Merry Christmas. Or Not. (major spoilers for Childhood’s End)

Rikki

Syfy’s Childhood’s End
Syfy / Tor.com
Arthur C. Clarke

In my online comment on the Tor.Com website (below), I referred to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I didn’t go into a lengthy explanation of his concept of Omega Point. (But I was surprised – which, by now, I shouldn’t be – at the lack of curiosity on the part of other participants about what I wrote. I didn’t get one question or response.) I possess only one book about de Chardin and it’s buried in a box downstairs in this rooming house I live in. I live in a closet-sized room and can’t even keep all of my books in it because of that. But most of my reading about de Chardin took place perhaps 30 years ago and the books I read were from the library, which is where they were left once I finished them. I might again collect a few more books about de Chardin, although I abhor new age stuff (which this is to me). I would prefer to quote de Chardin and those writers who explain him, but I just can’t, at present. So I’m stuck with my fading memory of details. Forgive me.

“The Sun Sets On Syfy’s Lackluster Childhood’s End Miniseries” by Natalie Zutter

I didn’t care for the end of Childhood’s End, but it’s not because Clarke didn’t get it right. It’s a package deal. The whole story is dark, and not in a very fun way. Natalie certainly didn’t like the mini-series treatment, expressing similar sentiments. (“Knowing,” starring Nicholas Cage, ripped off a lot of Clarke’s story, intentionally or not. Perhaps ripped off is unfair. Can I say that the producer was riffing off of Arthur C. Clarke’s story?) I didn’t mind Childhood’s End (the mini-series), but that’s because I like to think and I like special effects. Notes Natalie in her article:

“But by the time he was sitting on a couch in a dystopian-looking city, narrating Earth’s final moments to an Overlord sphere, I felt much like Karellen must have: distantly sad for these characters, but mostly watching to make them feel better. And, sure, we can leave that bit of music just hovering in space over Earth’s smithereens so that travelers can appreciate it, if you really want. Mostly I just want to jet out of this solar system by now.

““The sun must set on every day,” Karellen tells Ricky early on, and so it is with this Syfy miniseries. Thank the Overmind.”

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My typo-corrected online response to the above linked-to article by Natalie follows:

=========================o
I read Childhood’s End so long ago, I forget it. I don’t even remember it from watching this mini-series. But that might track. I do remember that it didn’t grab me. I don’t know why, but one can speculate. It was either uninteresting. Or I was so young (I’m almost 60 as I type this) that my mind couldn’t deal with sophisticated, deep concepts.

I generally like movies with good endings. In our manmade hell, Why would I want to be entertained with pain? This flick didn’t have a good ending, although I enjoyed the sci fi elements: the aliens, their home world (not really seen except from through their smokey hellish atmosphere) and the ship they were on.

What I did find interesting was the idea that the universe [has] a mind. I’m very familiar with this type of thinking. So is everyone. But not everyone thinks about what they think.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest who believed in evolution (and wasn’t unique therefore). I do not. The evidence not only doesn’t support the idea of biological evolution, but it refutes it. But believers, for many reasons, will not see that. De Chardin taught that God (which is a term he rarely used [to describe Omega Point]) was Omega Point, a convergence if you like, of all consciousness. He talked about two types of energy, namely tangential and radial. Evolution involves radial energy. Tangential energy has to do with the physical universe. Everything has a center and from every center, a connection exists to every other center. So many writers (who simply decided that they would sidestep the Christian Bible’s Creator and come up with their own fancy ideas about reality) express the same idea. Marilyn Ferguson (“The Aquarian Conspiracy”), Theodore Roszack (“Unfinished Animal: The Aquarian Frontier And The Evolution Of Consciousness”) for example say the same thing, in different ways (in my opinion) that de Chardin says. They say that humankind kind [evolved] from a lower life form. They say that once humankind reached a certain threshold, reflexion was was gained. Self-awareness and advanced mental activity was now present. And, crucially, something (de Chardin) came into being that was in essence the collective conscious of (living and dead) humankind. De Chardin called it the noosphere.

But it’s either the truth or it isn’t. Call me the Devil who torments people, but those who conveniently want to disregard the Creator and, in fact, replace him, for now are free to do just that. Accept that they can’t, really. What they can do is signal to God – not the universe – that they have no interest in Him or his inconvenient standards and would like to be struck from his book of life. God will force no one to live. Neither will [He] force those who reject his standards and plan of salvation for imperfect humankind (since Adam’s rebellion) and opt instead for that wonderful organizing principle (very neconservative, it so happens) of ‘riches for the strongest’, to forever inflict torment upon others, who may or may not be like them. If He were to, He wouldn’t be a God of love. So, He has a timetable. Trying to call him out by spitting on his standards (bad behavior, including terrorism, and I’m not just talking about ISIS) won’t alter his plans or his timeline. Things are going to change. Thank God. I do.
o=========================

Tangential energy, which de Chardin believes in, is physical and not evolutionary. I envision balls or molecules that are packed together. Where each one touches the other, you have tangential energy (physics?), which I can’t explain better while I’m going solely on memory. But each molecule, and every component of it, and every unitary collection of molecules, has a center (de Chardin’s term for the idea is ‘centreity’). All centers are connected to each other. It’s the force belief and it predates Star Wars. And that force runs through not only the components of living things, but also through the components of non living things, connecting everything and everyone.

