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Film 'Gravity' Portrays Our Spiritual Condition

In the 2013 film, Gravity, Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky, played by Georg Clooney. On a routine spacewalk, the shuttle is destroyed by a freak hail of space debris, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone. According to one description of the film, "They are tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth ... and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space."

After the film's release, the German magazine Der Spiegel asked 69-year-old German astronaut Ulrich Walter to fact-check the film. Walter said that after becoming completely untethered, Sandra Bullock's character would have died. The interviewer commented, "That doesn't sound like a very nice way to go, drifting through nothingness in a spacesuit, waiting to die."

But Ulrich replied, "When you're slowly running out of oxygen, the same thing happens as does when you're in thin air at the top of a mountain: Everything seems funny. And as you're laughing about it, you slowly nod off. I experienced this phenomenon in an altitude chamber during my training as an astronaut. At some point, someone in the group starts cracking bad jokes … A person who dies alone in space dies a cheerful death." In other words, your situation is hopeless, you're slowly dying, but you think it's funny.

Possible Preaching Angles: Is it possible that our entire culture is, in many ways, cut off from our spiritual oxygen supply, "drifting through nothingness, waiting to die" and yet "everything seems funny"? Is this an example of what Neil Postman called "amusing ourselves to death"?

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