“You are a strange species. Not like any other. And you’d be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage.” – Jeff Bridges, Starman – 1984
In 1984 John Carpenter released the movie Starman starring Jeff Bridges. The movie was about an alien sent to Earth to observe and learn from humans. During the movie he discovers love and falls in love with Karen Allen and also discovers the brutality of human existence.
This week made me think about Starman (and honestly I have not thought about this movie in 25 years) and made me wonder if aliens were indeed observing us. Or, better yet, if far off in the future when some distant civilization comes to our empty and barren planet and finds the old tapes of our time on Earth as a human race. How odd they will find us.
This week marked a year since the Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right March and the subsequent murder of Heather Heyer. This dark part of our history showed the brutality and pain those who practice hate and fear can inflict on others both physically and emotionally. This week we also said goodbye to Aretha Franklin. A woman of passion and love who helped define the civil rights movement with her angelic voice and was always there when we needed her. It was her voice who led us back from Martin Luther Kings’ assassination, her voice when President Obama was inaugurated, and her voice who often reminded us why our diversity is our greatest asset. These two images are juxtaposed and would have to be confusing for any other species to observe.
Think about it, just what is an alien to do with these two images. The idea that we can be so loving and caring, that we can use our talents to do God’s work. But we can also be so awful to each other and hateful to people we don’t even know. It really makes me think I have more in common with Jeff Bridge’s Starman than most of my fellow humans. Because I too just cannot understand why these two things coexist and how we can spend more time leaning on the good. We are truly intelligent, yet savage.
But then it hit me. We would not be able to fully appreciate Aretha Franklin if the darkness did not exist. While we should always work toward peace and enlightenment, love and hope, the voices of peace are amplified because we need them in times of darkness. Artists like Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon after 9-11 remind us of our humanity in the face of tragedy but if there is no tragedy then there is no art. These things need each other. I guess that too is confusing and fills me with anxiety. But I will choose to allow it to help me be hopeful and know that when darkness falls there will be a voice for light. Afterall, it was the return of Ariana Grande to Manchester after the horrific bombing that helped their citizens mourn but also celebrate, it was when Eagles of Death Metal returned to Paris that allowed the healing to happen. Its the art, in this case music, that takes our tears and wipes them away.