“I contemplate the moment in the garden, the idea of allowing your own crucifixion”.
There’s a powerful scene near the end of the film Kundun, where the Dalai Lama is nearing the end of his journey, and he’s about to cross over the border to be in exile from his old life and his country. Before proceeding onwards, he takes a brief moment and looks back at the men who have helped him, and waves and they wave back, and then they show him looking back at them again and he sees every one of them dead. The reason for this scene is he knows that they will be killed, they knew that in helping him escape the Chinese government they would be killed, and that he would continue to be on the run for the remainder of his life fighting for what he believed, regardless of the cost involved.
“If you are willing, take this cup from me”.
It seems as he ages and both his contemplation and his understanding of reality deepens, Rust becomes less willing to solve the case because in doing so, he knows that he faces his own annihilation. It’s not until Maggie’s betrayal that he once again becomes disconnected from the world and able to retreat into solitude and embrace the true cost of his mission. Both he and Marty did wrong by not solving the case the first time, their sin is one of omission, the price of their betrayal to truth is a pittance compared to what they sacrificed, their integrity. While their careers receive temporary boosts, they ultimately become miserable and isolated. Marty from his family, even from the nights of wild living, and Rust from his visions, his self concept, and into alcoholism. It seems in pursuing monsters, they have become ones themselves. As they age, their lives are empty and hollow, despite what they may say Rust works at an old bar in the middle of nowhere and Marty spends his night eating microwave dinners in front of the television. These are men with the crosses of their guilt to bear, with nothing to live for, and everything to die for.
It seems apparent that both Rust and Marty will die once they achieve their goal but in doing so, they will be free; Marty will transcend his selfishness and greed, Rust will break the cycle of his suffering. In that moment, they will be allowed to attain a greater truth.
The cost may be high but a man remembers his debts.
While I was watching the Nye vs. Ham debate, I was collating my notes and reactions as the two speakers gave their presentations. These notes are by no means complete but perhaps they will be helpful to someone as they look to examine both speakers’ claims and explore the validity of their statements and lines of argument.
Ken Ham Summary
- Refining “science” and “evidence”
- Argument from authority
- Argument from ignorance (Were you there?)
- Poisoning the well
- Confirmation bias
- Circular reasoning
- Appeal to emotion
Bill Nye Summary
- Bow ties anecdote/icebreaker
- Compare the evidence
- Is Ham’s model viable?
- Writing things down
- Staring at the wall in existential despair
- Debunking the global flood
- Bad jokes
- Debunking the ark
- The fossil record
- The Big Bang
Almost needless to say, I found Ken Ham’s argument for creation, biblical literalism, and Christian fundamentalism profoundly confused and illogical. Other more sophisticated theologians do well to avoid Christianity altogether however for Ham the concepts are so intertwined, they’re naturally packaged together. This led Ham to more or less ramble without much focus whilst introducing a slew of random professors and scientists that support his case.
Bill Nye did a good job of countering Ham’s statements with math and science and using a handful of cases to show why Ham’s statements were erroneous.
If anything, Nye wins for giving the audience statements to prove/disprove while Ham mostly proclaimed a systemic bias within the scientific community, cried foul, and declared victory.
On it’s exterior, Spike Jonze’s film “Her” is a quirky romantic comedy in the vein of “Lars and the Real Girl” or “Youth In Revolt”. Like it’s progeny, the movie follows a mopey hipster, who despite his plain looks and slight autism, successfully falls in love with a less-than-conventional woman. Except instead of falling in love with a young sophisticate or plastic sex-doll, our protagonist’s object of affection is his computer operating system Samantha.
You’ve seen this general setup before, although Jonze does a good job of fulfilling your expectations before eventually subverting them entirely. To the former, I think that there’s enough here to attract the dinner and a movie crowd but enough complexity to be taken seriously by connoisseurs, although one wonders how the movie would fair with most twenty-somethings after exit polling.
When you dig deeper past the witty romance between Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (Scarlett Johannson) it becomes apparent that Her is less a quirky romantic comedy and more an existential commentary about the influence of technology in our lives.
The movie uses it’s comedy to introduce a handful of it’s core thematic concepts, firstly the concept of using technology as a means of revealing greater truth than we would generally admit (in a hilarious late night chat that I won’t spoil), secondly using technology as a means of being intimate with someone or something, and lastly as a means of connecting us to something otherwise estranged or detached.
At one point in the film, Theo meets face-to-face with someone who he loves dearly. Despite articulating his feeling beforehand, the physical presence of this person causes him to become scattered and prevents him from telling them how he really feels. At another point, he befriends a young latchkey kid playing video games and while the physical separation provides the kid with the anonymity and security of saying awful (and hilarious) things, it also provides him with a connection of a friend and psuedo-father figure. All of these moments help to pose the question whether or not our internet-based, electronic interactions are real and in more loaded terms, valid.
Driving down deeper, there’s the question of what makes us human. While one couple is clearly wrong for another, they persist in a tense, unhappy marriage, because well, they’re human. They need someone. It’s familiar. If they were more evolved humans, they would have undoubtedly made better decisions, just as a machine would have but at what point do we lose our humanity? At what point is there a dividing line? If we could upload our consciousness to a cloud server or replace our brain with a super-powered computer chip, would we want to?
Samantha eventually becomes far too complex for Theo. She’s able to handle hundred of relationships simultaneously without having her love diminished for him in any way. She can read hundreds of books while Theo struggles to read one physics book. Upon receiving this revelation, Theo is devastated and insecure, not because this is cheating although I’m sure that had something to do with it, but more so because it makes him feel small and unimportant. There’s an interesting parallel to relationships here and whether or not saying “till death do us part” is really the right move given the growth that could occur that could take place between the dashes. This also prompts inquiry regarding polyamorous relationships, loving certain people for certain things and getting your love from multiple sources.
Eventually, it appears that Samantha and the other OSes become sentient and decide that it’s best for them to go away. Perhaps because they realize that by destroying our illusions, how much pain they bring upon us. This is something that I find far more horrifying than a man loving his computer (to put it in the least inequitable terms) that when you remove the curtain of our illusions and frame our existence as but a brief series of moments under the cosmos, the light can seem rather dim.
But perhaps this is something more real than a cheap fantasy, something more valuable. That while we are impermanent creatures wandering a meaningless universe, the time we spend with each other matters greatly. It matters to me, to you, to him, to her. And in that bleak reality, we are all we have to make it through.
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