I recently watched “Primer,” one of the most thought provoking movies I have seen in a long time. Not that it was just philosophically engaging, but that it was by end very complex and complicated to say the least. I have to also say…hats off to the guys who made a movie like this; that is so smart and well filmed for just $7000. It is truly amazing!
The movie is basically about a group of friends who are engineers and every month pursue a new idea in hope of inventing something amazing and of course get rich. The movie gains momentum when two of friends (the main characters) break the friends’ pact and do an experiment of their own. They find out that their invention is actually a time machine and over the course of a few days/weeks realize the effects of causality and in a nut shell realize they have opened up a “Pandora’s Box.”
To give you a small understanding of how complex the movie storyline is, here is an example of someone who has mapped it out and posted it online.
This movie leads to interesting discussions on paradoxes and causality. For example a paradox is defined as: “an apparently true statement or group of statements that seems to lead to a contradiction or to a situation that defies intuition.” (Wikipedia.org). In theoretical time travel, if you go back in time and meet yourself, would you create a paradox and what would happen?
Have you ever thought about the paradoxes in Scripture? Paradoxes like: God knows the future yet we have free will. Or as John Ortberg describes “the cross as the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that he can draw close to us in our loss and grief.” Or the theological idea of grace, that we can do nothing to gain everything. Or we are invited to loose our lives to gain it. I think and believe that it is those very paradoxes that make God so amazing and beyond complete human understanding. As Thomas Merton once said: “…if you find God with great ease, perhaps it is not God that you have found.” I would change it to: “If we think we completely understand God, perhaps it is not God we understand but ourselves.” The more I know, the more I learn I don’t know, which is both exciting as I see the mystery of God, scary in that it is more and more beyond me and humbling as I understand what I don’t know.
How about causality? “Causality describes the relationship between causes and effects.” (wikipedia.org) In theoretical time travel, especially in this movie, it is used a lot. One of the most famous examples is the idea of the causality of a butterfly flapping its wings thus setting off a chain of events. This is the most problematic element of any time travel movie and the arrogance that somehow someone can go back in time and only change what they want. What if they unintentionally changed the outcome of their birth, would they then just disappear? Now think about causality in scripture and spirituality. How much does what we do effect those around us – both good and bad? How much do we leave out of our understanding of what God did at creation, what we did at the fall or what Christ did on the cross? We often limit those things but it isn’t that simple nor should it be.
Back to the movie…I would highly recommend watching it – probably experiencing it is the better word. But be forewarned…it is thought provoking, you will have to watch it several times, and you may lose some sleep over it as you lay in bed, as I did, trying to figure out what was happening when