Watching ‘Arrival’ and Waiting for Advent

Brett McCracken | November 18, 2016

I was reminded of T. S. Eliot as I watched Denis Villeneuve’s new film, Arrival. Specifically, the passages in “Little Gidding” that describe the circularity of an existence full of often overlapping departures and arrivals: 

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

Or this:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time. 

Eliot and artists like him put words to an ineffable feeling, an idea that haunts us modern creatures: that we’re eternal beings in a time-bound world. Little ruptures are everywhere: the strange way that joy is so closely related to impermanence and longing; the mysteries of memory, imagination, and dreaming; the oddity of deja vu; the prophetic gifts that Christians chalk up to the Holy Spirit and secularists dismiss as uncanny intuition or Darwinian instinct adaptation.

Christians have language for this, obviously, because we believe in the supernatural and in the everlasting reality of the human soul. But what do unbelievers make of this sense that there is something…

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