and a slew of other recognizable actors. Caution. This article contains spoilers and opinions that you may not agree with. This may provoke thoughts that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.
The film has been panned by critics for leaving pressing questions unanswered, failing to tie up loose ends, and a less than satisfying ending. I thought the apocalyptic drama was rich in biblical symbolism, personal and social psychology, social commentary about the media, and child-rearing. I decided to look at it from a metaphysical perspective in terms of the law of Attraction and explore the contents of Pandora’s Box.
Metaphysical means transcending the laws of nature. That which cannot be seen by the eye. The nature of the mind. A felt sense. The law of attraction is the attractive, magnetic power of the Universe that draws similar energies together. We attract the thoughts, ideas, people, situations, and circumstances we desire even though we may not be consciously aware of these desires. Law of attraction causes whatever you focus to become your experience and attracts more of the same into your experience. Attraction is based on feelings and beliefs. Thoughts manifest into things that match your vibration. You grow more confident in your world view because you are creating more evidence of it. In this way, people who are happy tend to attract experiences that make them happy, while people who are fearful, angry, resentful or sad tend to attract more of those experiences. In cognitive psychology, this is known as confirmation bias. Modern advances in neurology confirm this with the discovery of neuroplasticity. The principal of neuroplasticity says that thoughts affect pathways in the brain. The brain changes as a result of interactions and anticipates more of what has come in the past. If your brain has experienced an environment that is loving and supportive, you will feel loved and supported. If your brain is accustomed to a hostile environment it will anticipate a hostile environment and you will encounter more proof that the world is hostile. Neural connections that are not used are deleted strengthening connections that are used more often. It is easier for our brains to remember than to create. Creation requires discipline and imagination. Our brains adapt quickly for the purpose of self-protection. If we are not encouraged to develop habits which help us create, rather than remember, it is easy to allow our brains, rather than our minds, to lead the way for us. It is difficult, though not impossible to change thought patterns over time. One must compete with the accumulation of old information which interferes with new input. The practice of meditation allows our minds to create rather than remember. It teaches you to manage the static while staying focused on what is intrinsic.
It is widely accepted that the average person uses only 10-15% of their brain. We don’t really think about what that means for the rest of your brain, however it roughly correlates with the part of the mind know as the unconscious. By definition, the unconscious is completely unknown to us and yet is running about 90% of our feelings, thoughts and behavior.
The next thing I’m going to say may stir up some anger in certain readers. I didn’t make up the law, but I do believe it. Law of attraction teaches that everything that happens in your life, does so because on some level, no matter how deeply unconscious, you wanted it to. This is a radical and unpopular feature of the law which states that you are always gathering the cooperative components to create the life you have. Nothing and no one can assert (insert) anything into your experience. You are responsible for all of it. Happiness attracts more happiness, and misery attracts more misery.
If you are seeing things in your life that you are unhappy about, you need only change your thoughts so that you can change your experience. You accomplish this through meditation sometimes therapy in order to slowly turn your attention to things that make you happier. I prefer energy psychology because progressive change can be made with as little attention to the past as possible. Thus creating new neural pathways for the life you want rather than the life you had.
Abraham Hicks, a teacher of the law of attraction uses the analogy of baking a pie. “If you want to bake a pie, you begin by taking out the ingredients you need. You probably have many other ingredients in your kitchen as well, but they have no place in your pie. If you do not want them to get into your pie, simply do not include them. They can’t get into your pie and ruin it unless you put them in. This isn’t just good advice for baking. According to the law of attraction, it’s the key to a happy life. There is plenty of stuff in the world. Both good and bad. You can choose what you focus on and that will become your dominant experience.
“If you don’t acknowledge a thing, it goes away, right” Jessica says of her sister to the obstetrician.
Based on the law of attraction teachings, in the fictional world of Bird Box, the whole world collectively chose that disease. Everyone decided whether or not to look and how involved to get.
The desire to be well informed and relevant drives mass consumption of round the clock news. Social media allows us to share ideas with other people in ways we could never have imagined just 10 years ago. Paradoxically, there is more opportunity to create disinformation, intentionally fake news, and negativity than ever before. Studies have shown that the more we look, the less happy we are. Many successful people say they avoid the news and current events because it takes energy away from things they prefer to focus on. They use their internal vision to create their reality. In a world where the dominant message is to be realistic; to look at reality, Bird Box suggests that it might have its own consequences.
