Monday, November 17, 2014
Reaching Past the Stars - A Catholic Reflection on Interstellar Part I: Love and Gravity
This is not a review of Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.
For that, you can read my review written earlier.
And this is not an exegesis of Nolan's story. I have no idea if any of the Christian elements I found were intentional or not. Though what fan of CS Lewis who saw the mountainous waves of Miller's planet and did not think of Perelandra?
Rather, this article is about how Interstellar has affected me and made me reflect on some elements of Catholic theology and life.
Be warned, in order to speak cogently there are MAJOR SPOILERS IN THE REST OF THE ARTICLE. Please only read on if you have seen the movie.
1. Gravity and Love.
CS Lewis fought against a reductionist view of the world. Too often, we try to take the great things about life and reduce them to the smallest possible parts. Freudians for example said that belief in God is just a subconscious need for a father figure or that love was simply a sublimated desire for sex.
Lewis said that while that sounded fine, there was no logical reason why it had to be this way. For example, we think of human beings inventing words and then ornamenting them with poetry and ornamenting that poetry with music. But Lewis (influenced by Tolkien no doubt) asked why it couldn't be the other way around. Perhaps music is the original language and that poetry is fallen music and that prose is fallen poetry.
If God is the great and harmonious artist, then shouldn't the world look like this?
I bring this up because Dr. Peter Kreeft once said the same thing about love. If God is love, should the universe be at its core a reflection of that love? And if it does, how is it reflected in the physical world? Kreeft answer to that is simple: gravity.
Gravity is the attraction between objects. Love is also attraction. Love calls us to unification. Gravity pulls us closer together. Love moves our hearts and souls; Gravity moves our bodies, both human and heavenly.
At first, I thought this was just a flight of fancy or creative theology by a sophisticated mind like Kreeft's.
But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I'm not saying I completely agree with him yet. But the more evidence we learn about how essential gravity is to the universe, the more Kreeft makes sense.
This takes us to Interstellar. The two forces that are most at work here are love and gravity.
Gravity bends time and space. Gravity pulls all the objects towards each other and gravity manipulates the events of the film. It is a gravitational anomaly that first brings Cooper to NASA. Dr. Brand says that the problem of gravity needs to be solved in order to save humanity.
And it is love, with its pull, that shapes the entire story. The love that Cooper has for Murph is an irresistible pull that draws him home. Amelia is in love with Edmunds and she argues that it has to have a meaning. Love has to have a deeper significance than simple biochemical reactions in the brain. Simple evolution does not explain the love we experience.
And that is the point: love is gravity. Gravity is love.
The reason why Brand could not solve the problem of gravity is that he did not have enough love. He gave up hope, he gave up on the love for the people on earth. Murph was able to solve the problem of gravity because she let the pull of her father's love draw her back to the answer.
Love and gravity must be accepted. Cooper must let go and let the gravity of Gargantua pull him into the black hole. If he did not let gravity (love) take him, then he would not have been able to help his daughter solve the problem of gravity (love).
And even in the end, love is constantly drawing Cooper forward. With Amelia out there, love (gravity) pulls him out into the future.
Love (gravity) shapes the universe on not just a physical but a metaphysical level. This makes complete and total sense since God is love.
In my next article, we will look at Interstellar's non-linear view of time and how it relates to the Catholic view of God.