I started to write another of those, “Well what a year it’s been y’all, but if we all stick together…” roundups that you’ve no doubt deleted unread this month. But instead I decided to write something real, whilst trying my hardest not to swear. You already know this year has been awful for the wedding business, largely because we’re trying to keep operating (not officially required to close) with almost no customers. It’s easy to think only about your own problems. But you don’t have to try very hard to notice all kinds of other people who are having a hard or harder time than you. The reasons are so unfair. If you’re older, vulnerable, had kids to educate during lockdown, lonely, lost your job, worked in healthcare, or have slept in your lorry on the M20 for several nights, none of the extra crap you’re dealing with is your fault!
But I’m not going to throw the whole ‘be thankful, other people have it worse than you, there are starving children who would love those extra sprouts’ bible at you either. That doesn’t cut it when it comes to 2020. (They are right of course.)
When times are hard our faith in human nature is severely tested. I get so cross at inconsiderate people driving dangerously or blasting the horn because the person in front has the nerve to be turning right where they’re allowed to. Or shoving into me in the supermarket because their shopping is actually important and mine can’t possibly be. I try to remember that some of these folks are going through a harder time than I am. Or maybe they’re not and I’m just better at handling life than they are. That’s fine buddy, I understand. You do you. Of course sometimes they’re just assholes. I’d probably rather have a few false negatives – give a few assholes the benefit of the doubt – than blow up at even one person who’s just lost a loved one or their home or career or relationship. There will always be assholes among us. But one small favour for 2021 – can we at least stop putting them in charge??
My favourite film in the world is ‘Contact’ from 1997. Directed by Robert Zemeckis of Back To The Future fame, it could literally have been written just for me: Sci-fi, astronomy, childhood loss, and the clash of science and religion. Watch it if you can. It’s long, and could easily have been two separate movies. In the first half, Dr. Ellie Arroway is listening for signals from space sent by aliens. This is an actual scientific thing people really do. It’s a thankless and often mocked endeavour listening to the silence of space, but impossible for many to resist because according to all the numbers, the alien civilisations OUGHT to be out there. We can’t fully explain why we haven’t heard from them, except maybe we haven’t been listening long enough. Don’t get me started on the Drake Equation. It’s too far off-topic.
As you might predict, Ellie (played by Jodie Foster) DOES detect a signal. There’s controversy, global hysteria, and huge repercussions for all kinds of beliefs and philosophies. The movie could have ended there, with ambiguity but the promise of future discoveries and a fresh outlook for the people of Earth. But it doesn’t. The message turns out to be blueprints for a gigantic machine which we presume is the Earth station of an interstellar transport system, and we ACTUALLY BUILD IT!
In the second part of the film there’s a lot of debate about which one human being should be sent on this historic trip. Which one of us should be sent to represent all of us? Should we send a scientist, a politician, a religious leader? In the end Ellie goes, and in one beautiful crescendo while floating in zero gravity she sees some awesome celestial event. It looks like a galaxy, or a star system being born. Ellie was partly chosen as a scientist who could understand the mathematical nature of the message, and a communicator who could describe what she sees to the world afterwards. But staring in open-mouthed awe at the literally stunning sight she can barely sob out the words, “They should have sent a poet.”
Later on she does get to meet and talk to an alien… sort of. And although she has thousands of questions, he says she can’t ask them all at once. This was a first step, and there must be many more. How does the transport system even work? He doesn’t know – they didn’t build it. They just found it. It must have been left behind by the ones that went before. In the end he tells Ellie (and this is really my point!) that we humans are an interesting species. An interesting mix. We’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such terrible nightmares. And we think we are all alone in the universe, but we’re not. He says they don’t have all the answers, but the one thing they’ve found that makes the darkness bearable is… each other.
Many more people are spending Christmas on their own this year. Not because they have no family, just because of this weird and screwy situation we’re in, and because they’re admirably doing the right thing. Like I said before, this pandemic will cost something from all of us. We were naive to think it wouldn’t. And that’s taken various forms for different people. So whatever you’re facing at this point in life friend, please know you are never alone. We may have different beliefs – good grief I’ve even held many different beliefs at different times all on my own! But whatever your religion, tradition, philosophy or hogwarts house there’s one thing I know we can ALL have. We have each other. Call or text us any time if you’re feeling blue and we’ll tell you stupid jokes.
Peace and love, and a very happy Christmas to you! From Richard & Kate.