Gravity. There are two meanings to this word.
One is the scientific description of the earth’s property that holds all things to itself. The pull that keeps us grounded. That allows the planets to move around the sun; the universe to exist in the void. It’s the mysterious substance that makes life possible.
The other meaning of the word in English is the gravity of our fragile hold on life. We humans are not in control. Not even close. The gravity of our situation is clear. We are constantly on the brink of extinction and capable of destroying ourselves, individually and as a species. We are capable of destroying our planet and some say we are halfway there. More importantly, the planet is capable of destroying us and some say we are more than halfway there. The long-term chances of survival are grave. And that brings up a third related meaning. Our final destination is the grave.
Or is it?
Gravity is not an action movie in the usual sense. Sure, the special effects are amazing and lots of situations are life-threatening, but there’s no bad guy. No evil force. The threat is the randomness of the universe. Impersonal, uncontrollable events that happen for no particular reason. You can’t exactly “boo” the universe, and there is no winning against it, so it’s not power or weapons that save the day.
Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone spends the first third of the film overcome by panic. She’s hyperventilating, can’t save herself, can’t stop spinning. George Cloony’s experienced astronaut Matt Kowalski is the voice constantly saying, “Be not afraid. You’re wasting oxygen.” Or, don’t let fear of death waste your life. His graceful acceptance of death shows the way for the terrified Dr. Stone.
The crux of the transformation of Dr. Stone is revealed in her self-dialogue. “We’re all going to die, we all know that. But I’m going to die today.” Her angst centers on the fact that no one will pray for her, or miss her – that her life has been meaningless. Then she says something like, “I can’t even pray for my own soul because no one ever taught me how. No one ever taught me.” With that little comment, director Alfonso Cuaron takes the blame off the individual and makes the case for community and the need for those of us who are alive on this planet take responsibility for one another. We have to teach each other to pray.
So in the movie a little miracle happens. Life after death makes an appearance. And when the fear of death is removed, panic is diffused and it turns out that there is a savior. There is more out there than we know. There is something beyond the grave. In fact, because of the savior, there actually is no death. God conquered death for us by the resurrection of Jesus from his grave and his ascension from earth.