The post-apocalyptic psychodrama is set in current-day California and covers a five year period in which the film straddles in two main settings; A suburban home at the center of a global crisis, and a dangerous river that must navigate to reach nirvana.
Sandra Bullock plays Mallory; a pregnant woman with no particular maternal instinct or interest in motherhood. We meet her in her artist studio. This is her haven from the disappointment of the outside world where she paints portraits of lonely people and laments a recent breakup.
She describes herself as being “raised by wolves” by a philandering cowboy father and a mentally ill mother. Her sister Jessica seems more perky and hopeful but it’s superficial. She resists attachment to people in favor of horses. The sisters gaze at her unfinished painting and Mallory offers an explanation which gives some insight into the movie’s direction. She says “it’s not about loneliness, it’s about peoples’ inability to connect. She is unable or unwilling to bond with anyone, including her baby.
From the start, the sisters are set up as polar opposites but they are really opposite sides of the same coin. I was curious about the names so I looked them up. “Mallory” is derived of a French surname that means unlucky or unfortunate one. “Jessica” means rich one or beheld by God. It’s hard to know which is lucky and which is unfortunate as the plot unfolds.
The sisters learn of a phenomenon spreading through Russia and Eastern Europe on the news which causes people to kill themselves. This introduces the idea into the collective unconscious. Ideas have a way of taking hold and developing a life of their own. Thoughts become things. As people learn of the phenomenon, they are affected by it. The viewer gets no information about how or why this is happening. We are all left to draw our own conclusions, fill in the gaps with our imaginations as we desperately seek a way to make order out of chaos.
“It” is described only as a dark force that takes the form of your worst fears. We are told what it isn’t; a virus or bio-toxin, but we never find out what “it” actually is. There are no actual interactions with the supernatural force. “It” is interpreted for us as the rustling of leaves, barely audible voices and the agitation of birds who can sense it. The Chinese have a theory of nature called Xìngzhì 性质 which means “what happens of itself”. This perfectly explains the phenomena being played out.
All death is suicide. – Abraham Hicks
Like all thought forms, it doesn’t take long for the phenomena to spread to their area. Cars start crashing, people are confused and killing themselves all around, just seconds after being overcome by the unseen force. We learn that whatever “it” is, once you see it, it takes the form of your worst fear and urges you to kill yourself. Just looking at “it” will kill you.
Mallory is saved by a woman who sees she is pregnant and rushes to her aid, only to succumb to the voice of her mother urging her to get into the driver’s seat of a car engulfed in flames. Mallory doesn’t make it to safety because of the woman who rushes to her aid. She makes it in spite of her.
We later learn she was Lydia; wife of the ornery Douglas played by John Malkovich. He is obviously distraught over losing her and blames Mallory for her death. He is a closeted alcoholic and neighborhood bully who prefers to tend to his own best interest. Douglas is suing his neighbor, Greg and his partner (played by BD Wang) over a home remodeling project. The project is symbolic because it would demolish of an old historic part of the house and replace it with a modern glass enclosure. This is a social commentary about the visibility of homosexuality and gay marriage. It speaks to the rejection of a progressive agenda. Douglas objects to the project on the basis that he doesn’t want to have to look at it. This is one of many references the movie makes about what we choose to look at or decide to block out of our experience.
The survivors end up sheltering in Greg’s home. Greg is smart and optimistic. He is a trailblazer. He devises theory that if you look, indirectly, through a translated medium such as video camera, you will be safe because the lens translates the picture without you directly experiencing the reality. Sadly, he is wrong and quickly driven to a fatal head injury. Douglas reacts with smug self-righteousness and avoids the human impact of the increasingly grim situation. There are two kinds of people, Douglas quips; the assholes and the dead. To him, being an asshole is the key to survival. As rations run low, survivors grow increasingly paranoid and anxious. The survivors maintain their humanity even as fear of the unknown grows to nightmarish proportions. This makes them relatable to the audience. In the five year span in which the film takes place, they never run out of food and except for one scene, there is no discussion of food insecurity.
