As a kid, you read THE FOX AND THE GRAPES. Initially, you may have thought that once upon a time there was a Greek-speaking fox who had his mind read by a psychic named Aesop, but later, you learned that this "fable" helped to explain YOUR (not the Fox's) (possibly irrational) behavior: "Hey, this reminds me of the time when I wanted to go to Disney World, Dad said I couldn't, so I thought 'Aah, I'd rather go to Six Flags anyway. The Fox is lying to himself; maybe I'm lying to myself." As you grew up, you learned over time not to take fables as literal truths, but rather, as more PROFOUND truths -- metaphorical truths, truths which cut across a wide variety of situations -- truths which gave you a compass, gave you feedback in getting through and understanding the world. Ultimately, these "fables," formerly seen as "kid stuff," turned out to be valuable in helping you see the world more clearly. Metaphorical truth isn't "less truthful" -- it's more truthful, because it covers more situations than just the immediate fact-pattern. This universality gives the parable and the myth power. The 2 + 2 = 4 of morality, ethics, and drama are played out on the metaphorical level, unlike the 2 + 2 = 4 of math, which is pedantically and hopelessly literal. You might even say that the line which divides the literal from the metaphorical is the same one which divides Science from Art. Art is the Navigator, Science the Engineer; both necessary for the journey. Kubrick's style can fool ya. He spends a great deal of time creating a plausible literal base for his films; consequently, even those who are unable to find any meanings other than literal will find something to like in a Kubrick film. However, this attention to detail can create the illusion that Kubrick's films are documentaries, and can put a person in the same frame of mind they are in when reading a newspaper. But this isn't necessarily the right frame of mind for getting out of Kubrick's films all the meanings they "contain." When seeing 2001, people sometimes focus on the literal anomalies which arise. Specifically, many people ask "how could Bowman survive in the airlock without a helmet?" Curiously, these people don't ask, "how can an embryo fly through outer space in subzero temperatures with no umbilical cord?" or "how can a baby be born without a father and mother?" A simple explanation is that in these latter cases there is no literal frame that lulls you into the literal frame of mind, unlike the former. The answer is simple: the literal level is just a set of training- wheels, the first rung on the ladder. To really make the bicycle fly, you'll need to lose those training wheels . . .
Back to Table of Contents.