Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
Why are you here, what is your purpose? To ask and answer these questions requires words.
The movie Arrival (2016) explores these questions. Arrival is a science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Eric Heisserer. It is based on the 1998 short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. The movie is actually about humanity, with the aliens as a background vehicle for a message about communication and the most powerful of weapons: words. When 12 extraterrestrial “ships” arrive at various locations on earth, the US military recruits Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist and language professor, to communicate with the aliens. Helping her is Ian Donnelly, a theoretical physicist.
Uninterested in learning the aliens’ language, the military wants to determine one thing and fast: What is the aliens’ purpose on earth?
Ian and Louise enter the ship and meet the aliens who are separated from them by a translucent barrier. (The aliens are two enormous creatures, resembling giant squid with seven tentacle-like arms—thus their name, heptapods.) When Louise attempts conversation, one of the heptapods emits a black smoke-like substance that forms a circular symbol, called a logogram, on the barrier. Heptapod sentences are written as logograms, circular inkblots similar to Rorschach splotches, suggesting that their sentences have no beginning or ending and are not bound to any pattern or order. Each of the 12 sets of heptapods around the world seeks to give their language to the humans in their region of the planet, a “gift” to humans to be used in the future. But the people of the world misunderstand and begin fighting amongst themselves.
The heptapods’ language changes Louise’s worldview and her ability to perceive the details of her life. In a flash-forward to the future, Louise learns that she will one day have a daughter who will die of a rare disease. Still Louise embraces the joy that will come from her daughter’s existence and chooses to give her life.
In learning the purpose of the heptapods being on earth, Louise learns something about her purpose as well.
What can we learn from this story? Language is the cornerstone of civilization. Words have power. The Bible is referred to as the living word of God (Hebrews 4:12). In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, God speaks through Paul concerning the importance of this word. God’s word come to us in human words.
Just as Louise’s worldview is transformed by the heptapods’ language, God’s word should transform our minds (Romans 12:2), allowing us to trust the one who truly knows the future.