… Armageddon vs Deep Impact: it’s the same message.
Armageddon and Deep Impact both came out at roughly the same time; they each deal with a threat to the earth from impact with an enormous celestial body, and the extreme measures that must be taken to survive/prevent disaster. Deep Impact seems to offer a more “realistic” prediction of what it would be like – with political ramifications, tough choices, and an enormous body count. Armageddon is a bit more fun, offering more humour, unlikely scenarios, and last-minute saves. But both films have (at least) one thing in common: they both involve the hero(es) making the ultimate sacrifice to avert total calamity.
Whether it’s Harry Stamper (Armageddon) staying behind to manually detonate the life-saving bomb, or Fish Spurgeon (Deep Impact) guiding the others into a comet-kamikaze run, both films suggest that sometimes the only way to save the world is to be brave enough to face death.
What does that have to do with the real world?
Is it that disasters could happen, and we should be prepared? Well, no; disasters could very well happen, but devastation on a global scale would probably not really be something we could “prepare” for. That’s kind of why it’s called “devastation.” Is it that we should be prepared to die for our loved ones and our fellow man? I suppose it would be nice if we cared enough about others to make that kind of sacrifice; I like to think that I would be able to make that choice if I had to.
But really it’s much less dramatic than that.
It’s that we all go through life feeling as though everything is so difficult. We always want more than we have. We always want things to be different than they are. We always want people to act and speak and feel differently than they do – or if they already are “exactly” what we wanted, we become terrified that they’ll change, and we work really hard to prevent that change from happening. We want the world to be different, to be better, to be safe. We want love and peace and clean water … and we want someone else to arrange all that for us.
Because we’re far too busy worrying and fretting and complaining about all the stupid, meaningless, insignificant crap in our lives to take on big projects like “becoming the change we want to see.”
But at the end of the day, if we really, really want something, we’re going to have to be willing to do it ourselves. Whether it’s something as big as making sure people on the other side of the planet have clean drinking water, or something as small as finally having that conversation with your partner about the housework, if it’s something that’s worth anything to you, you’re going to have to commit to doing it.
And all that my-latte-was-too-cold-and-Jerry-took-my-parking-space stuff? It turns out that, in a world where things are worth living for, and where some things are worth dying for, all that other stuff that keeps us from “being the change” just doesn’t really matter.
The Stampers and Spurgeons of the world aren’t just telling us to kick in when it counts. They’re telling us that it always counts, that what matters isn’t the disaster (or project, or latte) we face, or even how we respond, but just that we faced things at all.
Both Armageddon and Deep Impact are telling the same story – get our priorities straight and focus on what’s important – and they’re both saying it through the life-or-death sacrifices of its heroes. How do we know they’re the heroes? Because they die? No.
Because they do something.
Whether your life borders on the absurd, or is weighed down with politics and realism and interpersonal drama – or if both those scenarios are true – live it. Commit, experiment, experience, move. You’re (probably) not a Stamper or Spurgeon upon whose actions the fate of the world depends; don’t worry about failure. Just do something. Get used to doing something. Then, when the comet/asteroid-crap hits the fan, you’ll be ready.
And if the comet/asteroid never comes? … then you’ll have been happy your whole life.