Charlie, the anxious supermarket clerk has been studying demons online and is writing a book about the end of the world. Charlie is para-suicidal. He is so anxious about death that he rushes to protect his fellow survivors, knowing that it will mean swift and certain death. He wants to get it over with to end the anxious suffering he lives with.
Young, sheltered Olympia lets Gary in off the street because she is compassionate and trusting. She relates to his cries for help because she was also on the outside until she found her way to safety with the others.
Gary is the latecomer to the house. His appearance offers some insight into how some people are able to look without dying. He explains to the survivors that the house he was sheltering in, was broken into by a group of patients from a forensic psychiatric hospital. They didn’t wear blindfolds but somehow survived. They forced open the eyes of the people in the house “so that they could see the beauty” and end their lives. Gary managed to escape. But, Gary is able to look. He hasn’t been blindfolded. It’s tempting to ignore that at first, as the survivors do. We quickly learn his true nature as he devolves into a sociopath who forces some of the remaining survivors to look.
The audience is left to draw their own conclusions about survivors who see but don’t die. These characters are portrayed as either evil or mentally ill. Could the writer be suggesting that these people have already lived through hell on earth? Is their vibration is already so low, that they match ‘it’? They are not murderous in the normal sense of the word. They force others to look in order “to see the beauty,” which of course brings about their death. What beauty are they seeing? The viewer never finds out. We are left to explore our own feelings about life, death and the afterlife.
At a certain point, I found myself wondering why Mallory wants to go on living. Is she so resourced and determined because of her strong will or because she’s so afraid of what comes after? Can she protect the children without allowing herself to love them? What kind of a world is she preparing them for? In order to protect them, she must teach them the world is a dangerous place that must be blocked out. She must teach them to be blind and ignorant of the outside world. This all begs the question, what is the point of living? If the things we must do to stay safe and avoid death prevent us from actually enjoying life, what purpose is served by living? Whether physically or symbolically, our worst fears always lead to death. Happiness is contained in the moments when we are not focused on the negative.
Tom represents the eternal optimist in the group. He is hopeful, not reactionary. During an argument with Mallory, he says “life is about more than what it is, it’s about what it could be”. Tom has hope for the future. He says, “you have to believe in something”. “What’s the point of living if you’re only surviving.” “You must have dreams that may never come true.” She just seems intent on living for the sake of living; too fearful to form any attachment or true love. They are yin and yang. Mallory represents traditionalist, while Tom represents progressivism. She is a survivor. He, a caretaker. Each arguing the necessity of their role. Neither can dominate or else balance is lost. The characters each represent a single personality trait. The one-dimensional nature of the characters tells us that each is not greater than the sum of its parts. It allows for the subtext of the story to be developed as each are dependent on all.
After 28 hours in a rowboat on the river, blindfolded and attacked by others who want her to look at the light, Mallory is tested in the forest. The voices try to deceive and convince her and the children to take off their blindfolds. She is chased and tormented. She must block out the outside noise and trust her own inner guidance system. The film ends with Mallory and the children, whom up till now have only been called boy and girl, finding their way to Rick, whose name means brave ruler. He is the head of a school for the blind. Safe inside with the other blind people, and for some weird reason, her obstetrician, she is able to name the children. She is able to settle birds free because she no longer requires their guidance. She has mastered how to guide herself. She has reached the safety of nirvana because she learned to love. Prior to that, she was protective of the children but distant because her fear of loss was too great for her to manage. When she is unable to choose between her biological child and the other, she masters love. Over time and through personal tribulation she has learned to trust and love. She becomes part of something bigger than herself which she must care for. She puts faith in the idea that Rick exists and that it’s possible to make it to him safely. Love raises her vibration to a level that matches those of the survivors and she is able to reach them.
It’s perfectly clear that the world is going to hell, the only possible chance that it might not is we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so” -Robert Oppenheimer
Fear of death is universal. The concept of an afterlife in terms of a single enteral existence is Christian in nature. The worlds’ religions create epic promises about the afterlife and a roadmap to the obedient about how to reach heaven. Since the beginning of time, people have predicted the end of the world. Many Christians believe there will be a rapture, in some cases, pre-rapture, (ascension) tribulation, and eventually the second coming of Christ. Cryptic passages in the bible imagine what the end of times will be like. As far as I could gather from a brief online search, the rapture will simply “disappear” the believers. Those left behind will endure an undetermined period of tribulation or great suffering. Foreign policy is currently being created with an eye to the bible. The intention is to steer toward what some believe the bible says in order to bring it to fruition. Youtube prophets forecast the end to anxious followers. Scientists search desperately for other planets to inhabit after this one is no longer viable. There is mass consciousness focusing on the end of times. There is also mass consciousness on awakened self-guidance.
