The science fiction film by Jerome Bixby, The Man From Earth starts simply with some friend gathering at the cabin of John Oldman. (played by David Lee Smith) He’s preparing to move on, somewhat abruptly, and he has gathered them to say goodbye. After opening the night with some Johnny Walker, they have an extraordinary conversation as the evening develops. His cabin is on the edge of a wilderness. While not an unusual locale, the thoughtful discussion brings to mind John’s past years when he was divorced from human influences. The college professors and some students are relishing the friendship that they share.
As the story progresses into deeper history, John offers his friends a lot of trust. He tells them that in the past he would leave and not explain where he is going nor why. This time, John trusts his friends enough that he can candidly describe his past. These friends prove to the viewer that it’s worthwhile to share an engaging discussion.
John reviews his life forward from the simple culture of prehistoric man. As he saw the world expand, he reflects how he first saw mountains and then the ocean. He has met some extraordinary people through his life.
Jerome Bixby, the author of the screenplay was a successful science fiction writer. Among other credits, he wrote for the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone. This movie was brought to life by his son because Bixby died shortly after the screenplay was finished. According to the commentary, it was made on a limited budget, but I think it is still well made. One effect of that is that due to limited lighting, for some of the footage taken after sunset, the video is grainy.
The Man From Earth is the anti-thesis of an action movie. There aren’t special effects, stuntmen or violent conflicts. Instead, the film ends on a surprising note after John’s ideas are presented at a comfortable pace.
I enjoyed the film and have watched its several times. The situation seems organic and not hobbled with stereotypical characters that are simplistic and stilted.
I was reflecting recently about different forms of violence. Some of them are pretty obvious: killing someone, attacking a person with a firearm, knife or club. Shouting at and belittling a person is easy to count as violence as well.
There are more subtle forms of violence. One form attacks, instead of a person, a relationship. By backbiting between two people, it’s possible to poison the relationship, violate trust and companionship. Gossip can be considered a form of violence, striking the victim from behind their back. Violence against a relationship can take varied forms, but it often kills or injures trust.
I realized that their are further forms of violence not visible from the outside. One can attack or berate a person from within your imagination. You can wish they would suffer harm or die, but not take any steps to plan to carry that out. These inner violences can still have negative consequences because they can be reflected in interactions with the other person… acting cold or rude in a manner not characteristic with other people. One can reveal the negative attitude when talking to other people about the target.
One further form of violence is against oneself. That can include suicide and physical self harm. Through self-sabotage, one can thwart ones potential by giving up too easily because of inner voices saying you’re no good, you’re not worth it, you don’t deserve any good things.
The form of violence that I’m most prone to is the latter kind. I project from my past what will happen next. My pattern-recognition is so attuned to detecting negative qualities of myself that I find fault in many things.
I didn’t recognize it as violence until I was writing a letter to a friend and thinking about how I treat myself. I’m most certainly rarely a good friend to myself. It’s hard for me to accept and forgive my mistakes because I can focus blame on the things I do as I participate in my life.
One poignant way that this has played out in the past is insecurity on relationships. I have a much too sensitive hair trigger on rejection. Although I am getting better, I still worry that I’ve done something wrong when i don’t reach someone for a while. Either I did some slight to make the person reject me or they don’t want my friendship anymore. I attack myself and usually no criticism is even necessary, just my hypersensitivity.
Once he started doing things that he was ashamed of, he didn’t want the people around him to find out. He tried to separate the people on one side from the other. If they met, the information could make things awkward.
He decided to pull away from the former group of people because they were the ones that would disapprove of the others. The secrets were growing and the far side became more important and the closer ones were bewildered by his behavior.
As the circle shifted, problems started to pile up. Issues that could be easily solved with an honest discussion, couldn’t get fixed because of the risk of exposure.
The path grew narrower.
Until the secrets were taken out of the darkness, they festered and led to more and more bad times.
He decided to make a change and gradually, the secrets became less threatening. Trust was slowly coming back. The circles realigned and it became possible to move forward again.
Original image: The secret of success…. By Cheryl VanStane [Image license]