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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

For parts 1-3, click here

Ok — let me start by quoting myself:

[W]hen it comes to understanding people and their perspectives, nothing works better than encounter.

Encounter is, however, a formidable prospect for many people on the autism spectrum. And let’s face it, (more…)

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Orpheus_EurydiceUndoubtedly one of the saddest myths of the ancient world was that of Orpheus and Eurydice.  After charming his way into Hades to find the soul of his deceased wife (Eurydice), Orpheus is promised that he can have her back from the dead as long as he does not turn around and look at her until he has reentered the Land of the Living.  Alas, he looks back too soon, and loses his beloved forever.

Orpheus is a sort of shadowy Christ-figure (albeit a failed one).  I imagine him walking forward towards the light with his beloved bride behind him, relying upon him to show him the way.

In my mind, there are a couple of analogies that could work here: Jesus Christ is the Orpheus-figure, and Eurydice represents His Bride, the Church.  And unlike Orpheus, Christ leads His Beloved unfailingly toward the light of the Kingdom.

Alternatively, we could look at it this way: Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel; mankind is Orpheus; and the remainder of creation is Eurydice.  And it is our “Orphic” duty to lead creation to its fulfillment in the Sabbath Rest which is the coming of God’s Kingdom.

But what happens when we turn our backs to the light?  What happens is we forfeit life — for ourselves, and for the creation subjugated to our dominion.

Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_ApesOkay…so what does any of this have to do with Matt Reeves’ recently released film “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?”  A decent amount — but what I have to say bears on the recent “Apes” franchise in general.

Rise-Planet-Apes-TrailerThe 2011 film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” directed by Rupert Wyatt, shows us the genesis of the apes’ takeover of the earth.  Basically, the apes develop their human-like intelligence as a result of being the subjects of experimental drug testing.  Clearly, this is an example of human science and technology gone awry.  Good in themselves, they are divorced from a moral and ethical framework and subjugated to the modern technological hubris of man — or the idea that we should do something simply because we have the capability.

It is interesting, in this case, to note the ancient sense of the word “hubris.”  Blogger Alex Jones brought this up in a comment he made on my most recent post:

The opposite of wisdom is the ancient word “hubris.” Hubris in the ancient sense is belief in an opinion that is contrary to how it is in reality. (Bold mine)

Not that science and technology are the only areas of human endeavor that can be affected by, and in turn affect, this impulse; but they are particularly strong in conveying to man a degree of control over reality, and therefore take on a particular danger if not handled carefully.

Original Sin

In any case, this understanding of hubris is the essential aspect of the sin of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace.  By eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil — that is, by arrogating to themselves the uniquely divine prerogative of determining right and wrong — they presumed to make themselves the masters of reality.

So from the very beginning, we have been guilty of the “sin of Orpheus.”  We have abandoned our “Light” (God), and we have failed our “Eurydice” (creation) — and with disastrous consequences.

I’ll talk more about “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” — though without spoilers — in part two.

Still from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” obtained through a Google image search; remaining 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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Elysium_PosterThe slew of recent, current, and upcoming science fiction films and TV shows intrigue me; and of course, they inspired this post.

But I don’t think I’m so much dealing with a current trend as with a deep fascination that won’t go away.  Science fiction, many have said, is the mythology of the modern world.

The word “mythology” has at best an academic connotation, and at worst the air of the naivete of pre-modern man.

But as famed Middle-Earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien said, a myth is in fact “the very opposite of a lie.”*  Myths tell us, in a sense, who we are — not as societies, or as cultures, or as people of this or that time or place, but as human beings.

Our most primal longings, desires, and fears are expressed not in words or on paper, but in the images and motifs of the myth.

TechnologyBut the meaning of “myth” in a technological society is a little ambiguous.

To be sure, our technology and scientific progress have been remarkable assets to us.  They even express the creative aspect of our being made in the Divine image.

But slowly, surely, and to some extent unconsciously, we have hereby come to see the world and even ourselves as objects for use rather than for reverence and awe, as problems (in the mathematical sense) to be solved rather than as mysteries to be known (in the existential, rather than experimental, sense).

We have made objective reality a matter of cold, impersonal measurements, having nothing to do with values, meaning, or purpose — all of which are now considered “subjective.”

If sci-fi tells us anything, I think it’s that the technological boom cannot and will not dispose of our deeper humanity…our sense of wonder, the searching of our hearts.  The “dream” of science fiction is that even a technological society is not immune to the wonders and dangers of a universe like ours.

* Quoted from a dramatization, which can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzBT39gx-TE&feature=player_embedded

Photos from Wikipedia

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