If there’s one thing that my science classes have taught me, it’s that life is an unimaginably unlikely miracle. Our existence is the product of an imperceptible number of events, perfectly aligned. We swim upstream against entropy. It’s a miracle, but it happens, and it probably happens on places other than Earth, too.
It’s hard to stay sane and productive without taking that for granted. Luckily, it’s easy to take for granted: everyone around you, every pet, every stupidly buzzing cicada and every microbe in your gut has had the good fortune of getting born (and staying born, for awhile). We’re all unimaginably unlikely miracles, but there are so many of us, so it’s, like, pretty normal? Life happens, I guess, so, get over it.
Every once in awhile–or twice, or thrice in awhile, depending on how uncomfortable you are–that miracle becomes a little too much to say duh about, and wonder supplants rationalization. You freeze in awe, gratitude, and fear: If I’ve been able to live up to this point without spontaneously combusting, surely it’s going to happen right now. Same thing goes for my family and friends and everybody I love. See ya, world.
And then you don’t. And they don’t. And bad things happen, but life is still a miracle, and it still happens.
These are the things that Gravity made me think about. It’s a Hollywood movie—at some point, hyper-suspenseful string music starts to make you feel less anxious, because you expect calm as soon as it schwoops up–and, as Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out, there are some oversights in the zero-gravity department, however real it looks. But I think it’s a beautiful, scary, imaginative piece of art.
Fiction takes your imagination for a walk while your rational mind looks the other way. Plausible fiction takes your imagination for a walk while your rational mind tags along with it. The (semi-) scientific accuracy of Gravity, along with its linear storyline, made it feel believable to me. And in times that it didn’t, space remained its endlessly terrifying, romantic self.
Photo credit: Adam Block via this isn’t happiness.