Back in 1979, astrophysicist / author Carl Sagan and writer / producer Ann Druyan were both working diligently towards successfully launching their Sci-Fi film… Contact… off the Tinseltown storyboards and into our cineplexes.
Within six years, undue, unwanted, unproductive behind the scenes, Hollywood “drama” had begun to undo this dynamic duo’s momentum and, at one point, had even threatened to scrub their mission. As it turned out, it would take the transposition of 1979’s ending 7 and 9 digits before this film could be completed.
Sadly, mere months prior to that, Dr. Sagan, had succumbed to myelodysplasia (a pre-leukemic syndrome) and wound up shuffling off this mortal coil.
Had he survived, he certainly would’ve been on hand to high-five Contact’s screenplay writers James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg, director Robert Zemeckis and the entire cast and crew. He’d have especially applauded the multifaceted actress, Jodie Foster, for her stellar performance… for her breathing so much life into the film’s protagonist… the multidimensional astronomer Ellie Arroway.
Seeing how Sagan and Druyan’s core principles / personae had become so thoroughly infused into the Contact script’s pages (in a sense, right down to the atomic structure of the ink toner and papyrus) it was inevitable that Foster would tap into their attributes throughout the film… especially during the emotionally charged denouement… i.e., where Dr. Arroway had so passionately addressed the conclave of her wholly skeptical and wildly infuriated adversaries… had spoken of the life changing, journey to the cosmos, which had further heightened her pre-existing, astronomer’s lofty outlook on life.
“I… had an experience… I can’t prove it, I can’t even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision… of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious We all are! A vision that tells us that We belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that We are not, that none of us are alone! I wish… I… could share that… I wish, that everyone, if even for one… moment, could feel… that awe, and humility, and that hope. But… That continues to be my wish.”
SIDEBAR: Ironically, in an earlier scene (set within this same venue) many of these same inquisitors had expected agnostic Arroway to take a leap of faith… to no questions asked / no skepticism allowed… believe in the existence of a Supreme Being. YET… by film’s end… they, themselves, flat-out refused to take a similar leap of faith… to no questions asked / no skepticism allowed… believe in the existence of the superior alien civilization she claimed to have made first contact with.
So… why have I opted to review a 21-year-old film?
Contact makes contact with the very hearts and souls of everyone who has ever given a damn about the survival of our civilization. It is the skywatchers of our world who, perhaps, feel this the strongest… be We the professional or the backyard variety… be We telescopically enhanced or relying solely on the naked eye.
We can feel an affinity with all who have ever seen… who still see… beyond the pure science… all who speak of the awe, humility and hope, which our viewing experiences conjur up. Such a state of mind endures whether We are virtually traveling thru our ethereal, vast starlit cosmos or are wandering about our hometowns, homelands and home world.
Although we do remain resolute re the awe and humility aspects, holding onto hope is not always so easy. You see, its just as the celestial images begin to fade into the daylight… just as we’re coming back down to earth… where / when the heavyhearted dismay tends to resurface. Once again, our worldly thoughts zero in on the godforsaken, power-hungry, posturing, avarice driven, dictator zeros who usually wind up calling all the shots… and… in that capacity… are to blame for our global, sociopolitical and ecological disarray.
The run-of-the-mill, disconnected from our universe autocrat could never, truthfully, claim to be the humble servant he is supposed to be… could not even begin to fathom / embrace Saganesque awe, humility and hope. His typical reaction to viewing celestial objects / events would not likely garner much more than his yawned out words…
These are just dots in the sky, what more do you expect Me to say?
Me oriented leadership is precisely the problem. That odious, oafish What’s in it for me, Me, ME? bad ‘tude is the driving force behind virtually all of our societal ills. Their tormented, subjugated victims, while (oft literally) crying out for some much needed liberation, seldom possess the power to empower alternative, We oriented leadership.
Indeed, it’s the We oriented philosophy, which is so harmonious with the stargazers’ awe, humility and hope. This is amply illustrated within that above Arroway quotation where she thrice uttered the word “We”. And let’s not forget to include her inclusive language such as “us”, “ourselves” and “everyone”. Were such sentiments fully taken to heart by our leaders, We would already be well on our way to saving humanity from ruin.
It is no accident that Founding Father / author Gouverneur Morris began the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble with the words “We the People”. He and his constitutional compatriot co-writers deemed those three words so crucial that even the likeminded calligrapher, Jacob Shallus, had so boldly pen stroked those three key words in an enlarged font.
“We the People
of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
When such a proclamation births such a great nation, one has to wonder how any electorate could ever tap into some lame, Donny-Come-Lately’s slanderous, spurious / fake claim that America is no longer great. Ironically, such an entity is usually the one who… in the end… winds up threatening the very greatness of all great nations.
Why oh why is it that the nations of our world suffer such a deficit of We oriented leaders? One would expect admirable attributes such as awe and humility to be innate. Even if advancing this attitude involves nurture more than nature it should still be easily attainable.
Metaphorically speaking, We are all participants in the human race… a relay race. In the course of running our laps… concurrently upon our planet’s orbital path and the more down to Earth race track… the intergenerational passing off of the baton of human decency should occur without a hitch… a simple matter of the hand-off from each awe-humility-hope-harboring elder trainer to each awe-humility-hope-hungering youngster trainee.
I do have my parents to thank, for they not only deeply encoded / embedded awe-humility-hope into my infinitesimal DNA during my conception but also reinforced these attributes by handing off that “baton” to me during my formative years.
What a pity so many, who fancy themsleves leaders, cannot make a similar proclamation.
I do suppose that Awe-Humility-Hope sentimets… that We trumps Me ‘tude… all being second nature to the stargazers and other kindred spirits of our world, this is what accounts for our expectations that the rest of humanity will be willing to follow suit.
Let us hope that such sentiments… such expectations… are not overly optimistic.