I recently saw for the fourth or fifth time the movie Contact based on Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel of the same name. I remember reading the book when it came out, as astronomy and the mysteries of the universe have been a lifelong interest of mine.
For those not familiar, Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist and author who passed away in 1996. He was a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many bestsellers, including Cosmos, which became the bestselling science book ever published in English. The accompanying Emmy and Peabody award-winning PBS television series has been seen by a billion people in sixty countries. His ability to capture the imagination of billions and to explain difficult concepts in understandable terms was and continues to be a magnificent achievement.
So, I was watching Contact and it was near the end that I was jolted into one of those super aware moments .… you know the kind where time stands still and your senses are on high alert, where you say “A-Ha” because you have just had a blinding flash of clarity. What jolted me was the point in the movie when an explanation of an experience that had no concrete evidence that it occurred was made by the protagonist, Eleanor (Ellie) Arroway. She says at a Congressional hearing:
I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever. A vision of the universe that tells us undeniably…how rare and precious we are. A vision that tells us we belong to something that is greater than ourselves, that we are not, that none of us are alone.
I had an experience. I can’t prove it. I can’t even explain it. But everything I know as a human being, that I am, tells me that it was real.
I wish I could share that. I wish that everyone, if even for one moment, could feel that awe…and hope. That continues to be my wish.
Rascal wrote last year at notingDavid that Mr. David Archuleta’s artistry opens a “portal” to the universe. His post rang true, but I just had difficulty getting my mind completely around its meaning. Now, yes, the A-Ha has happened. For in Contact, Ellie’s explanation of her non-empirical experience fleshes out metaphorically in a relatively few sentences, what I have experienced on this David fan journey. (So, too Happy’s exquisite description of her experience at TriBeCa’s PC Richard and Sons Theater last week gives tremendous insight.)
And, as Ellie leaves the Congressional hearing she sees supporters with handmade signs. Signs that say: “Open Our Minds, Open Our Universe.” A-Ha…Open Our Minds, Open Our Universe—simple truth.
So, too, when I listen to the pure and beautiful voice of David Archuleta. David the-master-artist. That voice brimming with the subtleties of what it is to be alive. That voice that catapults one instantaneously to plumb the depths of so many emotions, so many vistas and landscapes that one didn’t expect to experience in a song. That voice that relentlessly draws one’s aesthetic sensibilities to the sublime.
I experience something that I can’t prove empirically, that I struggle to explain.
Happy wrote in a recent comment that artists give and the art appreciator takes. So, I take, I take. I take away an awe, a heightened awareness of connection and of the joy of the human experience and of the universe, of being a part of something rare and precious. I think that is what Rascal meant about being a “portal” to the universe, at least for me.
And to meet each of you in that universe that we cannot prove empirically, that universe of connection, is an unexpected joy. The conduit is, of course, the music and the voice of David Archuleta.
P.S. – Visit www.carlsagan.com. It is mind expanding. One sentence there above all others caught my attention:
Most of all, we hope to touch you with the soaring spiritual high that comes from grasping science’s central revelation – our oneness with the cosmos.