SPOILER ALERT – if you have not seen Arrival, and I suggest you do, you probably don’t want to read this until you have. Go see it, and then read this, and tell me what you think.
I got quite into my part 1 of exploring this fantastic movie in terms of Centre Edge. Here I continue with some more themes that I see in the movie and which we learn to apply in Centre Edge work. These are a bit more complicated than the exploration of (mainly) Centre and Boundary in the first part, so do read the first part first if you can (even though one of the themes of the movie is the non linearity of time!)
Communication: Inescapable Bonds & Energy Exchange in relation to Centre:
Another central theme of the film is communication across boundaries and how the quality of that changes so quickly according to the emotions at play.
There are 12 alien spacecraft in different locations. At first global efforts seem connected and harmonious as teams in each country work together to try to figure out what is going on. We might assume at this point that a Central Principle based on a shared need to understand and survive is pulling the 12 countries into identifying and acting as one larger System.
However at one dramatic point in the film, as confusion reigns – around a word used by aliens that could mean ‘offer weapon’ or could mean ‘use weapon’ countries begin to disconnect from one another. They instantly stop exchanging communication and information and we, like our heroine Louise, are left with a sense of profound and troubling isolation.
Still not sure as the story moves on whether the aliens’ intent is peaceful or aggressive, and as we see individual nations begin to draw their own, different conclusions, we begin to see that this disconnection may jeopardise the whole – whether life on earth itself, and / or the possibility of positive contact with the aliens.
In Centre Edge terms – the people and countries of the world are connected. This is the principle we call Samaya, which translates roughly as ‘inescapable bond’. The fate of one country clearly in this situation depends on the fate of the others, this is a global situation. And yet as the film shows, it is so easy, given some emotional provocation, to fall back on one’s own central / national / cultural core values and beliefs and act as if separation rather than connections, fragmentation rather than inherent wholeness, were the truth.
In Centre Edge terms, what begins to happen as national paranoia and aggression builds, is that the Samaya between nations (the truth of connection) remains, as indeed it must, but the Energy Exchange, the quality, mutuality and cohesiveness of communication drastically declines. The viewer has the powerful sense that a great error is imminent as parts begin to act as distinct from the whole, and to negate the natural order of things which is that – whether in communication or not – they are part of one whole planet.
Whereas much of the film’s emotion is evoked from playing with Boundary dynamics, here the audience’s emotions are based on the urgency of wanting the whole to recognise its identity as a whole, for parts to wake up and play their natural and right role in this, rather than acting, through confusion and paranoia, as separate.
The same theme is echoed elsewhere in the film as we begin to understand that the alien communication (based as it turns out on circular symbols) is whole rather than based on a linear laying out of parts. Whereas our own language is based on parts (words) sequentially creating a whole meaning, the aliens are able to express complex entire thought forms in what appear to be single symbols – the whole included within what seems to us a part.
This is an entirely different way of thinking and communicating, and echoes the geopolitical message that wholes must act as wholes, that as parts we have Samaya (inescapable bonds) with other parts, and our role is to honour and not deny our connections and to maximise the possibility of mutually beneficial energy flows (Communication).
Time is non linear. Connections may be more real than time.
Building on the theme of parts and wholes, another key aspect of the movie is that time is, in reality, non linear. That is to say that while we as humans currently have a very strong notion of the reality of past, present and future as ‘real things’ (what some like to call ‘the real world’), this is in fact just one constructed way of experiencing reality (though a pretty damn convincing construction, most of us would say, and one that feels outside our conscious control).
The movie itself beautifully plays with this theme. The very first scenes, of Louise and her growing and then dying daughter lays down our frame for the movie. Of course, we –believing completely in the notion of linear time – assume (as the directors wants us to) that this happens first. We assume though it is never actually said, that when we first meet Louise properly, giving her first lecture, she is a woman whose daughter has died previously. And of course, we realise eventually, that none of that has actually happened ‘yet’ – it lies in what we (believing still in linear time – it’s a pretty strong habit!) call the future.
The theme echoes richly and repeatedly. The aliens, we find out, do not have this same idea of linear time, they experience time as fluid, profoundly interconnected with what we think of as past, present and future interwoven in a way that stretches our understanding and sense of possibility.
The plot line, satisfyingly, plays on this with the eventual resolution both of the global situation and our eventual understanding of why the aliens are there in the first (or last?) place.
And the subtle message both within the story of Louise’s daughter, her surprising relationship with the Chinese military leader, and the relation of the Heptapods to humanity, is that maybe, more real than linear time is Samaya – the inescapable but invisible bonds we have with one another, our world and with the events of our lives. Perhaps the bond comes first and is the most real, and how that plays out through what we choose to experience as linear past, present and future is actually more of a side show, an unnecessary conviction that blocks a deeper reality.
Might our deep, unchanging and yet invisible bonds with others, and with ideas of our own past, present and future be less real than the nature of the bond and the Energy Exchange that flows along it, in non linear time?
Such a notion takes us deeply into all sorts of areas that mainstream science might typically pooh pooh, but which mystics, meditators, pioneering scientists and (of course) sci-fi writers have long explored.
I guess the reflection for us everyday folk is simply to consider that our story of why things happen or where they are going, indeed our judgement of what it all means right now, may be far less important than the quality of what is being expressed right now through that communication and connection.
As the film shows us, if we encounter Other with curiosity, openness and love we will experience something quite different, today, tomorrow and perhaps back in our own past, than if we encounter it with our paranoia, aggression and fixed views.
I did enjoy this film! I am very interested in any comments from others who have seen it.