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The movie Interstellar explores a remarkable idea at the center of the Baha’i worldview–that love is the force of attraction, which binds together every person and every thing in existence.
In the film, we see characters harnessing the force of gravity, which draws them together across space and time. For those who haven’t seen the film, it utilizes some fascinating theories about the nature of black holes, gravity, and the holographic universe; exploring the idea that somehow the force of gravity equates to the force of love, an idea that resonates within the Baha’i Writings.
Let’s consider together a Baha’i quote, and then three scenes from the movie. First, that quote:
Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things… Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the diverse elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 127.
Interstellar (spoiler alert!) opens with the premise that Earth can no longer support life, probably as a result of climate change. Humans have to find a new home on another planet. A wormhole, or passageway, opens to another solar system, and a space agency sends explorers through the wormhole to find habitable planets. Each explorer leaves on a one-way journey, potentially risking his or her own life, to find a new home for humanity. By sending signals back to Earth, they communicate whether or not their planet might make a suitable new home for the human race. After a few years a last-chance team from Earth ventures through the wormhole to explore the viable planets.
The first planet they land on looks promising. They find water around them as their spacecraft touches down, and see an apparent mountain range in the distance. However, after a few short minutes the mountains grow larger and larger, and they realize a massive tsunami bears down on them. One of the members of the team risks her life to retrieve data from the explorer’s space pod. She barely makes it back to the shuttle in time to escape the onrushing tsunami. In the process another member of the team who waited for her is swept away and lost.
The second planet, originally explored by one of the leading scientists of the time and reportedly a habitable ecosystem, turns out to be nothing more than a frozen wasteland. They discover that the scientist has lied to them–there is not and never was a hope for life on this planet. The scientist has jeopardized the whole mission in order to save himself, then attempts to steal the spacecraft, their only hope to explore the last remaining planet. He so loves himself that he places his own value above everything else, and almost brings about the end of humanity.
The last planet, clearly habitable, we only glimpse briefly. More importantly, we see the process that leads the team to it. Their damaged spacecraft spins out of control. The main character, in a feat of skillful maneuvering, recovers it–but then realizes their remaining fuel won’t get them to the last planet. He uses the gravitational pull of a black hole to slingshot their shuttle in the right direction. In a final decision, he separates his section from the spacecraft to give the other member of the team sufficient momentum to reach the final planet, sacrificing himself in the process.
Interstellar doesn’t stop there—more on the conclusion of the film in the second essay in this series tomorrow—but it does pose several fascinating spiritual questions. It asks us to think deeply about what binds us together in our relationships and as a species. It explores the bond between a parent and a child, and uses that bond as an analogy for all human connections. It contemplates humanity’s future from an environmental and an emotional perspective. It uses the beautiful metaphor of gravitational pull and time to wonder about the lasting nature of love.
From a scientific perspective, the Baha’i teachings say, a profound connection exists between the force of attraction that holds each atom of creation together, and the force of gravity that holds our world together. That force, which Einstein called the strong force, and which the Baha’i teachings simply call love, binds together every element in the universe:
If the atoms which compose the kingdom of the minerals were without affinity for each other, the earth would never have been formed, the universe could not have been created. Because they have affinity for each other, the power of life is able to manifest itself, and the organisms of the phenomenal world become possible. When this attraction or atomic affinity is destroyed, the power of life ceases to manifest; death and nonexistence result. It is so, likewise, in the spiritual world. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 4.