I’ve noticed that those who reject the Christian Bible’s simple message, which explicitly rules out biological evolution, tend to come up with variations of what I call the Lie. Assorted religions will offer variations of the Lie, in which details are unique to each organization. Individuals too can have their personal version of the Lie, as Clarke seems to. Satan is a democrat! But the essential Lie, which for others becomes (by choice) the Truth, is: Every (human or non human) being who is evolved into a self-aware being, together with other such beings generates a group mind person. Some call that person God. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin called him Omega Point. I am not clear on whether Omega Point is equivalent to the noosphere. I think that there’s a time element in de Chardin’s cosmology so that the noosphere becomes Omega Point, which is sort of at the base of everything, like an upside down pyramid, pushing evolution while also being the end of it. But I forget exactly.) God, like those who he comprehends, or unites within himself, has a good and an evil part to him. But unlike those who God unites within himself, those who comprise God (and consciously and unconcsiously seek unity with him) are imperfect. God’s spirit is the force that comprehends, or gathers together, those who are seeking him. God, or Omega Point or whatever you want to call that group mind Person, is perfectly balanced, which is why his spirit is ‘holy’, even when God’s doing evil things for good purposes. There is no actual person named Satan (or whatever persona one refers to). When God does evil things, he does them for good purposes, and we perceive the evil things that God does as evil that comes from a person who many call Satan and we think of that person as God’s enemy, ‘if’ we choose to embrace religion; Because believing along those lines doesn’t require one to use terms like God and Satan. Interestingly, In the Christian Bible, the name Satan means ‘resister’ or ‘one who resists’. If two magnets can’t be pushed together, is one evil?

Rikki and Kerellen

Incidentally, I came across a book about theosophy and it seemed to say very similar things. But I don’t really know anything about theosophy. I do remember, vividly, however, reading about how that book explained that if you had two atoms separated by a vast distance in empty space, they’d eventually ‘find’ each other. And they attached a spiritual, if you like, significance to that. Teilhard de Chardin attempted to bend science to his personal spiritual beliefs, which riffed off of the Christian Bible (which isn’t something that God approves of), So there’s no reason to suppose that many others don’t do something similar.

Did Arthur C. Clarke write it the way we see it here? (For the record, I don’t know whether to finger the producers or the directors or both. I’m not knowledgeable about how movie making works. I suspect that the directors can really mess things up, which will stand if the producers are just suits who only care enough about the production to the extent that as long as they see it’s up and running and it ‘seems’ okay, then they are absent, except for the glory.) For example, When Tommy first plugs into the power of the Overmind and his father attempts to talk to him, He’s mumbling “Don’t touch us.” Jake is not depicted as angry at this point. He’s not an abusive father at all. He reaches out to Tommy and Tommy tosses him across the room and against a wall. That’s an all-wise, all-seeing Overmind? Or, in Clarke’s novel, was the father somewhat abusive so that Tommy’s/Overmind’s reaction would be normal?

In the first segment of the three-parter, Karellen gives Ricky a gift, which Ricky doesn’t ask about. An alien gives you a gift that is alien, and unidentifiable, and you don’t ask what it is? At least the second time Karellen gives Ricky a (same?) gift, Ricky asks what it is. But why wouldn’t he ask the first time? That’s annoying. That’s a director annoying those of us watching the video. I don’t like that. Then you have the vicious CIA-type telling Ricky that if he doesn’t hand it over, he’ll put him down. Ricky hands him the vial and nothing more is heard from anyone about that. Okay, It’s not part of the core story and you’re going to tell the whole story over three short segments. But it could have been dealt with in one 1 minute scene, with an allusion to it or something that is better than the loose end we got. How about a scene where the agent gets in a car accident and the vile is vaporized in a ball of flame when the car crashes? Poof, Loose end tied up. We can forget about it. Sloppy work that.

Then there was the hokey letters in the energy beam thing. Really? You (I assume Karellen, through Jennifer) communicate with the Overmind, the mind of the universe, through a beam of energy and light that transfers letters? And, Sorry, but no one is going to communicate with a baby, as Karellen communicated with Jennifer. She won’t accept anything, as Karellen indicated she did, because she isn’t able to. And she does not understand, as Karellen indicated that Jennifer did. That just doesn’t work. Clarke fails here.

And Karellan’s comment to Peretta that all the world’s faiths can’t be right is right, but felt really forced. What was the point? Whoever decided to stick that in there would have to tell us. It’s not a bad line. But put it… where it fits.

Was the cheese necessary? The glowing eyes on baby Jennifer that no one notices were lame. The squishy sounds when someone, I forget who, is injected with a syringe. Really? Is the show so lame that you have to hedge your bets this way?

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The Overlords, supposedly, were incapable of joining with the Overmind for the reason that they were at their evolutionary end and could go no further. But Karellen showed compassion and even extended a hand of friendship to Ricky, at one point offering him a cure for his ailment. He would have made a more plausible Overmind than the torture-loving monster we saw. Then again, Would decent people work for terrorists?

