New Earths, New Futures: Symbolic Synchronicity in the Collective Imagination
posted by Michael M. Hughes | December 9, 2011
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . .
I’ve been struck by some unusual symbolism manifesting in the collective imagination recently, with two notable (but unconnected) films sharing eerily similar imagery: that of a new Earth-like planet, blue, cloud-streaked, and reflective—essentially a mirror-image of our own—appearing in the sky. There’s something deeply resonant and iconic about the image that appears in both Lars von Trier’s haunting, nihilistic Melancholia and in Mike Cahill’s provocative first dramatic film, Another Earth. I was going to write about the cinematic synchronicity, and what it means viewed through several prisms (Jungian, Hermetic, alchemical, Gnostic, comparative mythology, shamanism, etc.), but I haven’t been able to settle on a single overriding interpretation—does a new Earth represent our hopes for a new beginning or our darkest apocalyptic fears? In von Trier’s film, the new Earth-like planet is a cosmic joker, snuffing out our world and all its life, history, and dreams in a bleak, meaningless collision of mindless matter. In Another Earth, however, the new planet is an exact mirror of our own, including all of us, only changing its identical chronology when its humans (our other selves) become aware of our world (and we, theirs). Cahill immerses us in quantum paradoxes, particularly the “many worlds” or multiverse theory in which each and every interaction alters the course of reality.
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