At the recommendation of a good friend in December, I went to the theater to see Interstellar with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and a few other big names. I went to the theater by myself and I was the only person there. It was really quite fun, being there all on my lonesome.
As with most things – even the silliest of movies – it left me thinking, a lot. In brief, the main character (Cooper, played by Mr. McConaughey) decides to go on a very possibly hopeless mission into space to save the world. A future NASA is trying to find another planet where human life can survive and thrive, and Cooper is the best man to lead the mission. He makes the difficult decision to go on this mission instead of staying to raise his children (his wife has died for an undisclosed reason and his father is there to help take care of the two kids, aged about ten and thirteen). He has no idea when he will be returning – if ever – and with time warps and the time relativity of the different planets he would be visiting, he tells his daughter (the younger of the two children) that they may be the same age when he returns. He tells her this to ease the pain of separation and point it out as an interesting scientific fact. He and his daughter, Murph (named after Murphy’s Law), were both very interested and talented in science and therefore connected greatly on that subject. Lo and behold, father and daughter are not reunited until she is in her eighties or nineties and he is only a few months or years older than he was when he left for the mission at the beginning of the film.
Was it worth it? Should he have left his children behind?
If he had stayed behind, he would have been able to watch his kids grow up and be a great part of their becoming adults. He could have taught them many things, shown them every day that he loved them, been present for any important events in their lives. But if he had stayed behind to raise his children, Earth, which was getting dustier and drier every year, would have become inhabitable for future generations and those future generations would have had no place to turn to for relief. Because he left Earth on this mission, he was able to help save the world. He may have lost a relationship with his two kids, but he enabled the rest of the world and the generations to come to live, thrive, and have relationships themselves.
What would you have done in Cooper’s place? Would you have gone on this mission to save the world, or would you have stayed behind to raise your kids and left the mission to “someone else, next time”?
To avoid answering the questions I just asked, thankfully I can say this: that I would most likely never be asked to save the lives of an entire planet, since I am no astronaut (like Cooper) or rocket-scientist (so I would not be asked to save the world with my brains or space-traveling abilities); I have never once been able to keep a plant alive (and therefore would not be asked to save the world with food); and I am pretty sure I would not be brave in any kind of physical, life-threatening emergency (and would thus never be picked out as the world’s next superheroine). Anyway, thankfully, I would never be offered this awful decision, unless someone thought the world could be saved through conversation, deep thoughts, or laughter. Sure, people’s emotional, social, and spiritual beings could be helped with these three things, but probably not an entire species’ physical beings.
But… If I had kids that I loved (I even love kids who aren’t my own kids, like my nephew and my friends’ kids, so really I should say “If there were any kids with whom I had any type of relation”), and if I were ever told, “We have been planning a way to save the world by relocating to a different planet in a different galaxy, and you are the best person to lead this mission from space. We have no idea when you will return, if ever, but we need you in order to save the planet and the human race from extinction. Will you lead this mission, leaving in a few days’ time?” what would I say in response? (Okay, forget I’m diabetic, too… As a diabetic, I would never agree to a mission where I may never return, and therefore would need to pack a lifetime’s supply of insulin and supplies, which would take up WAY too much space and would probably expire way before I died and… yeah, that wouldn’t be a good idea. But in this example, my pancreas works perfectly well.)
Would I go, or would I stay?
As you can see from my avoiding answering the question above, I would probably end up making up a million different excuses why I could not possibly lead the mission. But, if I really thought about it seriously (which I would eventually do in this situation), would I stay or would I go?
I would probably want to stay more than anything because what I have considered one of my biggest desires and callings ever since I was little is to be a mother. I have always wanted to be a mother who raises her own kids and tries to be the best mother possible without smothering them. I have always loved kids and wanted to encourage them to use their imaginations and read as much as possible and spend time outside and not let their minds be dulled by too much screen-time. I have dreamed of playing dress-up; I have dreamed of making up silly stories and new words with them; I have dreamed of inspiring them to always ask questions, to always be curious, to always be learning. Tearing myself away from my children would mean ridding myself of the ability to make that dream into a fully-formed reality.
But if I stayed, you could also say that I had made an incredibly selfish decision. Sure, I would get to spend more time with my kids and I would be able to be a real, present, tangible, approachable person in their lives. But I would be denying the rest of the world that same opportunity. So perhaps I would play the martyr and give up my comfort and dreams for the sake of a larger, higher cause. Would I be brave enough to make that decision? I am really not quite sure.
Would it be the right decision? Could either decision be called “right” or either decision be called “wrong”? I am really not quite sure about that, either.
Thank goodness, I have not been faced with this particular dilemma – and I do not think I ever will be faced with it – so I suppose I do not have to make a decision right this moment, or even in the next year, or the next eighty years perhaps. But it does pose an interesting question, something to ponder, something to wonder, something to encourage change, something to inspire a desire for more of what we already have, something to help mend and heal, something to remind us of love. Love is so important. Love is what keeps us humans together. Without love, we would be machines, without feelings.
So, what do you say? Would you stay, or would you go?
- Someone else, next time (a phrase used toward the end of the film, Chocolat): http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Chocolat
- Machines, without feelings (a phrase use by none other than Jane Eyre): http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/chapter-xxiii
Title taken from “On the Steps of the Palace” in Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim
Read from the beginning: https://soarwithlaughter.com/soar-cloud-high/