So yesterday I went to see Interstellar. Go see it. It’s hated by all the right people. It was also the first time in years that we went to a movie in a theater and possibly the first time Dan and I went alone since Robert was born. (We used to go out with a group of friends, but that hasn’t happened in a long time. Money. Work. Time.)
Anyway, if I were writing interstellar to order, there would be some different things, some plot points made more explicit, and definitely more of a cigarette moment at the end.
I wasn’t writing it to order. It’s a decent movie and if you’re a regular at this blog, you’ll like it. It makes the choice very stark: stay on Earth, maybe forever, and die. Or go to the stars and live.
In the movie they have a contrivance to make people leave the Earth. Movies are like that, they need immediacy and crisis you can see. But the premise is true, nonetheless. We can stay and die. Or we can leave and live. And the time is getting late.
The decision is made very clear when the school principal tells the ex-astronaut dad that the Apollo missions were faked, a propaganda coup to fool the Russians into bankrupting themselves. We can accept this rewrite of history and these petty, slighting dreams which betray us and all of the human race. Or not.
CC, my eyes on Twitter, sent me the Puffington Host’s scathing view of the movie:
“Let’s create cinematic masterworks that exhort us to cherish the planet we have, and all the wonders upon it, rather than jettison it in favor of new turf to kill.”
Note the double whammy of “let’s not dream of bigger things” and “all humans do is kill.” And note the smug self-satisfaction with it.
Look, guys, I understand why our civilization got shell shocked. The first world war came atop this idea that we were past hatreds and past irrationality, and the new classically liberal brotherhood of man would never have these irrational wars.
And then this war happened, and the press exaggerated it. And it was a war that you could take the train to, a war in our backyard.
The seditious elements among us, the enemies of civilization, starting with the “romantics” who were mostly sympathizers with the old feudal system (or rather dreamers who identified with the feudal lords and the old ways that never were) took advantage of the massive mortality, the emotional wounds the war left, to push their agenda of guilt and self-loathing, which turned into loathing for their culture, their civilization, their world, their species.
Read that line from the Huff Po.
This is not a mature attitude. This is not a sane attitude. Can you see the flouncing around? The acting like “You’re so stupid, duh, you just want to go out and kill other planets. You’re supposed to cherish this one, that is, give up every dream and do what we tell you to, until you’re perfect – PERFECT I TELL YOU – and then you can maybe go off. If we let you.”
This is not a sane view of your own species. This is not a survivable view of your own civilization. You can’t live and grow and expand, and care for the new generations while pounding your chest and shouting “mea culpa.” And worse, it’s never “mea culpa” it’s the pointed finger and “these people who look like me” a definition that can be as narrow as race or as wide as species, when it comes to science fiction, “are evil and I want to denounce them.”
Humanity cannot – will not – survive the continuing mourning for a past that never was; the endless self-denunciation sessions of all that’s human.
Humanity isn’t perfect. Neither are our accusers. We’re all just people. Denouncing your own doesn’t make you better than them: it makes you smaller and petty.
There might be perfect aliens out there in the stars, but perfect according to whom?
I’m human and I love humans – the feisty and the foolish, the brilliant and the broken. Do I love humans in the collective? Oh, not usually, because humans aren’t a collective, they’re a number of fascinating individuals, and a number of boring ones too. They are of me and I’m of them. What are perfect aliens to me or I to them that I should subject myself to their rules for perfection? What do I care if they’re nicer to turf? Turf is maybe in the galactic sense, a cousin, and we’ll likely take it out of this world with us. But my loyalty is to humans, because I’m human. And if humans pass from the universe, something great and important will have died: a curious monkey who dreamed of the stars.
And if we don’t work towards that goal of the stars, we’ll surely let the crepe hangers win. And humans will shamble to their end.
The culture of death and mourning, of denunciation and lamentation is over. I declare it so. It’s by definition a dying culture, anyway, an enshrining of the poisonous social vices of envy and malice, of selfishness and pride (a more forthright age called them sins.) It is destroying humanity because that’s what it’s designed to do.
And it’s over. In its place I choose to believe that humanity exists for a reason; that humanity has a place in the universe; that humanity is not less nor smaller than other races we might meet.
Have we made mistakes? What race, what culture, what individual doesn’t?
But the healthy ones move on and grow up.
It’s time we moved on. It’s time we grew up. A hundred years of crepe hanging and blaming civilization is enough.
Eschew the clichés of “the ape that kills” and “a bad species” and “responsible for extinctions” and “guilty of everything.”
Those of us who are religious know only one creature can judge us, and it’s none of the finger pointers. Enough of the witnesses for the prosecution. Now rises the defense: we’ve nurtured and loved; we’ve created and invented and dreamed. Those of us who are religious know we’re made in His image, and love the image of the eternal even in the ephemeral.
The clay of the Earth we’re made of is the material that made the stars.
We’re made of stars. We’re made of eternal. We’re made of eternity and joy. It’s our destiny to dream and create and reach ever farther.
We’ll shoulder our sins along the way, those sins that are truly ours, those we can hit our breasts over and say “mea culpa” and repent and strive to be better. Everyone and every culture stumbles. The good ones struggle on. We will not accept blame for everything. And we will not accept blame from accusers who admit no guilt, no stain, no brotherhood with us.
The time for mourning is over. The time for dreaming and creating has started. Pull down that crepe and those black curtains. They look ridiculous on the grand edifice of Western civilization.
Tell the finger pointers and self-righteous blamers to take a hike.
However long it takes, however hard it is, however many times we stumble and fall, listen to this and listen well: We’re going to the stars.