Having caught Christopher Nolan’s very worthy Interstellar last week, I’m interested to see that a lot of the (very good) discussion of the film’s effectiveness is taken in terms of the accuracy and faithfulness of its science. Perhaps because I’m not much of a fan of hard science fiction as a genre, I lack the enthusiasm for wrestling with the large-scale philosophical problems it excels at explicating, but I find this approach a little obtuse.
Just as I think one misses the central point of The Dark Knight by treating it as a comic-book movie rather than an examination of the moral problem of what to do in the face of evil that refuses to instantiate the post-modern wish that all “issues” are negotiable, I think one misses the point of Interstellar by examining the hows of the astronauts’ galactic peregrinations, fascinating and amazingly depicted though they are. I’m going to write a little elliptically here, in case anyone hasn’t seen the movie, whose twists and turns are worth experiencing first hand.
Interstellar (“between the stars”) seems to me to be about a topic that no one ever mentions in the movie. A central mystery in the movie—never solved, so no spoilers here—is why an escape-route wormhole has appeared near Saturn to help humanity flee a dying Earth.
The closest guess anyone provides in the movie is a super-evolved race of future humans who’ve mastered time and exist in five dimensions. Ok, fair enough, and we can’t rule that out, though there’s no direct evidence for it.
What I find very interesting about the movie is that the events clearly do rely on the existence of a being or beings outside our three dimensions with whom all time is either coterminous or instantly accessible (one astronaut experiences an extremely cool, if disorienting, version of what such an experience might be like for a three-dimensional being like ourselves to experience). So, that’s Clue #1 as to who opened the wormhole.
Second, a character argues forcefully that love is a reality that, while unaccounted for by traditional science, similarly possesses being and efficacy outside time and space. The character’s argument is received respectfully but the decision is made on more formally logical grounds. However, the movie repeatedly validates the character’s intuition, and in the end it turns out the argument from love would have achieved better ends than that from reason and authority. In Interstellar at least, love appears to be an integral part of the ground of being, though outside the scope of science, much like the beings in Clue #1. Love foundational to reality becomes Clue #2.
Third, the being or beings’ interest in saving humanity is not merely general. Nolan clearly disapproves of such utilitarianism: one character is described as having lost his humanity in coming up with a technical solution for the species that leaves billions to die. The beings, it turns out, are intensely interested in particular human beings, shown dramatically with their long-term attention to one who ends up as an unlikely savior of the world when receiving and interpreting scientifically unobtainable data through an extremely unlikely act of revelation by the medium of a self-sacrificing parent. And the beings go out of their way to carefully return to the three-dimensional universe of the living another character who has left it and should by all rights be dead, returning him, moreover, in an exact moment and place where he will be discovered and rescued. So, Clue #3.
As Gormogon readers and minions, you see what I’m getting at. Nolan’s gripping sci-fi adventure points, however indirectly, towards the existence of Intelligence(s) outside time and space (though able to enter and affect it); Love as a similarly constituent part of the universe and therefore the Intelligence(s); and Loving Intelligence(s’) caring very deeply about humanity—and individual people—for unfathomable reasons and in unimaginable ways. (One does not even have to mention that, other than the aforementioned character’s utilitarianism and Despair—signaled by the famous poem he keeps quoting—the only genuinely, profoundly evil, indeed potentially mass-murderous, actions in the film are by ‘man’ fighting a self-imposed exile.)
So what’s going on here in Christopher Nolan’s apocalypse? Perhaps a reimagining of the reality in this very old poetry also set within on the convulsions of a dying Earth:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world.
For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. [Λουκας]
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.