It took me a second viewing of the second segment to grasp that the disease Ricky caught was not what Karellen did to him to make him infertile. That would have been cruel and senseless, considering how even inferior human technology can render someone infertile without inflicting the subject with a painful disease. Still, The Overlords can instantly fix, from a distance via energy, a young man who was shot through the heart. Why did Ricky have to leave the ship sick? But okay. I’ll buy it. They aren’t God. But if they knew that his visit to their ship would make him sick, as they seemed to, since a vial of the cure (the ‘gift’, I’m assuming), difficult to make, according to Karellen, was ready and given to Ricky on his first visit, then they should have told him, whether he asked (which, strangely, he didn’t) or not, that he needed to inject himself with the vial before there was any chance that the vial might be lost or stolen or accidentally destroyed. It’s only his life!

I don’t believe in biological evolution, but, to go with that paradigm, What reason would there be for the Overlords to not be able to evolve sufficiently to join the Overmind? They were far more evolved than humankind. (Was it a consolation prize that Clarke threw to us for annihilating us? Make us special? He reminds me of Karellen. Maybe Karellen ‘was’ Arthur C. Clarke!) I would have to read the book again (and I am not inclined to and if I was, I don’t have the time for it), in order to know how faithful the makers of this very short mini-series were to Clarke’s story. I am fairly certain that the basic ideas have been conveyed. But beyond that, I don’t know.

Arthur C. Clarke (http://bit.ly/1RA1oWj) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (http://bit.ly/1mvXlh2)

Arthur C. Clarke (http://bit.ly/1RA1oWj) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (http://bit.ly/1mvXlh2)

Jennifer and Milo

dude and Milo

And speaking of annihilation, Did that make sense? I wonder whether Clarke was knowledgeable about Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concepts? I would be very surprised if he wasn’t at least aware of them. Was Clarke perhaps running with his own understanding of where evolution in such a cosmology would lead when he had Jennifer/Overmind destroy the earth, like Galactus? Is Jennifer/Universe destined, then, to consume all matter in the universe? That sort of makes sense. That would be the end of, or evolution of, tangential energy. There would only be radial energy, in the form of the Universal Mind, left. Now I’m riffing!

The interesting thing here is the way Clarke’s version of the Lie is so dark. It’s like he’s not really giving us his version of the Lie, but rather, he’s riffing off of that to tell us a horror story, for this is more horror than sci fi, in my view. But it may indeed be the case that Clarke’s version of the Lie is a mutation. It’s a grotesque version of the happy, happy Lie that most (including most religions, which are, I’m sorry to report, manmade) would want to embrace. As long as you’re going to reject God, you might as well make it a party. Right? So, In Clarke’s version of reality, possibly, which Childhood’s End reflects, there are many noospheres that, collectively, give rise to an ultimate noosphere, namely the universe. Or possibly, Clarke just skips the individual noospheres and goes right for the ultimate collectivity. Except that in Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s cosmology, a noosphere arises when a species evolves to the point where there’s self-awareness, or reflection.

Clarke obviously chose (for that’s what it is) to disbelieve in an actual Creator. But this cold reality he dredges up would make one prefer a Creator God. Clarke is part of the majority who don’t want to believe in an actual Creator. Why would anyone want to believe in a God of love who explicitly makes it known that he plans to rescue imperfect mankind, both from that state of imperfection and from it’s ‘natural’ consequences, namely sickness, old age and death (following rules that the Creator himself laid down)? Not me. Give me darkness and hopelessness and gloom.

Maybe this is why Clarke’s story, which I read so long ago, didn’t stick with me. Well, Partly. I am also certain that I didn’t have the capacity to fully process the concepts presented in Clarke’s story. Proably a lot of adults who read Clarke’s novel back then didn’t have that capacity either. People don’t read and they don’t think critically – about anything. Not all. But most. And that includes educated people, many whom are professionals and leaders. Society is technocratic. Technocratic has a different root meaning than technology. The original language term or terms transliterated into ‘technocratic’, as John Ralston Saul points out, can be literally translated as ‘the skill of power’. I don’t know better, so I’m going to have to run with that. The best way to understand technocracy is to envision a world that is one great collection of cubicles. Everyone has one. Everyone possesses, thanks to a screwed up educational system, specialized knowledge, rather than a healthier wholistic education that can produce well rounded ‘citizens’. People become good at one or two things, but don’t understand anything. They are specialized into stupidity.

Finally, Why on earth would tv execs dump Arthur C. Clarke’s hate-on for God on us just before Christmas? Did someone need to get something off his, or…, chest? Did he want to talk to us about something? How’s that working out? Online commentary about this mini-series, I find, isn’t deep. Such banter about assorted tv shows and movies is usually not deep and that’s okay, although too often it’s extremely ‘not deep’, as in brain dead. And nasty. I like banter about movies and shows I like and I don’t mind that it’s not deep, but Childhood’s End touches on serious matters and I’m guessing that the execs are aware of that. But what do they get out of it? Incidentally, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I am a Christian.

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