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Embracing some big questions

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By Kelly Dolejsi

You’ve seen “Contact,” right? Jodie Foster, the Very Large Array, a very attractive wormhole?

Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel of the same time blew my dad away. Until I recently watched the film again, that was kind of all I remembered about it: My dad, going on and on about the awesomeness.

It would be a pitiful understatement to say that when anyone mentions “Contact,” he gets starry-eyed. He gets Jodie-Foster-eyed. But mostly, he just believes.

I mean no offense at all to my father, but he is the ideal audience for a movie all about faith in something crazy. He adores “X-Files.” He loves “The Twilight Zone.” We don’t talk much about the work of Stanley Kubrick but I bet he loves “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I bet he understands that humongous cosmic fetus; that he even identifies with it.

And it’s quite beautiful, that ability to wrap one’s arms around the vast unreachables – not only space, I mean, or little green supremely intelligent life-forms, but even the so-called “Big Questions,” such as “Why are we here?” and “Where else can we go?”

I think every Earthling considers these kinds of issues, but only some us can stand behind our answers. “Contact” appeals to my dad because he can do that, especially after a couple beers. It appeals to me because I can’t, no matter what I drink. I have trouble with faith, be it in life in another galaxy or in life after death.

I am neither Foster’s character (Eleanor Arroway) or Matthew McConaughey’s (the non-celibate priest, Palmer Joss), yet I long for that sort of conviction. Or maybe I don’t; maybe I admire it. Maybe I think it’s completely ridiculous.

But I like the movie. “Contact” makes me think it doesn’t matter so much what a person believes, as long as they honor it. Following through on one’s belief – or one’s dream or one’s promise – is what makes the incredible possible.

How wonderful that a movie, a book or any piece of art can remind us how unlimited life really is. And, for me at least, how wonderful to be reminded of my dad, the distance to whom can only be determined by measuring his parallax shift against the background stars.

The Mesa Public Library Free Film Series will screen “Contact” at                   6:30 p.m. Thursday in the upstairs meeting room theater. Like all films presented during this season’s celebration of Los Alamos’ 60th anniversary, part of this movie was filmed in New Mexico. Admission is free. The film is sponsored by the county libraries, Friends of the Library and the Los Alamos Arts Council.

Kelly Dolejsi is a member of the Los Alamos Arts Council.