Born in 1971, Levine was raised by his mother in Santa Cruz, seemingly with minimal support from his father, famed new-age writer and meditation guru Stephen Levine. Seeing petty crime and drugs as punk rock, Noah Levine had numerous run-ins with the police before hitting rock bottom at age seventeen following a felony arrest, whereupon he kicked alcohol and drugs and took up meditation. Channeling his passions into proselytizing the virtues of the straight-edge lifestyle (anti-drinking and anti-drugging anyway, though Levine appears to still be a heavy smoker), he set to tagging his city with straight-edge graffiti before again nearly going to prison. Twice on the verge of long incarcerations, Levine again redirected his passions, this time to proselytizing a Buddhist-oriented approach to the 12 steps targeted at disaffected youth. Besides being a highly visible counselor to youth offenders and young-adult addicts, Levine has also published two books recounting his biography and promoting the virtues of Buddhism: Dharma Punx (2003) and Against the Stream (2007).
In her 2007 documentary, now available on DVD from Alive Mind Media, first-time filmmaker Sarah Fisher brings Levine and his message to a wider audience. Alas, while it's no doubt necessary to establish Levine's street cred to skeptical young people who could benefit from his experiences and message, Fisher devotes more than half the 81-minute runtime of Meditate and Destroy to stories of Levine's crimes and addictions, complete with poorly executed video effects including horrendous Second Life animation, and a parade of young people singing his praises. Had I not been watching the DVD for purposes of reviewing it, I'd have gladly fast-forwarded through most of the film's first half.
Fortunately, Fisher finally gets to the meat of Levine's message in the second half of Meditate and Destroy when she provides excerpts of him talking directly to incarcerated teens and young adults in recovery, and explaining his method on a local affairs TV program. Though these excerpts are highly edited, the basic message comes through. Levine teaches Buddhism's Four Noble Truths (Life is suffering; suffering is caused by craving; suffering can be overcome; and, there's a practical eightfold path to the cessation of suffering) which are themselves well suited to recognizing and overcoming addictions, and he further advocates a recovery method which blends non-theistic Buddhism with the 12-steps - in part advocating the insight and tranquility available through the Eightfold Path and Buddhist meditation practice together with the power of prayer, even if the prayer as ritual is divorced from a belief in a god or gods who can respond to such prayer. The impact of Levine's life story and message on the young people he works with appears genuine and significant, leading me to believe that Levine's message deserves the promotion that this documentary is intended to generate.
The audio quality of the 2.0 Dolby Digital track is also fairly good. Though some of Levine's voiceover sounds tinny and distant (perhaps recorded over the phone?), most of the audio is fairly warm and clear.