The Man from Earth

The Man from Earth movie posterThe Man from Earth is one of those strange little films that you discover late one evening while searching through scores of made for cable streaming movies used to bulk up content so claims like “thousands of movies on available for streaming” can be made.  It is the kind of film that you aren’t sure will be any good but, hey, since you want to relax and unwind with something that doesn’t require much thought you decide to give it a watch.  But then it turns out to be something really special, really thought provoking, and it keeps you up much later than you either expected or wanted.  [Amazon Streaming, DVD]

This film struck a chord with me.  There are many things in life that make one aware of the passage of time.  That’s one aspect to the film.  But the film also resonated with me on a different (and yet related) theme, what I will call a movement through place.

Everyone has experienced the movement through place phenomenon in its simplest form, the inability to return home again.  Most people give cursory thought as to why this is.  Some come up with an answer somewhere around the idea that it is they who have grown or changed over time.  And while there is certainly some truth to this, I have come to feel that a big part of the change in people is due to the movement through place .  I’ll write more about movement through place in a later post.

Man from Earth plays as though it was written and directed for the stage – an approach that works really well with the subject matter.  (The film’s director has written a stage adaptation.)  Someday I’d like to actually see it performed on stage.

So, what’s the film about?  The producers of the film offer the following summary:

After history professor John Oldman unexpectedly resigns from the University, his startled colleagues impulsively invite themselves to his home, pressing him for an explanation. But they’re shocked to hear his reason for premature retirement: John claims he must move on because he is immortal, and cannot stay in one place for more than ten years without his secret being discovered. Tempers rise and emotions flow as John’s fellow professors attempt to poke holes in his story, but it soon becomes clear that his tale is as impossible to disprove as it is to verify. What starts out as a friendly gathering soon builds to an unexpected and shattering climax. Acclaimed science fiction writer Jerome Bixby, writer of the original ‘Star Trek’ and ‘The Twilight Zone’, originally conceived this story back in the early 1960’s. It would come to be his last great work.

That’s actually a pretty good description without giving anything away, as you learn John Oldman’s secret in the first few minutes of the film.  The rest of the movie is really about judging the veracity of John’s story.  Is the story plausible?  Even if his fellow professors have a hard time believing the story, do they still believe the storyteller?  One of the things I really like about the film is how John Oldman explains his understanding of the passage of time through his movement through place.

So if you have 90 minutes, I highly recommend the film.

Posted in Review Tagged movement through place

The Ultimate Life One Way?

When I think about what living a life one way might mean, I sometimes look back in my own family history at those brave ancestors who set sail for the new world, never to return to the old one.  How did they find the courage to undertake such a dangerous journey and uncertain future?  When you consider the relative ease with which people are able to shuffle about the planet today, it can be hard to fathom just how irreversible the decision to migrate from one place to another really was.  Of course many if not most of the people who left their homeland did so out of necessity, to find a better or more sustainable life for themselves or their families.

Today, the decision to live life one way is a choice.  Very few people, at least in the better developed parts of this planet, would ever have the need to leave home for other lands.  And should someone need to make such a move, the cost of returning at some future time would likely be within reach.

Will there ever again be a time when people are faced with the decision of embarking upon a journey with certain knowledge that there is no going back, only forward?

The most challenging impediment to human travel to Mars does not seem to involve the complicated launching, propulsion, guidance or landing technologies but something far more mundane: the radiation emanating from the Sun’s cosmic rays. The shielding necessary to ensure the astronauts do not get a lethal dose of solar radiation on a round trip to Mars may very well make the spacecraft so heavy that the amount of fuel needed becomes prohibitive.

While the idea of sending astronauts aloft never to return is jarring upon first hearing, the rationale for one-way trips into space has both historical and practical roots. Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip, usually because the places they were leaving were pretty intolerable anyway. Give us a century or two and we may turn the whole planet into a place from which many people might be happy to depart.

Moreover, one of the reasons that is sometimes given for sending humans into space is that we need to move beyond Earth if we are to improve our species’ chances of survival should something terrible happen back home. This requires people to leave, and stay away.

A One-Way Ticket to Mars

The last bit is the most interesting for me – that people may need to reconnect with the realities of living life one way in order to help ensure not just the survival of oneself or one’s immediate family, but the survival of humanity.

Posted in Exploration

A Starting Place…

I am just starting my exploration, my journey, and it feels right that I start as the year is coming to an end and winter approaches.

Posted in Exploration