Friday Flotsam: Sacred Heart and Jurassic Park

1. Today, of course, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This year it is also (coincidentally) the Feast of St. John the Baptist.
The heart is the core and “noblest part of the human person” (as Pope Pius XII puts it), the seat of the soul and the passions and the innermost self. Thus the Sacred Heart of Our Savior – His real, human heart – is the core of the Incarnation, the great sign of God’s union with His Creation and thus His rule over it. It was from His Sacred Heart that blood and water flowed when His side was pierced, and thus from the Sacred Heart that the Church was born.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to the inestimable love of God and acknowledgement of His headship over all things. Hence it stands in opposition to injustice, perversion, and all forms of rebellion against God and Creation. For instance, the peasants of the Vendee took the Sacred Heart as their banner (along with the white cockade that signifies legitimate Christian Monarchy).

Oh, Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto thine!

2. Now that the sublime is given its right due, we can turn to the personal and from thence to the ridiculous.

I had a bad cold all this week which left me about a quarter functional. Means I had to constantly remind myself of something in David Stewart’s book Keys to Prolific Creativity (which I highly recommend, by the way: it’s one of the better books on the subject I’ve read): “The cows don’t care that you’re sick.” Basically that being a professional artist of any kind requires the mentality of a farmer, where, among other things, certain chores simply need to be done regardless of how you feel. So I dragged myself to working on current project and churning out mostly-bad prose / unravelling plot difficulties.

Remember: bad writing on the page is still worth more than no writing on the page.

3. ‘Collaboration’ is one of those words that I never want to hear again. It’s not only way overused, but it seems to me at least to come with a kind of preening satisfaction, as if there were something inherently meritorious about two or three people working on a project instead of just one. Look, if I need help on a project, I’ll ask for it; don’t push me into wasting my time hovering over someone’s shoulder trying to read his screen when I could just be piecing through it myself.

The ostensible idea behind this is for everyone’s different knowledge and perspectives to contribute to the work. Except that by forcing everyone to follow the same damn procedure and work the same way, you’re actually handicapping the people who work best alone and at their own pace.

That, and I find the whole thing intensely patronizing. It’s essentially nothing but the adult equivalent of ‘teamwork’ in elementary school. Boasting of how ‘collaborative’ your workforce is seems to me to amount to nothing but “our employees are good boys and girls who play well with others.”

4. Another thought occurred to me re: the Jurassic Park films. In the second film of both trilogies, a major theme is “we have to protect the dinosaurs lest they die out.” Your standard ‘save the whales’ message applied to dinos. To that end, as is often noted, the ‘heroes’ directly or indirectly cause many horrible deaths in their efforts to save the dinosaurs from human exploitation.

But even beyond that: if the dinosaurs do die out from exploitation or a volcano or what have you, can’t we just make more if we really want them? The whole premise of this franchise is that scientists have found a way to bring extinct animals back to life. In fact, under these conditions, wouldn’t extinction be a more or less obsolete concept, making this all a big fuss over nothing?

Not even addressing, of course, the question of why environmentalists would be so keen on protecting artificially created invasive species (I like to imagine that Isla Sorna was once home to a totally unique population of monkeys or something that the dinosaurs have now hunted to extinction).

5. That said, I actually think you might have been able to make something of the idea in the second film if you’d taken a different approach. What if you explored the question of what responsibility does a man have toward animals that he has called into life out of extinction?

Focus on Hammond and his grappling with this question, his guilt, and his desire that the animals should be treated as humanely as possible. He’s dying, and so the story would perhaps focus on his son and heir, trying to honor his father’s wishes while maintaining his place in the company. You might frame it that he brings important stockholders to the island to try to convince them of Hammond’s point of view or something, while his corporate rivals try to push their plans. Hammond Jr. wouldn’t be so much against any form of exploitation so much as trying to find some way to make a profit off of the dinosaurs while also protecting them. You could maybe have him start off feeling overshadowed by his father and end with him coming into his own as a leader.

This is all just off the top of my head, but the point is that the moral issues raised by the dinosaurs are not the same as the moral issues involved in our dealings with contemporary animals, and any development of the story after the first film would have had to acknowledge that.

Once again, some outcomes and storylines simply do not follow from a given premise. A discussion of exploitation makes sense if this were a genuine lost world story – dinosaurs living into modern times in an isolated environment – because then they would indeed be in their natural habitats and potentially disrupted by human interference (see King Kong for instance). It does not make sense in a story where they only exist at all because of human action.

6. Similarly, I think the thing to really explore in the Jurassic Park world is just the fact that we can now basically undo the loss of any species as long as we can get hold of the DNA. Want to try dodo meat? How about passenger pigeon?

They briefly address this in the first film, but really this seems to me to be one of the primary issues raised by the whole topic. Humanity now seemingly has an ‘undo’ button for its effects on ecosystems. It might be interesting to explore the effects and implications of that, including the question of just how much could be undone.

Say we bring the dodo back. Well, one of the reasons it went extinct is because of rats eating its eggs. But that’s still going to be an issue even if we re-introduce them, so would we actually be able to bring them back, or would them simply die out again the moment we stopped caring for them? A way of emphasizing the complexity and interconnectedness of the natural world and how there are no simple solutions.

Or perhaps we can bring species back and successfully re-introduce them into the wild; so that New Zealand once again rings with the musical cries of the moa. What then? Mightn’t people decide that, since they have an undo button, there are now no need for hunting restrictions or environmental laws or the like?

As I say, there are a lot of interesting implications at play here. And, of course, the films pretty much just forget about them all after the first movie.

7. And since Jurassic Park is on the mind:

2 thoughts on “Friday Flotsam: Sacred Heart and Jurassic Park

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