Inner Space: Coronavirus vs. Humanity The Editorial


May 02, 2020

By Edgar Avendano

There’s a movie by the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, titled Gravity [1] released in 2013, that allows me to examine and articulate what’s at stake during these times when humanity confronts and combats the Coronavirus Pandemic. I hope that my reflections on the film and its use of outer space to examine the human condition and the exploration of inner space [2], may be applicable to our current universal crisis.

Here is a synopsis of the movie:

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Her commander is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), helming his last flight before retirement. Then, during a routine space walk by the pair, disaster strikes: The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Ryan and Matt stranded in deep space with no link to Earth and no hope of rescue. As fear turns to panic, they realize that the only way home may be to venture further into space. [3]

Gravity is a film that challenges the viewer to look deep inside and outside of him or herself. Gravity is a film that looks at the human condition from both of these perspectives; the director has placed a human being far out in space where it can evaluate and re-evaluate herself deeply and honestly.

It is true that human beings are social creatures, shaped by their interactions with other individuals, their families, and societies; but a human is more so defined by the way it interacts with itself, by its self-perception, and self-worth. This type of reflection is what can propel a person forward or lead it toward self-destruction. 

Dr. Ryan Stone has been traveling a large portion of her existence with a chip on her shoulder. She’s lost in herself; she grieves alone. Sometimes our whole universe – the only universe we know and care for – is the one inside us. We block out the exterior world and seclude ourselves in our past, only to discover misery and no hope for the future. We can feel as if floating through space: detached and lost. We have no will to live because we have run out of power or fuel [4]. We feel empty, discouraged, and lifeless. Something or someone needs to bring us out of ourselves.

Humans, however, are also capable of overcoming great obstacles; we are built for survival, capable of breaking down and recomposing, able to reach a dead end and reorient our goal. When put to the test and when conditions force us to, we can look inside us and find the necessary strength to push forward. Humans are amazing; we are an intricate machine with a built-in escape device called “inner-strength”. As magnificent as the space stations and gadgets in the movie are, no manmade equipment can ever supersede the complexity and brilliance of the human being. All of the contraptions Dr. Stone uses will eventually fail; they have no use to her until she uses her will to get home.

At one point in the story, Dr. Stone has to make her first defining decision; if she wants to live, she must let go of all dead weight which keeps her from her final destination. She must let go of her only partner in space, Matt Kowalsky [5]. It is Kowalsky who encourages Stone to carry on without him. She is focused on how painful it is to “let go”, but Kowalsky shows her how thrilling it is to be set free. Kowalsky demonstrates great love and sacrifice. Inside every man and woman is a heart designed to love life so immensely that it will surrender to its call for self-sacrifice. Self-sacrifice is an act of heroism, especially when it is done so that a companion can live, and more vigorously than before. This love lives inside us. Love - with all of its aches and worries, its fails and triumphs – it lives inside us. 

Explosions are moments in our lives that drive us toward an unexpected direction [6]. They appear in the form of the death of a loved one, economic hardship, severe illness, natural disaster, an international pandemic, i.e. Hardships appear when we least expect them, usually when we are least prepared. Life, therefore, is a constant clash between the world outside us and the one inside us. This collision can either propel us toward the never-ending abyss, or it can push us to love the gift of life which heartens us to keep fighting, to keep surviving, to keep living.

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged all humanity, this is no hyperbole. States have closed borders, stock markets have plummeted, businesses have folded, but most importantly human lives have been lost. We have been too focused in our self-centeredness and have lost value of human life and the planet. The coronavirus has sent us spiraling out of control. We have crashed into our own mortality; we are frightened and isolated. We need Someone to pull us out of our own misery. The manmade machine [7] cannot save us. In order to overcome this situation, we must emerge as renewed men and women, aware of our worth as children of God [8]. We need the will to survive. We need to look in our self and meditate on how best to get back home in heaven. Our life here on earth is precious, but we must not forget that what we do in life, echoes in eternity. [9]

Life is a challenge, but it is definitely worth fighting for. At the womb of human existence is the vigor to stay alive, yet humanity is always left with the choice to die or be reborn; gravity will push us toward whichever we choose.

Edgar Avendano is currently a seminarian at St. John's Seminary for the diocese of Los Angeles where he is studying philosophy. He has a B.A. in World Literature from UCLA and experience in radio, television and film. He periodically contributes to Incorrupto Radio. Follow him on social media: @latinofilmmaker

_______________________

[1] Gravity movie trailer: https://youtu.be/C4pcg7bXgmU

[2] Interior life.

[3] Google search result for “gravity plot”: https://www.google.com/search?q=gravity+plot&rlz=1C5CHFA_enUS696US707&oq=gravity+plot&aqs=chrome..69i57l2j69i59j69i60l2j69i65l3.1941j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[4] Lifepower, as the philosopher Edith Stein would call it.

[5] This moment in the film is reminiscent of the famous “I’ll never let go, Jack” scene between Rose and Jack in James Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic.

[6] There are a number of explosions throughout the movie. I think especially of the one at the beginning of the story which becomes the heroine, Dr. Ryan Stone’s call to adventure.

[7] Economic, government and political systems, media, etc.

[8] Let us remember that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Humans are designed not just to be good, but great.

[9] General Maximus, played by Russell Crowe says this to his Roman troops as they prepare to battle the Germanic tribes at the beginning of Ridley Scott’s 2000 film, Gladiator.

Comments(0)

Log in to comment