I seriously enjoyed the Netflix original The OA. I honestly think everyone would benefit from watching it. Why is it so important you ask?
Because it makes you think.
I have always had a spiritual side to me, a side that believes that there is always a meaning behind things, a purpose. For thousands of years human beings have pondered their own existence, and what our own mortality means in relation to this. In my opinion, organised religion is something that materialised so humans could try and reconcile these existential issues. But even before the creation of organised religion and since, philosophers, artists, poets, they have all attempted to answer the biggest question we can all ever expect to ask: why are we here?
When I was 14, I watched Donnie Darko’ for the first time; it was like this whole other world and set of ideas and thoughts about the universe revealed itself to me. I asked myself, what if there really are parallel universes? Different dimensions? Two or three years later I was up late one night, still thinking over and over these ideas. In a notebook that I still have, I drew out my thoughts in a diagram.
Last time I was back home in Hull I looked over these pages. On one page there are three cylinder like shapes running vertically alongside each other, underneath it there is another almost identical diagram but instead of being straight the cylinders are wavy and there are points along them where they touch the cylinder parallel to it. Next to these diagrams – in a delirious, 3 AM state – I had written,
“What if parallel universes have points along their timeline where they’re closer to one another? Is this when we can travel? Maybe when someone dies, they’re at a point in their universe that is close to another and their soul or conscious whatever, can travel on, or come back as someone else? Or maybe they can get stuck and that is how ghosts and spirits happen.”
Now, I don’t put any stock into these late night (or early morning) ramblings but when myself and my boyfriend Jordan started watching The OA, I immediately thought of this.
When Prairie/The OA/Nina (as she was called as a little girl in Russia) tells the story of her first NDE (Near Death Experience) and emerging into Khatun’s dimension, which looks like a cosmic version of Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Room’ installation, we are immediately thrown into this world of possibility. Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij’s The OA is facing the issues that poets, philosophers, artists, theologians, prophets and humans as a whole have thought over for as long as we have been conscious; and they’re facing it head on and with new eyes, with a story for our time.
After I finished The OA, I spoke to my Dad for over an hour about it on the phone (he’d also finished it around the same time), we discussed the idea of ‘The Collective Consciousness’, a sociological idea introduced by sociologist, Émile Durkheim to demonstrate the set of ideals and beliefs that drives a society. We also talked about the ‘Collective Unconscious’, a term that the Psychologist Carl Jung coined to explain the things that we as humans share and experience on an unconscious level; such as fears, desires, questions, experiences. Within this discussion we hypothesised over the idea of certain stories that need to be told. Just as we as humans have a collective consciousness and a collective unconscious, the stories we tell become part of this spiritual and psychological ecosystem. There are stories and themes that appear throughout history, mythology and religion. Look at the story of ‘Orpheus and Eurydice‘, it has similarities with the Japanese myth of ‘Izanagi and Izanami‘ and even more interesting, you can draw pretty convincing comparisons with the story of Sodom and Gemorrah and Lot’s wife in the Bible. A very similar pattern can be seen with Noah’s ark and Gilgamesh; what we can deduce through these stories that appear throughout time is that the nature of them, and the human experience at the heart of them is central to how we process our existence, or how we did at that time.
Previously, I’ve talked about how there was this sense of familiarity with the story being presented to us in The OA and that it felt weird, kind of uncanny. I have spoken to other people, including my dad, who have had a similar reaction to The OA and I think it has something to do with this idea of the collective consciousness/unconscious. The group of Steve, French, Buck, Jesse, BBA and Prairie/The OA brings together all the parts of a society in 2016/2017 that could and almost should be more connected, informed, open and accepting than ever; and yet we are isolated, alone and disillusioned with the world. The OA’s story offers us more. It tells us we don’t have to be alone, we can change things, we don’t even necessarily have to be here, in this dimension. It’s a kind of understanding and spirituality that we are craving for now. Myself and so many others, have clearly been affected by the series, in the best way possible.
So, thank you Zal, Brit and Netflix for telling a story that needed to be told.