For almost 50 years, people have debated the meaning of the third act in 2001: A Space Odyssey. For thousands of years, people have debated the meaning and origin of the universe. Neither has yielded many concrete results.
Perhaps this is the point. Not every question can yield a definitive answer, and this provokes a profound sense of anxiety.
After defeating HAL: 9000 on the edge of Jupiter’s orbit, Dave is sent on a journey through deep space. The monolith, the giant black tower which appears at the dawn of man seems to have some kind of power over him; or so many theories suggest. In this period of millennia, Dave is given a mass of knowledge that dates back to the Big Bang itself.
It is not merely a fantastic journey through a likely LSD inspired Stargate sequence. It is a deeply anxious mind trying to fathom our cosmic insignificance. It is so much information, so much science we cannot explain, so many trillions of galaxies and exponential numbers of stars that our brain cannot properly compute it all. It just comes out in brilliant colors moving a trillion meters per second. Dave’s face contorts and twists, and so do ours at the thought of what is happening. Then the Big Bang, the most anxiety producing of all — darkness, then light. We are all matter from anti matter. We are something out of nothing. We are particles of something which partical physics has yet to understand.
Is this making you anxious yet? It should be. The entire Stargate sequence is an elaborate mind fuck meant to imagine answers to questions we haven’t been able to shake for Millennia. How small do you feel after watching it?
So perhaps we’re all the product of star children because maybe for some that innocent thought of God is easier to fathom. The thought of an old man, viewed from his younger self through a bend in space and time, is easier to imagine. A man who sleeps in a white room with white curtains, tired eyes beneath a monolith of suggestion. Aliens, or God? This is the simplistic view. Perhaps this seems less fantastical than the science we do not understand.
The universe is frighteningly powerful. I write this on a space rock dodging cosmic hazards, spinning on its own axis at 720mph as it revolves around a ticking time bomb: our sun. This galaxy and the entire universe beyond it is held together by a physics we have barely begun to understand. It is so delicately held together by some cosmic string, that only the slightest of mishaps could send us all tumbling into mass extinction.
Are you anxious yet?
Perhaps the greatest con of this third act is that much like advanced science and the universe itself, there are no correct answers. The entire purpose of this act is to produce a mass anxiety out of not knowing. But hey, look at the star child floating to earth. I wonder if he’s Christian. Perhaps there’s an afterlife after all?