Quaker Universalist Conversations

The Martian

Observations on the 2015 film by Ridley Scott

We can all anticipate The Martian.

This film is more than a single star vehicle for Matt Damon.

It is more than a promo for NASA in showcasing the value and funding of continued space exploration. More than an argument for science and scientific thinking as the way to assess and use human experience. More than the testimonial for American ingenuity and creativity in solving practical problems.

Matt Damon as Astronaut Mark Watney in "The Martian"
It is more than its passing and dismissive references to prayer and religious objects. More than a good reason for adults to take children to the movies to point toward careers in a new generation.

It is all these. But, we can wait for these benefits.

Stepping back, this film is poised to raise the importance of Quaker universalist themes as human themes.

  1. Understanding reality: The importance of a full, critical understanding of existential reality as big, deep, objective, knowable and mysterious. Humans use the resources of personal experience and community tradition in facing a new and enlarging view of the circumstances of reality.
  2. Person value: There is a value inherent in persons. Persons are worth saving. There is no room for resignation. Each one matters.
  3. Care Scope: Recognize the broad scope of care, including persons at a inter-planetary distance. The “we” grows larger to include more of the “other” at greater distances.
  4. Behavior: How do I behave with integrity, with action and reflection, to apply values to practice in new circumstances?
  5. Creating a Good Life: Recognize the finitude of human capabilities and potential adverse outcomes and difficult circumstances while applying value testimonies to practical daily living.
  6. Death: Trust in the final reconciliation when death is here or near and potentially sudden. It is an example of the consequence of a good life well-lived, trust in being part of a bigger picture.

This makes the case for the film The Martian as a suitable topic for Quaker discussion in light of Quaker testimonies.

What can we say, through this fictional experience, about the applicability of Quaker testimonies to new circumstances?

Image Source

Matt Damon as Astronaut Mark Watney in The Martian, 20th Century Fox.


I think that these comments on The Martian (which I still haven’t seen) are excellent, and that the topics suggested for Quaker reflection are on target. I want to add my own view, however (again, frankly uninformed by having actually seen the movie). I’m worried about our fascination with carrying our human domination of this world into space. How we might live simply on Planet Earth is a topic I suggest is worth discussion. (See "#306 / The Martian," by Gary Patton.)
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