Recent posts have centered around film, NASA and pipesmoking. Well last night I found a little tidbit that ties them all together. I don’t have cable TV or any streaming services, so if I find myself without a DVD from Netflix, I’ll sometimes walk to my local thrift shop and “rent” a movie, just like in the old days of neighborhood video stores. You see, they cost $3 to buy, which is what they cost to rent back in the day. I’ll watch the movie and then redonate it to the thrfit shop, hence the term “rent” instead of purchase.
Since seeing “Star Wars” at age seven I’ve been a fan of most things set in outer space, so I’m sure I’d seen 1997’s “Contact” before. But I didn’t remember it, and the box description was intriguing given my recent personal developments. The movie centers around a scientist and priest debating the origins of God and the universe. At one point, there’s the most astonishing exchange of dialogue. Jodi Foster plays the scientist skeptic lead, and says that all her life she’s been seeking a deeper meaning and connection with the cosmos, an explanation for why we’re here. And yet she requires evidence of an alien civilization from across the galaxy to “prove” to her that there is something greater than herself! I’ve been teasing out my Trad Man project recently, and Foster’s character is symbolic of everything we’ve lost under the mass seduction of science over the past few centuries. Why cross the galaxy when all you need to do is close your eyes and “search your feelings,” to borrow a line from “Star Wars”?
In the end she does travel across the galaxy and indeed encounters an alien civilization. But she returns to Earth without the proof she had heretofore demanded in all such matters. And so she discovers that there are things that can be known and experienced, and thus are true from the point of view of the deepest parts of ourselves, but which cannot be proven according to scientific methodology. This is the beginning, for her, of understanding gnossis, or what Carl Jung means when he says, “I don’t need to believe in God, I know“:
To return to tying all our recent themes together (hey, Jung was a pipesmoker!), Jodi Foster’s team of astronomers in “Contact” are searching for extraterrestrial signals. One of the members of her geek squad, played by Geoffrey Blake, is a true prep — a far cry from those NASA nerds with their white shirts and pocket protectors. He wears horn-rimmed glasses and smokes a pipe, and in one scene wears a fun shirt, khakis and tassel loafers, no socks. Just imagine what aliens would think of that getup! — CC