How did I Miss This?

A couple of years ago, I posted a piece on my blog about my favorite movie of all time, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. You can find it here:

I love Close Encounters and am drawn to watching it whenever it shows up on TV. But, my second favorite movie of all time (and it is really a very close second is from the same genre) is also one I have written about on many occasions. I am referring to the 1997 movie Contact.

Like Close Encounters, Contact is a story about the search for extra terrestrial intelligence. It is adapted from a book of the same name by Carl Sagan. It is truly a fascinating, engaging film and if you have never seen it or haven’t seen it lately, you really should see it. It has stood the test of time in many ways.

I happened to turn to Youtube to watch a section of the movie today because I have been listening to a series of online lectures on the theory of relativity and quantum physics in general. The lectures are supposed to be for non-scientists but I am still mystified by many of the ideas. I thought that watching the “wormhole” scene in Contact might put me in the right frame of mind to go back to learning more about the science that I really want to understand a bit better.

As I was watching the scene from the movie which I have seen dozens of times, I happened to scroll down for a moment to look at the comments and I was absolutely astounded by something a viewer had written. Before I tell you what it is, I want you to watch part of the scene. Watch the first minute and a half. It won’t ruin the movie for those of you that haven’t seen it.

Here is the link:

The commenter on the page noted something which I had missed. It is subtle but it is absolutely fantastic. If you didn’t catch it, and you probably didn’t, go back again and watch what happens at about 57 or 58 seconds.

At this point in the scene, Jodie Foster’s face momentarily “morphs” (I can’t think of a better word) into the face of a young girl and her voice also changes briefly but noticeably. It then changes back again to the adult face and voice.

This “trick” is fascinating and is significant in the story. If you saw the movie, you know that we are introduced to Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, as a young girl, fascinated with astronomy and with the world in general. She has a big smile and wide eyes as she learns. I won’t go into details here but her youth is interrupted by family tragedies. As an adult, she is clearly excited about her research and her greatest discovery but she sees everything from an analytical perspective until this moment when she once again realizes the majestic beauty behind the science. She recaptures her youth.

Clearly, the director of the film made this very subtle statement which really is the point behind the entire movie.

Why am I writing about this today? One reason is to share the excitement of this discovery that I had missed all these years.

The other reason is that is a very timely lesson for all of us.

We are approaching Rosh Hashana, which according to Jewish tradition is the “anniversary of creation”. The major focus of the holiday is repentance but lying behind that theme is the idea of recognizing the majestic beauty of our world and our special place within it as creations who can appreciate and rejoice in that beauty.

As we age, we naturally tend to forget the childlike awe and wonder that we had when we were younger. But, our tradition compels us to find that wonder and excitement in the world and allow ourselves, more than just for a short second or two, to see the world with young eyes once again.

Seeing the world in this way will help us to take more seriously our obligations to repair the world and preserve our planet for generations to come. It will also help us to recognize the miracle of our lives and, as a result, live our lives with more respect for each and every one of God’s creations.

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