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Posts Tagged ‘Alien’

I am saddened at the death of James Horner, one of my favorite film composers and undoubtedly one of the best.  Upon hearing the news, I promptly went to Youtube in hopes of finding a fitting tribute to his life’s work (or, more appropriately, his life’s passion).

A difference may be made in people’s lives in many different ways.  Let us not forget or belittle the contribution of those who, through dedication to aesthetic excellence, give voice to the echoes of the soul.

May James Horner rest in peace.  I pray that he has found the One from whose Voice the aforementioned echoes come.

Fair warning: There is one line spoken in this tribute, and there is one profanity in it.

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Hubble_Ultra_Deep_Field_part_dScience fiction reaches its peak in space travel.  There is no more imaginative or enchanted “room” in the sci-fi household than the one that houses aliens, spacecrafts, and intergalactic quests.

In part one, we talked about the connection between myth and wonder.  In the great space operas of Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, and others, science fiction speaks most poignantly in the language of myth.

The imaginative elements, while marvelous and very important to the genre, are only part of the picture.  The whole consists, I believe, of the unnamed, upward-reaching hunger of the soul…of longing in the form of a journey.

The very idea of technological development as a means of launching ourselves to the stars speaks of man’s boundless ambitions.

DanteDetailSuch ambition did not have to wait for the advent of modern technology to be given a voice.  Dante Alighieri, the great medieval Italian poet, ended each of the three books of his “Divine Comedy” with the same word: Stars.

As he emerges from the depths of hell, he rejoices that he can once again see the stars.

At the end of his long climb to the peak of Mount Purgatory, he is now prepared to journey unto the stars.

Having toured heaven and at last experienced the vision of God, he sings the praises of that Love that “moves the stars” (italics mine).

Incidentally, what was it that led the three Magi to the birthplace of Christ?  That’s right — a star.

Imagine lying on the ground and looking up at the starlit sky on a clear night.  What in the world could more evoke awe, wonder, and even a certain holy fear than this?  Beholding the vast expanse of the universe, who of us would not sympathize with the Psalmist, who says:

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you set in place —

What is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that you care for him?

(Psalms 8: 4-5)

Yet by faith we know that we are created for a destiny greater than worlds, greater than universes…literally.

Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man’s immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. [T]he Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory “the beatific vision” (CCC 1028)

…no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)

And in this sense our hope is transcendent.  We know what our destiny is by name: Eternal relationship with God.  But in a very real sense, we must have faith that this is the fulfillment of our desires without yet knowing what it is.  Because while we know it by name, we cannot describe it the way we would describe anything that is within the scope of our creaturely experience.  That’s probably why the premise of venturing beyond earth to unknown worlds is so intriguing to the human spirit.

Prometheus02PR180512I am reminded of Ridley Scott’s 2012 “Alien” prequel “Prometheus,” in which a team of space explorers venture to a faraway planet in search of the origins of life.  By the end, they are quite disappointed and nearly all killed — but (SPOILER ALERT), one intrepid archeologist escapes and determines to journey even further, carrying hope with her…

…in the form of a crucifix.

Batoni_sacred_heartIndeed, such hopes and aspirations as we have been discussing cannot be considered apart from the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, Who, being God, deigned to become a human being, like the rest of us in all things except sin.

As God-become-man, Jesus bore our sins, infirmities, and death upon Himself, and then in His Resurrection raised human nature to new and eternal life.  As Pope Francis repeatedly indicates in his encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” it is He who opens up vast, untold new horizons for humanity.

These horizons are open to everyone…not just people who wear funny suits and fly big ships into space 🙂

“Prometheus” image obtained through a Google image search; other images from Wikipedia.

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Alien_(1979)_-_The_AlienMyths and fairy tales are two separate, though deeply related, genres; but the concerns of both tie in with the concerns of science fiction. For our purposes, these concerns pertain to suffering.

In his book “Making Sense Out of Suffering” (if you haven’t read it, do so — it’s a real gem), Peter Kreeft designates myths as dealing with suffering in terms of “paradise lost” and fairy tales as dealing with the need for shadows against the light to make for an engaging story.

Sci-fi has both of these elements.  In some ways, they feed off of each other.

And by the way, by “shadow” we mean monsters, witches, dragons…and yes, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” creature.  And in dystopic stories like the upcoming film “Elysium,” it comes in the form of totalitarian oppression.

The why of shadows is obvious: Without danger and conflict, the story gets boring.  But we can’t forget that science fiction is the lore of a technological age, the summum bonum of which is the pursuit of convenience, pleasure, ease, and the cure of all ills.

While this might sound good in everyday life, no narrative can sustain itself along such lines.  And so we have “shadows” that are specific to premises based on dreams of technological and scientific progress.

But I don’t think storytelling is the only issue here.  Storytelling, after all, comes from a deep, basic, and primordial understanding of reality.  As much as we might wish for a perfect society in which science and technology solve all of life’s problems and end all its evils, I think somewhere in our souls we get the sense that it can never be quite that simple — not, at any rate, on this plane of existence.

BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

Even utopian societies such as the one portrayed in Alduous Huxley’s “Brave New World” show us the dark side of our technological dreams.  In the future Huxley envisions, everyone is perfectly content, because they are genetically engineered to like and fit into whatever roles the governing body wants them to fill.

The problem, however, is that mankind has lost one of its chiefest and most valuable treasures: Freedom.  All people are pawns in a great machine that conditions them as it wishes, so that they cannot think, reason, wonder, want, pursue, or hope for themselves.

So there are dark shadows even in utopia.  And in all of its varieties, science fiction is at its most compelling when it pits darkness and light against one another.  And it most speaks to the soul when it acknowledges the ultimate victory of the latter.

That’s the shadows side.  We’ll get to the “paradise lost” side next time.

Images from Wikipedia

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