Reflections after Watching Interstellar


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

~Dylan Thomas


Okay, you’ve been warned …We humans like to think we are free. And by free we mean that we can choose what we will (what our wills want us to choose). But we cannot will what we will; we cannot choose what we want. And we want to live, badly. We don’t want to die. Even if we wished we didn’t want to live that much, we still do. We have an undeniable survival instinct … this leads us to our first point.

1. Humans hate death. They rage against it.

Death is that great enemy. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how many hopes and unfulfilled dreams you have or how much you hate death. Death comes for all. And even before you die, you succumb to those horrendous effects of aging. Therefore, humans must band together in solidarity and a show of strength to fight this great, unwinnable battle against death, whether death of oneself, family, or species. Humankind therefore needs a savior. The ones Interstellar proffers to us are: human and technological evolution.

2. Evolution and human technological advance will solve all problems.

When the wormhole opens up, and things cannot be explained easily, there is a hushed, reverent whisper or mention of greater, interstellar beings … they are called “they.” Are these great beings, these saviors of humanity … greater aliens? Advanced intelligent aliens are, of course, much more palatable to intelligent scientists than something so “unscientific” as a sovereign God transcending all of the created order. Why? Because they are merely older (and luckily benevolent) brothers in the evolutionary chain. More like concerned alumni or upperclassmen mentors to the freshman and sophomore undergrads in college. Humans need not bow down to or submit themselves to older (and caring) brothers. They only need to focus on their own advancement.

But in reality, perhaps even aliens are not the ideal for those who wish to revel in the strength and dignity of humanity. To suppose that humans require a benevolent caretaker to save them may be too much to ask for. Humans want to survive. Indeed, they must, so it seems. But what may be worse is to find out that one requires external help. Just a quick survey of Hollywood movies would reveal that people like underdog stories. Why? Because they are success stories. Sure, they can get help and mentorship from others. But the deciding factor must be “heart,” “grit,” “inner strength.” Humans must survive, but preferably by their own (collective) power. They must fight for supremacy and survival in this cold, dark universe, and such deliverance must ultimately come from humanity itself (or what it will become). This is where the evolution comes in.

It’s okay for humans to receive help from five-dimensional beings, those who can master and even subdue (or at least transcend) the fourth dimension (time, for the uninitiated, the non-physics majors). But it is so much better if these beings were actually beings evolved from humanity. In other words, these beings are also on the same team. Therefore, humanity does not receive outside help. They receive help from those who also have a stake in the survival of the human species, namely, their evolutionary descendants.

Hand in hand with human/biological evolution is also the evolution of technology, namely, technological advancement and progress. This is assumed. Anything in this universe can and will be conquered. The limiting factor is not inability, but merely the lack of more information. And of course, technology can and will progress at an unstoppable pace. Especially if they receive post-black-hole/post-singularity quantum mechanical and gravitational data (or something like that…I’m not a physics major).

But let’s ask the question of why. Why is there a need for evolution, biological or technological? Because humans aren’t done. They haven’t yet mastered the mysteries of the universe. They have yet to conquer and tame death itself. They have yet to tame or at least transcend time itself. Why stop at the taming of three dimensions when you can have four? Okay, so maybe humanity itself is powerless now … but eventually, they can become something greater, something … five-dimensional. Why, oh why, are humans never satisfied, always seeking to push the boundaries of knowledge and survival? Why do they seek to wrest for themselves a place among the stars? Is it not because deep-seated in us is an undeniable urge, a relentless impulse to rise up as kings and conquerers, to subdue and exercise dominion over the known created world? Is it not because humankind hates death and the limits of time and want to conquer even death and time itself? Though it is preposterous in this author’s opinion to think that humans can conquer time (the modern-day equivalent to a skyscraping Tower of Babel?) or to think that our future selves can have such mastery over time, such longings and impulses nevertheless reveal something fundamental in humans. This leads us to our third point.

