Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Weekend and a Movie Review

Spent this past weekend in beautiful Columbia, South Carolina visiting my daughter and her husband and their giant clown of a dog, Jackson Fitzgerald Manchester:

He is everything that our Lucy is not, afraid of nothing, a lumbering mass of fur and slobbering kisses, and about the most loving creature you'll ever meet. For now, Jackie-Jack is the closest thing we have to a grandchild, so I feel some primal urge to bore you with the above two pictures.

While we were there, we watched The Martian. Pam had wanted to watch it during last week's snowstorm, but I refused. I was suffering from acute cabin fever as it was, so there was no way I was going to make it worse by watching Matt Damon trapped on an entire planet by himself. Besides, I've never been much of a science geek. I mean, science is great, I benefit from its pursuit and all, but I've always been uncomfortable around its biggest fans. Something inside me is annoyed by the smug assurance of the science crowd, their presumption that everything can be explained by science, that anything that won't succumb to their calculations is nothing more than charming myth. Of course, that's just me. Everyone else in the world these days seems in awe of science and scientists.

So, I hadn't particularly wanted to see this movie. Many of the reviews were all about the mastery of science, the power of the mind of man unleashed on even the most intractable problems producing triumph after triumph. I half expected the film to have an intermission where a white-coated scientist comes out on stage and lectures the audience about global warming. But then, I actually watched the thing. Wow.

Yes, everyone involved in this story is super smart. The brain power called forth to keep a man alive on an inhospitable planet 125 million miles from Earth, is truly an awe-inspiring thing to behold. But what I took away from the movie wasn't the infinite capacity of the mind of man to solve problems. The hero of the movie wasn't science so much as ....work.

We see Matt Damon's character hauling wheelbarrows full of Martian soil for hours on end. We watch him using power tools of every description, we see him tending to his potatoe garden with the back breaking skill of a farmer. At every turn he works. Grinding, physical labor is his life, because his life depends upon it. Yes, his scientific training as a world class botanist is on display, and it is quite impressive. But what makes it all work...is work.

I remember one time my Dad telling me that there wasn't any such thing as work that was "beneath you." If it was important enough for somebody to do, then it was important enough for you to do. He would usually launch into this speech when I was spreading cow manure in the garden. I suppose I took him at his word since my first paying job was mucking horse stalls at the State Fair of Virginia.

Anyway, The Martian was a fine film, worth the nearly two and a half hours it took to watch the thing. It was about the triumph of the entire human spirit, everything that makes us who we are...our mind and it's limitless capacity to solve problems and the miracles that come when we couple intellect with hard work.