The movie opens a few theoretical doors for the viewer to walk through. “It” is a symbol of our collective fear of death. The movie uses sight as the gateway to ascension. It is portrayed by horrible graphic suicides, chaos, and destruction. Is this phenomenon representative of the Biblical idea of rapture or mass ascension to heaven. Certainly, this is not the way most have been taught to imagine that concept. Are the survivors being tested as the bible suggests the tribulation will test or is the movie merely commenting on the nature of life? Is life meant to be anything more than a tormented struggle? What would be the point of that? It would much easier not to exists at all. Is it possible to create your own reality without attention to outside influences and can you trust your senses in order to create your own reality?
The goody goodies are the thieves of virtue because they do things in the name of God and it turns them into monsters. – Alan Watts
Then there is the question of the do-gooders. Every do-gooder in the movie perishes. The savior-characters like Lydia and Olympia feel compelled to rescue others out of a sense of duty and compassion maybe even guilt. But their attempts ultimately fail. One could argue the fanatics who force you into seeing things their way are doing what they think is best. Greg martyrs himself in the name of experimentation for the good of the whole but fails. Charlie rushes in to protect the others only because he must abate his anxiety about the future. There are no clear heroes in Bird Box. Mallory lives a sad life of paranoid fear but manages to live within her value system and protect the children whom she learns to care for.
In a world so focused on safety is it preferable to live fast and hard and burn out quickly or lumber along slowly and cautiously for a long time? The answers to those questions are a matter of personal preference. It’s impossible to say whether it’s better to burn out quickly like Jessica, or allow your impulse to help others end tragically like Lydia. You may be a renegade risk-taker like Greg. Or a strong optimist like Tom. You might want to hold on for dear life like Mallory no matter how difficult it is; uncertain of the future but afraid of the unknown. The choice belongs to each of us. Whichever way you look at it, you will find evidence to support your belief system.
In the end, the survivors are those who do nothing to help others except exist and remain available to be discovered by those who are brave enough to find them. They see nothing, do nothing, and preach nothing. They are simply there to be found if one chooses to find them.
The threat is invisible because it is inside each of us. The law of attraction assures us that nothing and no one can assert anything into your experience which you do not invite. In Bird Box, as in reality, the individual can only act against himself. In a world where we are statistically safer than ever, somehow there is a collective fear for safety. Somehow we feel less safe.
More than ever, we are bombarded with news, thought, and opinion about what is right to believe and what is wrong. Every conceivable point of view is represented and shared. Computer algorithms ensure that you see more of the news you look at. The more you look, the more you see evidence for the point of view you already hold. People who do not share your point of view seem increasingly brainwashed, stupid and even dangerous. This adds to the culture of tribalism.
Like the characters in Bird Box, would we be better off not looking at the things which cause fear and anxiety? Does limiting exposure to the problems in the world lead to happier lives. Research seems to suggest it does. Research on the subject of happiness suggests that spending less than two hours a day online or engaged in social media is correlated to greater subjective experiences of happiness than more than 2 hours. If we stop focusing on death and destruction but instead turn our attention to our connection to others, and our inner guidance system can we collectively get back to appreciating the abundance which is all around us? If we insist that love becomes the dominant guiding force in our lives, darkness doesn’t stand a chance. I think Mallory represents all of us. Spiritual beings choosing to have a human experience for the purpose of expansion and joy. [I believe] we decide what to include in our experience in order to learn the lessons we need to grow. We choose the obstacles so that we can learn to navigate them. We choose to make life interesting. We grow in the direction of what we focus on, ultimately in search of the elusive unconditional love that will make sense of everything. Mallory’s journey is complete when she is able to trust herself, trust Tom, have hope for the future and love both children equally in spite of the danger that lurks all around, all the time. Only then is she free from the fear that holds all of us back from the happiness that is also all around us all the time.