Sunday, May 29, 2005

A wonderful movie is out on DVD that I think all families — but most especially home-schoolers — should make part of their video libraries. “What the (Bleep) Do We Know!?” is an amazing exploration of the dizzying realities of atomic structure, the nature of matter, the interaction of cells within the body, the way the mind perceives stimuli and, ultimately, how thought creates reality.

This film is hard to categorize. At first, it might seem like a New Age documentary. Then it starts telling the story of one character, Amanda, a photographer whose marriage was dealt a heavy blow by her husband’s infidelity. No sooner do we get involved in her story, however, than we are swept into animation about the way the brain processes information and the various reactions caused throughout the body.

The film is interesting from an educational standpoint because it introduces concepts from diverse fields, from quantum physics to biochemistry to spirituality. A dozen scientists and specialists are interviewed during the film, each testifying to some of the amazing paradoxes within their fields.

Then, in an unexpected animated sequence, Amanda’s story takes off in another direction as her cells are shown doing a wild boogie, which is interspersed with a polka in the real-world Amanda’s life. Another sharp turn, and the film shifts into a scene of self-hatred and low body image for the hung-over Amanda. Suddenly, a dripping faucet turns the mood around yet again, to one of self-acceptance and peace.

Despite the roller-coaster plot and the mixed media of the film, the story hangs together as solidly — and mysteriously — as atoms and molecules themselves. The central theme that emerges is the power of thought and how each of us is creating his or her own experiences rather than being a mere responder to various random events.

This is something new — entertainment that is intellectually stimulating and invites us to become co-explorers of territory that has puzzled and tantalized some of the greatest minds of our time.

In one of the central sequences of the film, the idea of how thought affects something as basic as a molecule of water is explored. The way our thought energy can affect just one element is vividly depicted, and along with the character of Amanda, we find ourselves realizing that negative thoughts are such a normal occurrence that we must constantly be filling the natural world with mental pollution. One scientist even refers to all the signs of aging as being the accumulation of such toxic energy upon our body tissues.

One family that has viewed this film a few times reported that their college-age son was so deeply moved by the film that he began looking into pursuing some of these topics in his college studies and eventually decided to switch colleges to explore these themes further.

Home-schoolers especially will enjoy this film because it creates so many starting points for more questions to be asked, and that curiosity always leads to active learning. This is the kind of film parents and children can watch together and pause to discuss certain issues, then start again after the discussion.

A search of the Internet turned up multiple sites where the film can be purchased. The film also seems to have sparked a number of offshoots: discussion groups, conferences and books. The film’s official Web site is

Education begins with the same questions, which have been asked by nearly everyone at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? How can I be happy? This film stimulates watchers to consider those questions anew and to recognize that we are not merely the spectators in this world, but the co-creators of what is going on around us, in every way imaginable.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a free-lance writer who lives in Maryland.

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