OPPENHEIMER – Desolation? Nah. Hopefulness!

OPPENHEIMER – Desolation? Nah. Hopefulness!

Got to see the film Oppenheimer last night. Complex. Storytelling only as quality film can do. Yet necessarily incomplete, rushed and biased – as all stories are. After all, it is a 3-hour movie, not a 3-month seminar.

I can only surmise that different people take away different things from this film. In many ways, you get out of it what you put into it. And, what you get out of it will be influenced by your knowledge of history – and the source of your knowledge. 

It is easy to walk away from the film with a sense of desolation; a sense that humanity is doomed to an unavoidable self destruction.

After watching this film, we may be tempted to fall in the trap of looking at humanity as parasites. We may very well be one of the shortest lived species on planet Earth – and the only one to self-destruct in a mere few millennia of existence.

The web of complex relationships that weave through the film is jarring. The emotions displayed are raw. The insecurities – and false securities – exhibited by many of the characters are numbing. (The love scenes are unnecessary. Too bad Hollywood feels they must be in every R rated movie).

The main character – Oppenheimer – is indeed wishy-washy. And, as Truman calls him, somewhat of a “cry-baby”. But, aren’t we all? To me he comes across as very real and relatable. To others that seek certitude and definiteness he may come across as weak, confused, and impressionable. Again, to me he is real.

Too bad that REM”s “It’s the end of the world as we know it” was already used in another movie – Independence Day. It would have been a fitting soundtrack for Oppenheimer.

So, what to make of it? Should we simply sulk in our own inevitable demise and fall prey to insolvable desolation after watching Oppenheimer? Nah.

I choose to view the film as a portrayer of what went wrong that we can learn from and do right. Technology in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is all in how we choose to apply it. 

Unlike every other species on Planet Earth we can choose to apply what we can do – or not do – for the collective good and perpetuation of the species.  Or we can choose to be self centered as individuals or tribes and grab power through violence, regardless of consequences – including potential extinction.

We know what it takes. We have philosophy – and faith – to guide us. Most major philosophical and faith traditions converge on the simple, similar answer. 

While we are certainly not the only species to have emotions, we are the only one to act upon those emotions with much more than just instinct. We have intellect, we have cumulative knowledge, we have the stories of our past. We also have compassion, we care, we love. We find joy in others – in relationships. We have the capacity to go beyond linear decision-making and discern what actions to take – or not take. 

We know how to do this. We know how to be co-creators of our own future. We can do it individually – and collectively.

I am not being pollyannaish or looking at life through rose colored glasses. I am fully aware that individual hurt – deep hurt – and collective atrocities are very real. I am fully aware that our history is told from the perspective of war, struggle, and conflict. (I am also keenly aware that history is written by winners).

And – not but. I choose to be hopeful. I choose to see the goodness in others. I choose compassion. I choose to build relationships on where our agendas intersect – and celebrate joyfully. And I am thankful for what others have taught me.

I also am firmly and eternally hopeful that there is a critical mass of humanity that feels similarly. As the grandfather of three, I know in my bones these future generations will improve on our successes, learn from our failures, and pass on that positivity to their grandchildren joyfully and jubilantly. And our species will evolve to meet whatever challenge may come our way.

Watching Oppenheimer does not have to be a downer. It can spark our (re)commitment to do what we can – individually and collectively – to be part of a constructive way forward rather than a destructive force.

We can do this!

(Comments? Send me an email Reemberto(at)gmail.com)