3. All humans, regardless of religion or worldview, atheist or pagan, all reflect the image of God.

We see in our culture, our media, our movies. Humans have this undeniable, unsuppressable desire to tame the world, to subdue the universe, to have rule and dominion over the heavens and earth(s). [Side note: Even a utopian space station is not enough. Humans want planets … they want a new Garden of Eden, so to speak to settle down and grow old … though preferably to grow, but not older]. Is this not because we were created to reflect the God who himself exercises rule and reigns over all things?

Our inherent image of God also explains why we hate death and rage against it. We were meant to live. Our God is the fecund source of all inorganic and organic substance, of inanimate objects and creatures with life. And not just inhumane lives of despair and hopelessness like Prof. Mann or Dr. Brand (senior…oh Michael Caine…what an excellent actor…actually, the acting in this film was quite good…yes, McConaughey too…credit to Nolan and his cast(ing), I guess). Meaningful lives. Mere survival without purpose or hope is no different than cryogenic sleep. Yes, you’re alive. But it doesn’t count for much. Such living is closer to death than to life.

Our inherent divine image is in grave disrepair, however. We rage not only because we hate death. But we also are proud. We refuse to live in a subservient way, to submit to and serve something to which allegiance must be given. We must live, but not under the “inhumane,” “cowardly,” and “human-dignity-defying” the notion (or reality) that there is a Supreme Being to whom we must submit, to whom we must depend (YIKES!), to whom we owe total allegiance, and to whom we must give an account for the life we lived, as tenants in his world(s).

We were made to live. In our rebellion against God, we rage also that we are yet dependent on others, that we are not yet what we ought to be. We rage in our powerlessness over time and over death. All of us know that life is a good thing, indeed, a good … gift. Death is terrible. Aging is to be forestalled as long as possible. Humans rage and curse because they do love life. We have so many hopes and yearnings, all of which are divinely and sovereignly imprinted on our hearts, we who are made in God’s own image.

The truth is, there can be no escape from death or fear of death unless we entrust ourselves to the One who holds time itself in his hands, who alone is the author of life. We must entrust–indeed, abandon–ourselves to one who is able to deliver us, to redeem us from the grips of death and time.

Murphy Cooper had a father who could cross the time barrier with gravity and save all of humanity, a father who could cheat time and death, who could stay young and strong. But he could not stop time for his daughter. Our heavenly Father is one who not only possesses life everlasting, but is himself able and willing to grant eternal life to his children, who will never leave nor forsake them, who will never let them go. Only such a God, not Joseph Cooper, can truly bring salvation to humanity, to deliver them from fear, from death, aging, anger and rage at death, from oblivion.

When we entrust ourselves to this Father who not only can live outside of time but is himself the Lord and creator over space and time, we will also eventually be have the eyes to see that such a Being is worthy to be praised and honored.  For only he can offer lasting fulfillment and life everlasting. Yes, Joseph Cooper cheats death and time, for a while. But this God is, before time ever was. And when the heavens and earth roll up like a garment, when our habitation can no longer sustain human life, this God will come and redeem to himself his people, to bring praise and glory to the Lamb who was slain that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life.

We can identify with Joseph Cooper. But can we know him? Can we even understand him (those of us without any training in astrophysics)? He loves his daughter and communicates to her in love, with gravity and Morse code (but not with binary, perhaps). But the God who created this universe, who invented time itself is powerful–indeed, pleased to reveal himself to us that we might be his children. And he does so not through binary or Morse code, but in ordinary and understandable human language. Such a Being is both knowable and desires to be known!

And for all those who do know him, we can go gently into that good night, knowing that an eternal Dawn awaits those who love him and who have fallen asleep. We will truly be like Lazarus. And we who know him as our Father are able by his grace and Spirit not to rage against the dying of the light, for we know that there is light after dying. Death itself will one day be no more, but his light will never be extinguished.

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