The film adaptation of David Mitchell’s complex 2004 novel, “Cloud Atlas,” is a sumptuous feast of images and ideas that will inform your imagination and inspire you with its philosophical insights about our interconnected lives on this planet. The story unfolds across time in six distinct settings with this message:
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”
The film deftly explores the darker and lighter sides of our human nature while suggesting we have the freedom to choose to do either good or evil. Yet with our freedom comes tremendous responsibility because the effects of our choices ripple throughout time. For better and for worse, we are all connected.
After seeing the film, I found a quote by Howard Zinn that I’d included in a June 2010 blog post. I was excited to note that Zinn’s comments about hope were very similar to the message of “Cloud Atlas.”
“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacriﬁce, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
“If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magniﬁcently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
“The future is an inﬁnite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in deﬁance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”
Now here we are—you the reader and me the writer of this blog—connecting via Cloud Computing to share these lofty ideas. It’s so exciting to consider that by our choices there is “…the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.”
One of the funniest and quixotically hopeful characters from the film captures the joy of this epiphany perfectly. “I know. I know!” is the often expressed, only comment made by one of a group elderly residents as they are plotting their escape from an oppressive nursing home.
You’ll have to watch the film to experience the full effect and meaning of his giddy proclamation, “I know. I know!” And you’ll be glad you did.
~Nan Logsdon Mandelkorn