If you haven't seen "Contact," starring Jodi Foster, don't walk - run -- to your nearest video store. The movie can be summed up in three words: Science meets God.
Written by astronomer Carl Sagan and directed by Robert Zemekis - the same man who brought you Forrest Gump - the film softly carries you aloft on a magic carpet ride weaved with thoughtful, reverent tapestries of emotion. No matter where you stand on your spiritual journey, Contact brings you closer to your destination.
In the movie, Jodi Foster plays Ellie Arrowway, a scientist obsessed with the search for extraterrestrial life. Ellie spends years pointing huge radio telescopes at the infinite number of stars - one at a time -- listening for organized patterns that might prove we are not alone in the universe.
Along the way, she meets Palmer Joss, "a man of the cloth, without the cloth," who has become the United States' most popular spiritual writer and advisor to the president. In the movie, he's described as "the man who has his finger on the spiritual pulse of America."
Sure enough, Ellie discovers an inter-stellar message directed at earth that proves the existence of life in Vega, a star system 27 light years away. As the world reacts with astonishment, trepidation and curiosity, Ellie decodes the message and discovers engineering blueprints that communicate how to build a machine capable of carrying one human being to Vega.
Let the spiritual dialogue begin.
Through the reactions of the characters to the remarkable events they experience, those of us who watch the film are forced to consider the structure of our own beliefs about science, our place in the universe and our perceptions of God.
Organized religious leaders are leery, fearful that the knowledge we are no longer alone will threaten their currently-held beliefs.
Scientists backbite each other, competing for access - and interpretation - of the new data.
Governments wrestle with how to select the one human being who can adequately represent us all.
Military leaders, fearful of possible invasion, grapple for control of the project in the name of national security.
Cult groups both celebrate and cower, believing this to be a sign of a new millennium.
In short, these people don't see this possible contact as it actually is, they see the possible contact as THEY think it is.
Without revealing the ending, the machine is constructed and a person is selected to go on the mission. As in real life, the spiritual journey is an individual one. As in real life, it can't be adequately described, only experienced. And despite the elaborate blueprints, there is still a knowledge gap on this search for a higher being that can only be bridged by faith.
Despite the incredible machine, despite the brave human chosen to take the voyage and despite some mind-bending experiences, the answer to the question 'Are we alone in the universe?' can only be answered individually, not collectively.
Perhaps the best answer, one you will ponder for long moments after the film's conclusion, was given by Ellie's father when Ellie was just an 8-year-old girl. She'd asked him if he thought there were other people on those stars they observed. He smiled, looked deeply into her eyes and said, "I don't know, Ellie. But if it's just us, it seems like an awful waste of space."
Mike Johnson is an energetic writer & entrepreneur. Learn more about Mike's offerings at www.MikeJohnson.biz