Friday, June 01, 2012

Flashback Friday: Sphere

Recently, I had a strong urge to re-read Michael Crichton's novel Sphere, which I only read once, back in 1993...the year I had "discovered" Michael Crichton's novels. I vaguely remember it, which was part of the reason why I wanted to read it again. When the movie came out in 1998, I was in college at BYU and took a couple friends. I remember one of my friends feeling sick and pale after we walked out of the theater. It did not help that we were late to the theater and the only seats available were in the front rows, which meant that we had to look straight up at the screen. Even I felt a little squeamish during the movie.

What I vaguely remember about the novel is that the otherworldly sphere that is discovered at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean actually had the ability to manifest whatever thoughts / nightmares the scientific team conjured up. Thus, I wanted to re-read it to see if Crichton's ideas are related to the Universal Law of Attraction. When I read the novel in 1993, I knew nothing about the Universal Law of Attraction or manifesting your dreams. But I did think it was strange that I had so many good experiences in France when other sailors reported the usual "French rudeness" in their experiences. I thought, "How was it possible that I've had nothing but good experiences and everyone else encountered exactly what they expected of French people?" It was strange to me at the time, but in light of awareness, it was not all that strange. I've loved France since childhood, so my euphoric / ecstatic feeling of bliss when our ship made port visits on the French Riviera likely extended out and made me "attractive" to French people that I encountered. The other sailors who walked off the ship went with preconceived notions that the French were arrogant and rude, so it wasn't all that surprising that they experienced exactly that.

The most intriguing idea behind the Sphere, as one character in the novel speculates: "An alien civilization could strew these things around the galaxy, and any intelligence that picks them up would get to experience the power of the sphere. Which is that whatever you think comes true. If you think positive thoughts, you get delicious shrimp for dinner. If you think negative thoughts, you get monsters trying to kill you...If you're in control of your consciousness, the sphere would have no particular effect. If you're not in control, it gets rid of you." (p. 271 in paperback edition)

One of the characters in the novel, Norman, is a psychologist who told the other scientists about Carl Jung's ideas: "Jung suspected there was an underlying structure to the human psyche that was reflected in an underlying similarity to our myths and archetypes. One of his ideas was that everybody had a dark side to his personality, which he called the 'shadow.' The shadow contained all the unacknowledged personality aspects--the hateful parts, the sadistic parts, all that. Jung thought people had the obligation to become acquainted with their shadow side. But very few people do. We all prefer to think we're nice guys and we don't ever have the desire to kill and maim and rape and pillage. As Jung saw it, if you didn't acknowledge your shadow side, it would rule you." (p. 273 in paperback edition)

Here is the true gem in this page-turner of a novel:

"On your planet you have an animal called a bear. It is a large animal, sometimes larger than you, and it is clever and has ingenuity, and it has a brain as large as yours. But the bear differs from you in one important way. It cannot perform the activity you call imagining. It cannot make mental images of how reality might be. It cannot envision what you call the past and what you call the future. This special ability of imagination is what has made your species as great as it is. Nothing else. It is not your ape-nature, not your tool-using nature, not language or your violence or your caring for young or your social groupings. It is none of these things, which are all found in other animals. Your greatness lies in imagination.

The ability to imagine is the largest part of what you call intelligence. You think the ability to imagine is merely a useful step on the way to solving a problem or making something happen. But imagining it is what makes it happen.

This is the gift of your species and this is the danger, because you do not choose to control your imaginings. You imagine wonderful things and you imagine terrible things, and you take no responsibility for the choice. You say you have inside you both the power of good and the power of evil, the angel and the devil, but in truth you have just one thing inside you--the ability to imagine."
(page 335 in paperback edition)

This came from a scene in the novel when Norman had entered the sphere and had his questions answered. However, a reader can't help but wonder when reading a passage like this if this reflects the author's actual views. Did Michael Crichton have a spiritual view of the world that included the Universal Law of Attraction? Did he believe that he attracted the success that he found as an author into his life experience? I would not be surprised if that passage reflected his actual beliefs about the human species and the secret power that we possess. It is quite possible that he wrote Sphere as a gripping, page-turning science-fiction novel just to introduce such an idea to the reading public. This novel was first published in 1987.

After reading the novel again and enjoying it even more than when I first read it in 1993, I also decided to watch the movie version again within a day or two of finishing. While the novel might have been more intriguing and enjoyable to me the second time, I can't say the same for the second viewing of the movie. There were changes made, but it was a lousy adaptation. There were less interactions between the sphere and the scientists (in the novel, the dialogues with the sphere through the computer are hilarious). Also, in the movie, Samuel L. Jackson seemed more interested in reading the novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea than being part of the action. Lame. This movie is proof that not all Crichton novels make excellent films. This was too claustrophobic and I don't think under-the-ocean movies do very well with audiences.

If you've never read the novel or seen the movie, skip the movie and read the book. The book is always better than the movie anyway (in most cases). Especially this one. Fortunately, we don't need some otherworldly sphere to help us manifest our dreams into reality. We have that power already...we just have to learn how to use it for the good of all.

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