Today I’m watching Arrival on TV as I rest at home after surgery.
As Amy Adams’s character ascends into the alien spaceship with her protective jumpsuit on, after getting some inoculations and experiencing the ship’s weird gravity, she struggles for breath as others in her party exchange information and banter.
I find myself riveted by her drama, which is the drama of biological survival. I now know what it is like to struggle for breath and consciousness while the world carries on as normal around me. The bad feeling all through my body. The way everything else is a blur. How is takes all of my resources—attention, effort, muscle power—just to breathe. Everything else is kind of gray and fuzzy. And I recognize the way her team leader speaks to her: authoritative but kind and encouraging. How many times have I heard that precise tone from EMTs, nurses, and orderlies over the last few months.
Suffering leads to wisdom—one of the great truths of human life. Experiencing that wisdom in art feels like a little blessing.