“The Men Who Stare at Goats” (2009). Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Stephen Lang, Robert Patrick, Stephen Root, Waleed Zuaiter. Director: Grant Heslov. Screenplay: Peter Straughan. Book: Jon Ronson. www.themenwhostareatgoatsmovie.com.
Author/philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Those are encouraging words for anyone striking out in daring new directions, no matter what field of endeavor. They’re particularly relevant to those embroiled in previously untried tasks, like reshaping the mission of the U.S. military, an undertaking chronicled in the offbeat new comedy, “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”
“Goats” tells the story (or at least one version of it, as discussed below) of the U.S. military’s experimentation with psychic skills (or “remote viewing” as it’s more commonly called) as a new means of waging war and, ironically enough, peace. It’s told through the eyes of reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor), who, after a series of personal upsets, ships out to cover the Iraq war. Through an interesting string of synchronicities, Bob meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a former psychic warrior called out of retirement for a special overseas assignment. Cassady quickly recognizes the significance of the synchronicities and invites Wilton to tag along on his adventure.
While en route to his mission inside Iraq, Cassady recounts the backstory of the psychic warrior program, an initiative spearheaded years earlier by Bill Django (Jeff Bridges), a Vietnam vet who had a mystical experience while wounded in battle. Once recovered, and with his superiors’ blessings, Django received approval to explore the retooling of American soldiers as instruments of peace. After years of studying various Eastern and New Age philosophies, Django developed a program to recruit candidates for his own private band of Jedi warriors, soldiers who earnestly emulated their “Star Wars” namesakes. Cassady, as one of those recruits, quickly embraced Django’s vision and became the program’s shining star. And for a while, all was well—that is until a sinister new recruit, Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey), appeared on the scene. Hooper’s involvement with the program would send it down a disturbing new path, one that would eventually necessitate Cassady’s special mission.
Much has been written about the military’s remote viewing program—a lot of it contradictory—so it’s difficult to know whether the public is being fed carefully managed accurate disclosure, intentional disinformation or some combination thereof regarding this program. In light of that, then, what are viewers to make of this version of the story? Well, I certainly wouldn’t take it as gospel, despite claims to the contrary. However, the film nevertheless raises some valuable ideas about the law of attraction, and, on that score, the picture has its merits.
For instance, the law of attraction maintains that all avenues of existence are open to us and that all we need do to experience them is to choose to explore them. This thus gives license to examine not only the ordinary elements of daily life but also the extraordinary aspects of human potential, and what better examples of the latter are there than those that encourage us to stretch our personal capabilities, such as our psychic skills. (I’m sure Thoreau would approve on this point.)
However, employing such abilities in reality creation can be tricky, because it raises potentially sticky questions about ethics and responsibility (not to mention the fact that it’s like putting our materialization skills on steroids). There’s tremendous power in play here—power that can be used for either beneficial or malevolent purposes, something Cassady personally discovers when asked to use his abilities to kill a goat in a psychic stare-down. Such scenarios force us to ask ourselves, “Where do we draw the line when it comes to using our manifestation skills?” Is it OK to kill a goat but not a human? Are both fair game, depending on the circumstances? Or is it always wrong, no matter what the conditions? Such is the responsibility that comes with this kind of power.
“The Men Who Stare at Goats” is by no means epic filmmaking, but it is a mildly entertaining, moderately thought-provoking way to spend a couple hours at the movies. It strikes a good balance between farce and adventure, with just the right pinch of absurdity thrown in for good measure. Admittedly, the script could stand some judicious trimming of extraneous detail, but the picture is otherwise capably handled in most respects.
Faithfully following one’s own beliefs is at the heart of law of attraction practice, a process that can be difficult when it means breaking ranks with established thought and action. But doing so often brings about some of man’s greatest strides forward; think of the possibilities, for example, if it were applied successfully in matters of war and peace. That might get the goats of those in power who believe they have something to lose, but the rewards could be immeasurable.
Now that’s a new world order worth embracing!
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics, free-lance writer/editor Brent Marchant is the author of Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies (Moment Point Press, www.momentpoint.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to beliefnet.com and to Divine Revolution and Reality Change magazines. Brent also maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema at www.getthepicturebrentmarchant.blogspot.com. He holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.