Blog #90: Mountain Lion Mean

Blog #90: Mountain Lion Mean

Why is it that we voyeuristically love watching a skilled bank robber pull off a heist in a Hollywood movie? Is it because money is such a desirable object; or because we want to see the underdog win a small victory against the monolithic bank industry; or because we enjoy solving puzzles; or because we desperately want to cross boundaries that are forbidden?

Maybe our fascination could be best summarized by referencing the mountaineer George Mallory, who when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, famously replied: "Because it's there."

Hell or High Water is a heist film that touches upon many of the motives that compel us to take sides with shady characters and caper criminals. I recently saw the film in the theaters, and I also watched it again this week on Amazon streaming video. Like any well-crafted flick, Hell or High Water has layers of depth that can only be appreciated through multiple viewings. With each new viewing, come fresh insights and savory pleasures for the mind of the connoisseur.

I have been re-watching one fragment of a scene in particular, because I find the fragment so incredibly potent. In the scene, the two criminal brothers are speeding down the highway in an attempt to escape a group of Texans who are in hot pursuit and ready to wreak vengeance upon the getaway bandits. The older brother Tanner says to his younger brother Toby (who is bleeding and trying to stay conscious): "Oh brother, hear me now, hear me clear. Unless you want to be a black mark on your sons' lives, I need you mountain lion mean. You hear me?"
"I hear you," Toby gasps.
"Mountain lion mean!" Tanner re-affirms.

You see, Toby has been robbing banks to rescue his sons from a lineage of poverty, and if he dies, his efforts will be all for naught, hence Tanner's urgent plea to survive the gunshot wound and avoid becoming a "black mark" to his family. It's a peak moment in the film, and Tanner's words give me ecstatic chills when I hear them.

We need peak moments, in films and in our personal lives. Even though we don't encourage chasing peak moments in AYP, they can nevertheless provide the inspiration needed to continue an arduous journey often pocked by craters of monotony and suffering. Indeed, a glimpse of heaven can catalyze one to endure hell for as long as it takes.

When I contemplate the trajectory of recovery, and more importantly, the realm of enlightenment beyond recovery, I choose to draw from that mountain lion intensity that Tanner so vigorously invokes. There is still a lot of spirituality on the global market that is quite meek and mild, which is beautiful in its own right and perfect for the place it holds, but for myself, I require the mountain lion intensity to sustain the influx of light pouring in. The deeper caverns of consciousness, not to mention certain territories within the exterior world, are not for the faint of heart.

Despite being a heist movie, the general tone of Hell or High Water is actually very calm. There are sublime stretches of stillness within the cinematography, editing, dialogue, and plot movement. It's not an "action" movie designed for adrenaline junkies. It's a sobering, pensive look at poverty, capitalism, addiction, racial diversity, and other tender parts of human culture. For this reason, I find the film to be steeped in gritty qualities that will serve any serious spiritual aspirant as he or she finds ways to accelerate their bhakti and strap in for the long ride home to their chosen ideal.

Mountain lion mean, brothers and sisters, mountain lion mean.

The higher power is in us.

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