Future, Present, Past.
Death, Life, Birth.
Love, Hope, Courage.
These are what define our lives. We are obsessed with time, with our mortality, with our morality. Cloud Atlas (book turned movie) uses many of these themes to provide a platform of transience. This map work of individuals shows how our lives are both tiny in the grand scheme of things and also extremely significant. Individuals cross and re-cross with the paths of others. We’re creatures of habit, often making the same mistakes and triumphs. But with each mistake, do we not learn anew? Do our actions not impact on others? David Mitchell (author) uses 6 intertwining to show that, looking from outside ourselves we can see that there are consequences to our actions.
Ideas about free will, destiny and such have been thrown about for centuries. They’re interesting concepts, but which one rules our universe and defines the course of each of our lives? Are we living by a predetermined script, or do we create our own futures? I believe that it is our actions that create out future. With each act of kindness, our paths in life are safeguarded. And each cruelty damages that path.
In Cloud Atlas, each story is recorded in some format or another. And each tale is thereby read/viewed by a character in the next. It is important therefore to remember that all of our lives are meaningful, and our actions are consequential. We impact on others everyday, and our acts today will forever have impacts in the years to come. In the book, Adam Ewing’s journal is read by Robert Frobisher. RF’s letters to Rufus Sixsmith were read by Luisa Rey. A manuscript of one of LR’s mysteries is read by Timothy Cavendish. A movies about TC’s life is watched by Sonmi 451. And S-451’s Declarations are believed to be a sort of new age “word of God” if you will, in a post-apocalyptic future. From this it is apparent that lives can be connected, and our acts can inspire or affect others.
The stories “Letters from Zedelghem” and “Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” give an insight into the life of Rufus Sixsmith, one of my favourite characters. His life is that of selflessness and utter tragedy. *SPOILER ALERT: His relationship with Robert Frobisher frustrated me because RF seems to be a gloating, selfish person who doesn’t mind boasting about his promiscuity. And then RF kills himself without a good bye (in person) to RS. I know RF had his reasons but the suicide would’ve seriously damaged RS. And then decades later RS again selflessly puts his life in danger to speak out about a cover up of a detrimental working nuclear plant. He does in fact get murdered “for the greater good.” In the grand scheme of things he saved many lives, but I still can’t help but think a good soul died for trying to do good, and his lover took his own life. But I understand that it is a realistic portrayal of humans. We’re not perfect people, and life is, unfortunately, unfair. Bad things happen to those who do good. But I believe that truth will eventually out, good will triumph over evil.
Mitchell gives us the comforting idea of reincarnation. Although I think you should life your life to the fullest, enjoying each day, the idea of past and future lives is utterly infectious. I read that 5/6 protagonists in Cloud Atlas are reincarnations of the same soul. This reiterates the idea of trying to overcome the same challenges but in different lives. I must say, I do like the idea of meeting the same people in other lives. Meeting in different situations. I believe that our good deeds lead to prosperity in another life.
Although we’re only individuals, it is important to remember Adam Ewing’s words in “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” : “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean,but a multitude of drops?”