A couple of years ago Jack had us read a story for TSK class. In the short story entitled, ‘Story of your Life’, by Ted Chiang, aliens arrive on earth. The new motion picture ‘Arrival’ is based on the short story, but retells the story a little differently, however, both stories, visual and written deal with time and perception in and artful and interesting way.
The aliens, called ‘Heptapods’ are a kind of ‘cephalopod’, from the Greek meaning “head-feet“. Marine animals characterized by a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles (muscular hydrostats). Fishermen sometimes call them inkfish, referring to their common ability to squirt.
There is the central character’s story with flash-backs, and within that…her child’s future story unfolds, and both those stories are told within the alien visitation story. A time within a time…within a time and so on. In this telling we see time become NOT so linear as we normally assume…(from past to future, from cause to effect)…we begin to understand that it is WE who make time linear. Each of us parses time in our refining interpretations of perception. While aliens communicate differently, because of a different physiology, but also, rather than perceive in a sequential cause-and-effect way, the aliens perceive simultaneously…”They experienced all events at once, and perceived a purpose underlying them all. A minimizing, maximizing purpose.”
In the short story, the issue of free will is dealt with, as to how it applies to humans and aliens who see the future. The protagonist says:
“…knowledge of the future was incompatible with free will. What made it possible for me to exercise freedom of choice also made it impossible for me to know the future. Conversely, now that I know the future, I would never act contrary to that future, including telling others what I know: those who know the future don’t talk about it.”
I imagined an example, perhaps…a grandfather with almost a century of living behind him sits with his granddaughter on a bench under the turning leaves…she wants to know all the things granddad can tell her, innocent bright eyes filled with pleasure of the moment… He looks down knowing so much more than she could even dream off at her tender years. He sees her innocence, pains and joys, her advances and discouragements, a light that will burn bright and eventually fade. But seeing a future so encompassing, yet so open…could you tell it to someone who’s lived context has not yet grown to conceive it?
My homework for the prior class was posted here: