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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Wednesday, October 13 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Theoretical thought

I'm not going back today to the topic of the 1960's per se, but I'm using a 1960's event as an illustration to set up the new topic, theoretical thought. After my reference last Friday to the 1968 movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sallie Covolo, a member of our email forum, wrote, "I never understood the movie...." I think most of the people who saw it were unsure about it, but I remember that though I wasn't sure either, I was very impressed by it and that was enough to rate it a must-see movie at the time. I saw it, by the way, with my bride in Montreal while on our honeymoon. This was several years before I started analyzing movies in columns for a newspaper in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area, and before I started my thesis for a master's from UCLA. In short, I had never reviewed 2001: A Space Odyssey, so in response to Sallie's remark, I'll fall back on some of the insights about it in the book discussed here all last week, Robert S. Ellwood's The Sixties Spiritual Awakening. Ellwood:

...2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick, [was] a story of British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. This is a picture of mythic dimensions that inculcates a powerful but unconventional sense of spirituality, and whose images create unparalleled feelings of mystery and awe. The film, behind all the cosmic wonder it evokes, is a parable on a fundamental problem of the decade. In a twist on the modernist science versus religion conundrum, in which science was often presented not only as truer but also as facilitating a more advanced moral vision than its outworn rival, the problem in 2001 is the rapid pace of technological advance, now culminating in humans on the moon, versus the slower rate of human spiritual evolution.

In other, shorter words, Elwood sees 2001 as a parable treating the more rapid pace of evolution of human technological achievement versus humanity's relatively retarded "spiritual evolution." The end of the movie shows a messiah figure being propelled through space in a capsule that lands on earth, presumably to raise up a new, more spiritually evolved human race than the one conquered by a computer. Back to Elwood's take on it:

The film commences with a remarkable scene of primal man as carnivorous hunter discovering the first tool—a bone with which to kill more game—and the transfomation of that primal implement into its ultimate outcome, a shining space station. The action moves to an expedition to Jupiter to discover the secret of a mysterious rectangular monument found on the moon. On the way the ship's computer, HAL 9000, kills all but one of the earthly crew, perhaps in a reversal of the original killing that set human technology on its fantastic course.... At the end are scenes clearly intended to represent human transcendance over the technological level altogether, and to act out a futuristic mystery drama of death and rebirth. For some viewers these episodes conveyed that initiatory meaning; for others they were unnecessarily obscure.

There is much food for thought in these passages, but what I want to continue to discuss is not the movie or its meaning, but the process used to analyze it. As you should see, Ellwood has "transcended" our everyday way of thinking to see a lot more in this movie than we normally discover in any literary endeavor. This is what I'm referring to as theoretical thought, and next time I'll continue "unpacking" that concept by discussing another obscure movie that forced me to a new way of thinking and in the process changed my life and set the course of my ministry, about three years after 2001.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


My reality check bounced.

Sent by Julie Masterson  

Thought for today

Give Satan an inch and he'll be a ruler.

Sent by Trudy Myers  

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