Tag Archives: the human experience

Arrival and the Tools It Offers

Let’s get preliminaries out of the way. Arrival is an instant classic in the science fiction genre. Accordingly, this musing on it is entirely composed of spoilers. If this bothers you, watch the film first. Quotes are as close as I can easily get them. While I have read Story of Your Life, the amazing Ted Chiang novella that this is adapted from, I will not discuss it here since Arrival stands alone very well and I tend to find page-to-screen discussion tiresome at best. The meat of the post begins below the fold.

                           These our actors,
 As I foretold you, were all spirits and
 Are melted into air, into thin air:
 And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
 The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
 The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
 Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
 And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
 Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
 As dreams are made on, and our little life
 Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest, Act IV, Scene i1Retrieved from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Prospero.

Continue reading Arrival and the Tools It Offers

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1. Retrieved from the Folger Shakespeare Library

View from Bob’s Bayou

Come on, and join me in the muck. Here I’ll be sharing my introspective, reflective writing. Why the muck? For me, it’s about perspective. The realm of human thought (writing/language/experience) is vast, so vast that each of us will walk through practically none of it before we are finished. Imagine it as a wilderness; fully embrace the analogies of exploration, settlement, colonization that follow. A writer takes her own journey through this land, and attempts to convey in some way how you can see what she sees, walk where she walks, whether for a whole journey or just to an interesting sight. Some writers will take you up a mountain path, each step carefully laid out, and pause every so often to present a breathtaking vista.

(I hesitate at such ledges. I know that every so often I have tripped and fallen on my face, and would not like to do so while perched over a sheer drop. When others feel out their poses on the earth’s jutting lip, I worry for them as I scoot back towards a rock or wall, which is briefly my stake; I tether myself to it.)

A dishonest mountain guide will remark to you during such a respite that you now see all there is: the earth is rolled out before you like a map, and like a map reader, you can point to each feature and discern its importance, its scale, its soul, without budging from your perch. The mountain view is all you need to understand the earth as a whole, they say, and those who cannot ascend to such lofty heights know nothing, not even the shape of their own plots. You see at once the well-settled cities, the narrow paths, and are comfortable, exhilarated, in your position.

An honest guide will tell you that while you see far, and the air is clear, and the sight is beautiful, each place has its secrets, even, especially, from you. Those valleys and ravines turn away from you at times and hide their depths, and you will never see the bugs and leaves of a nearby hillock without going there yourself. Even your own mountain hides worms beneath your feet. Perhaps caverns twist throughout the foundation, carving hidden ways through what some would think a monolith. The honest guide, when you ask about a distant place, will recommend a different path to know more about it.

But like I said, I’m not on that mountain path. I’m going along the bayou, walking, wading, at times, and at other times floating or paddling. I can’t see forever and don’t claim to. But the windings of the water might take me anywhere I would have seen from higher up. I skirt the edges of civilization, and drift with its refuse.

So float along with me for a while, or walk beside me on the bank. We’ll search out some delicious crawdads, and hopefully see (but not touch!) an alligator or two. The view down here is narrow; each bend in the bayou will tease then surprise, and the things we draw up from the muck will take some elbow grease to be presentable. If you get tired of the pace, please take a side trip up a mountain path, and once you’ve seen more of the infinite floodplain come back down and let me catch up. You know where to find me: in a land of far-seers I’ll be stuck in some weeds; in a land of dam-builders I’ll be with the dammed. To those who dredge and survey, pollute and condemn, I’ll nod to their aims and still go along, one with the driftwood.