Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Making Contact

I’ve always been quite taken with the opening of the movie Contact. First, there’s a swirly-blue-white-and-green view of Earth, then the camera slowly widens to show other planets, the whole galaxy, then countless other galaxies. The imagery is compelling, especially for 1997 when the film came out. If you saw Gravity last year, you can compare the special effects. This holds up pretty well, I think. The audio accompanying the images completes the experience. Our universe is represented as a hodge-podge of voices, broadcasted by television and radio, recorded for education and entertainment, and compiled in this opening shot as a metaphor for what “contact” is: communication.

We all have voices in our heads, don’t we? Whether it’s your conscience reminding you what you should be doing, your juxtaposed memories of childhood, that earworm of Beyonce’s latest, or just a confluence of random, meteor-like snippets—this is why we pay money for yoga sessions or The Power of Now books, or escape to movies or fiction (or alcohol!). We creative types often give in to the voices.
If your mind is like mine, it’s constantly buzzing with ideas. Most are half-formed, flighty things. That look given by a grandmotherly type to her dog; the way sunlight slices through palm fronds; the feeling of isolation while you’re watching that damn opening to Contact. Currently, I have two projects simmering and once in a while, things will occur to me. Sometimes I’m in a place where I can write them down; sometimes I’m not. But I believe this buzzing, this almost-background-noise, is productive in its own way. It’s like the galaxy of the book/play/whatever is existing out there, making its own declarations, expanding and contracting. Later, when I finally find the time to focus on one or the other, it will be like turning a radio dial to a certain signal. And I’ve been fortunate in that so far, whenever I’ve set that dial, the station comes in clearly and my outer universe seems to align with the task. At that point, all stimuli, all voices contribute to the one thing. Coincidences pop up, words in books I’m reading jump out to show their relationship, everyone I come into contact with says something helpful. But of course, there isn’t much contact at that point. Because I’m like Jodie Foster, sitting alone with headphones on, taking it all in and sending out hopeful missives through the keyboard.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chasms and Second Chances

A new television program called Resurrection premiered the other night. I am rarely, if ever, enticed to start watching something new but this commercial drew me in and so, I set the DVR. The premise of the show is that people who have died start appearing again, resurrected, if you will, at the same age they were when they passed. So a young boy who died thirty years ago is reunited with parents who are now in their 60s and a man meets his adult daughter who is now roughly his same age. Make sense? I suppose the dramatic tone of the commercial appealed to me, the incredulous looks on the actors’ faces as they discover their loved ones, in the flesh once again, standing before them. It’s almost like time travel, isn’t it, the idea of visiting someone at another time in their life, in your life? Second chances and new hope.

The other day I was participating in a chat online and told another author that her novel seemed to deal with memory, perception and regret. These things are reservoirs in my own writing, I said. Maybe they are for every writer. We stew in the chasms that exist between people, don’t we? Sometimes the chasms are created by death or the passage of time; sometimes, they exist between people living in the same home. We like to pay close attention to those things that might make another squirm—uncomfortable moments, unrequited emotion, loneliness. When you create different characters existing in the same story, you have to think about perception and how our memories might differ from someone else’s. You have to consider what your characters might do, if given another chance.

And that’s the appeal of that television show, I think. Don’t we all wonder if we’d be the same person if given another chance? Would we do something different? Would we treat someone differently? These daily contemplations are part of the human condition. I watched the episode of Resurrection last night. It was intriguing but will end up being driven by the mystery of the individual deaths and the overall mystery of why these people are returning, more than by character interaction and revelation. But it did have a good amount of that, too. Someone assessed it as "Touched by an Angel meets X-Files." That's probably fair, although I never watched either of those. I liked this one enough to see the second episode, enough to think about it and write this. That’s something.
"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka