Recently on a sick day, I re-watched the movie Martian Child, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Based on a true story, the movie follows David – a widower of two years who is still thinking about his wife’s desire to build their family through adoption. Now without her, David is wondering if he could still adopt a child by himself. He still doubts that this is a good idea when he gets a call from a social worker who says she has a boy who David would be great for.
The boy believes he is from Mars. David is a successful science fiction writer. Perfect.
David first meets his Martian child while the boy is hiding in a box. David coaxes him out from the box with plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, and an umbrella to keep the sun’s rays off of the Martian’s sensitive skin. He finds that the boy wears a weight belt to keep him from floating off of Earth, because its weak gravity cannot hold him down.
A Polaroid camera is the boy’s constant companion as he snaps photo after photo for his mission – documenting and studying life on Earth and trying to become as human as he possibly can. The Martian practices mimicking the facial expressions captured in the photos and watches closely what it means to grieve, love, and ultimately belong in human company.
I often feel like the Martian child. Sometimes I ask for advice from one friend on the meaning of what another friend did. I’m often baffled by our ability as human beings for hypocrisy, self-deception, and extreme, unexpected kindness. A facial expression with unknown meaning sticks in my mind for months; I wonder what it meant and what its relationship was to what I said.
I don’t think I’m alone in this haze of ambiguity. Surely you too have exclaimed, “What could they possibly be thinking?!” Is it too much to assume that miscommunications and misunderstandings are just as common in your world as they are in mine? At least once, haven’t you also felt the sting of someone’s look that wonders from which planet you descended?
We have all come from our own tiny universes – also known as families. We enter the broader world of human company with our own alien blend of strengths, weaknesses, abuses, and securities. And while we’d all like to believe we’re the ones from Earth, the truth is we all come from our own little planets and are trying to negotiate life among other aliens also trying to figure this Earthling thing out.
I doubt we’re doing as well at it as we’d like to think.
It would seem a little alien grace is in order.