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Nice post!

I saw it in the theater in 3D. *Extremely* nerve-wracking. I actually found it scarier before the debris hits--just their moving about in space was extremely scary. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that.

I like your points on the spiritual nature of the film, and I agree.

Great post, Micheal!

BTW, in a related vein, if you don't mind me tooting your horn (I promise I'll wipe the saliva off it when I'm done:), I will link readers to your page of essays. Solid reading, folks! Check it out!

http://www.michaelprescott.net/essays.html

I didn't find the film that interesting - it was too predictable, I thought.

However, your description of it is truly excellent.

"too predictable, I thought"

As it happens, I talked about this on Facebook. Here's what I wrote there:

Some people feel the film's plot is predictable, but I think this misses the point. While many stories depend on novelty and plot twists, others are mythic and derive their power from iconic themes dating back millennia. The pleasure of stories like this is not being surprised, but simply watching them unfold. ("Avatar" is another example.)

"You see, he was never there at all. At least not physically. The whole encounter was, in conventional terms, a hallucination. Earlier in the film it was noted that low oxygen levels can bring about lightheadedness and confusion. It appears that Stone, suffering from hypoxia, imagined the episode and dredged up the landing-jet idea from her subconscious." - Michael
------------------------------

Maybe to truly understand what is going on during these transcendental experiences we have to let go of the whole idea of separateness. Or like the online essay about the holographic universe says, "our separation is an illusion."

Perhaps when we are closest to death is when that illusion of separateness breaks down and that is when our mind is the most open to receiving information from the other side - or the collective consciousness. "Ask and you shall receive."

"I remember understanding the others here.. as if the others here were a part of me too. As if all of it was just a vast expression of me. But it wasn't just me, it was .. gosh this is so hard to explain.. it was as if we were all the same. As if consciousness were like a huge being. The easiest way to explain it would be like all things are all different parts of the same body."
Excerpt from Michelle M's NDE description,
http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/michelle_m%27s_nde.htm

The interpretation of the appearance of Kowalski as Stone's Spiritual Guide, like so many things in life, is a Rorschach test of ones spiritual inclination.
The fact that I refer to Kowalski as a Spiritual Guide tells you how I interpreted it, but I've talked to people who liked the movie, but completely dismissed the spiritual aspect of it. In my opinion, they missed the whole point of the movie.

The production leaves this open to interpretation, which is probably one of the reasons it has such a wide appeal. The other reason is the lush 3-D cinematography.
The final release has only 156 shots, which is a small number for a film of this nature, so that tells you that the acting had to be professional and committed. Of course, with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, this could be expected.

Michael, You MUST see Gravity in 3-D, preferably at an IMAX theater at matinee time. It takes the experience to a whole new level. I promise.

Great review, this sounds like something I'd like to see.

But wasn't hypoxia as the cause of NDEs debunked? I remember reading one book on NDEs debunked, with the author citing experiments with low oxygen. It seems to be one of many things that make the brain less functional and yet, at the same time, strangely cause those experiencing it to have one of the most vivid, memorable experiences (an NDE) that they've ever had in their lives - go figure, I guess.

The encounter with the dead Kowalski isn't supposed to be an NDE. It's either a hallucination or a case of after-death communication (specifically a crisis apparition).

The website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says:

"The longer someone is unconscious, the higher the chances of death or brain death and the lower the chances of a meaningful recovery. During recovery, psychological and neurological abnormalities such as amnesia, personality regression, hallucinations, memory loss, and muscle spasms and twitches may appear, persist, and then resolve."

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/anoxia/anoxia.htm

Interestingly, there is no mention of hallucinations during the onset of hypoxia, only during recovery.

I was waiting for her to reach under the seat and find the vodka. That would have confirmed that he was really there because she would have had no way of knowing where it was until he showed her.

Ok, just saw it. I can't say I was blown away, by I did enjoy the movie--I was even touched, at times--and it went by fast!

I agree with you, Michael, about the spiritual implications. They're clear, and welcome.

I just read a review by one of the users on Rotten Tomatoes. He says:

"it does attempt the themes of science and technology versus religion with constant reminders hinted at in the shape of Christian and Buddhist iconography."

Thinking back, I'm trying to remember a single word of dialogue that would bring either of those religions to mind, and I'm coming up short. But it's a common scenario: someone unfamiliar with basic metaphysical principles comes across a reference to the afterlife and reflexively puts a religious slant on it.

The truth is, it's a movie that even atheists can enjoy, because there *are* no specifically religious references (that I can remember), so one can safely fantasize that Dr. Stone's life-saving encounter with the apparently deceased Kowalski is exactly the sort of hallucination that happens when the body encounters a life-threatening situation like hypoxia, and the unconscious mind is free to come up with brilliant solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems.

"Wow, you're one clever son of a bitch, Walt."

Who's Walt? Is that a spell-check mistake?

"I was waiting for her to reach under the seat and find the vodka. That would have confirmed that he was really there because she would have had no way of knowing where it was until he showed her."

Interesting point, j9. But that would have made it absolutely clear that after-death communication had taken place. Maybe the author wanted to leave some ambiguity in place so as not to offend committed materialists and narrow the potential viewership.

"Who's Walt? Is that a spell-check mistake?"

Oops. Should've been Matt. I'll fix it. I can't blame spellcheck - just a brain fart.

"Maybe the author wanted to leave some ambiguity in place so as not to offend committed materialists and narrow the potential viewership."

And also just to preserve ambiguity for its own sake. Not everything has to be spelled out. I don't the movie was intended to be an explicitly spiritual journey, and offering proof of the afterlife would have, in a sense, cheapened it. Not to mention that Stone really wouldn't be looking for proof because she is (to my way of thinking) already convinced.

I think ambiguity can sometimes make the difference between a true work of art and a work of mere polemics. Compare Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead with her later novel Atlas Shrugged. In the first book, much of her philosophy is left implicit, allowing readers a degree of freedom in how they interpret the story. In the second book, everything is spelled out, and the result is that Atlas is didactic and often feels more like a lecture than a novel. The Fountainhead is, I think, a modern classic, while Atlas is more likely to be remembered as only a partial success.

We are all connected and our separation is an illusion. I am you and you are me and we are all each other. While we are here we see each other as being separate but the truth is that we are all connected by the Light that imbues our Universe with reality.

So if Sandra Bullock saw George Clooney while she was close to death I don't see any problem with that because the closer we get to death the more the illusion of separation that we experience in this life disappears.

"I am you and you are me and we are all each other."

I am the walrus.
Koo koo ka choo.

;-)

You know how on Star Trek: Next Generation they had a holodeck and holodeck was controlled or connected to the starship's computer? Well all the characters on that holodeck were generated by the program in the computer. When they were living in the holodeck they acted and existed as separate individuals but in reality they were all programs running inside the computer. I don't know as a metaphor how far I can carry that analogy but from several NDE's that I've read I suspicion that may sort of like who and what we are.

"I remember understanding the others here.. as if the others here were a part of me too. As if all of it was just a vast expression of me. But it wasn't just me, it was .. gosh this is so hard to explain.. it was as if we were all the same. As if consciousness were like a huge being. The easiest way to explain it would be like all things are all different parts of the same body."
excerpt from Michelle M's NDE,
http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/michelle_m%27s_nde.htm

"And it became very clear to me that all the Higher Selves are connected as one being, all humans are connected as one being, we are actually the same being, different aspects of the same being."
excerpt from Mellen Benedict's NDE,
http://www.near-death.com/experiences/reincarnation04.html

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