I didn’t love Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Yes, I was struck by the dystopian aspects of life on earth – the rolling waves of dirt that blot out the sun, the futility of working an arid farm – but that was less significant to me than a single moment on the cold and distant planet that the hero, Cooper, travels to.
Cooper and his colleagues voyage on the spaceship Endurance to the outer reaches of the galaxy searching for a new home for humanity. They believe that an astronaut from a previous mission named Mann may have found a hospitable place, but – spoiler alert – they are wrong. It is a barren world of ice and wind.
When Mann is awakened from the chemically induced sleep he’s been in for years, he is so happy to see another human face that he cries.
I was reminded of countless literary heroes – Odysseus and his more modern iteration, Leopold Bloom, for example – who fall to pieces in the presence of the people or places they have been pining to see. Indeed, many of the best stories have both adventure and homecoming.
In his beautiful poem, “Birches,” Robert Frost paints a different picture of an iced-over world. For him, it is a playground for a young boy who doesn’t yet know the cares or woes of adulthood. But even so, at the end of the poem Frost says that while he’d like to climb to the top of a birch tree again, he’d want to be sure to be able to get back down.
“Earth’s the right place for love,” he concludes.
Like the boy in Frost’s poem, we want to travel and explore, but perhaps our ability to do so depends on our ability to remain connected to our warm planet, and each other.