We’re all broken in some way– never completely fulfilled and always looking for something new or something to make us feel more “whole.” The degrees to which we cope with and conquer these incomplete feelings differ, but I honestly think this is what makes us human and makes us individuals. It’s that struggle with everything that’s “wrong” and how we find solace in our own personal ways that makes me “me” and you “you,” because it’s the willingness to continue striving for that unattainable solution that makes life worthwhile.
The thing that scares me the most on the existential level is losing that will to improve and losing that sense of self– in forgetting what makes me incomplete and problematic in my own unique way. That’s the main reason why I fear death; not for the potential for facing judgement by some force beyond my recognition or anything like that, but for the potential that everything that distinguishes me may evaporate. Be it returning to some universal consciousness where I become a part of a greater whole, or simply my electrical impulses ceasing to be and quietly vanishing– I fear losing “me” when this body eventually gives out.
That’s what makes Annihilation terrifying on a primal level for me– it’s not about an invading force here to conquer the planet, kill us all, and what have you. It’s about an uncaring, alien force that has no sense of self, and how its nature is to spread and rob everything else of its original self. This isn’t a pod person scenario, where humans are taken, replicated, and replaced. The alien force in Annihilation “refracts” the very DNA in everything around it, creating a horrific evolutionary mix-tape. Alligators are smashed with sharks to create a massive, hungry abomination with a maw of unending teeth. Bears become apex predators that not only devour your flesh, but also subsume some level of your own psyche, so that they can holler back your death throes so as to distract future prey. Plant and animal is no longer a logical distinction. You become your friend and your friend becomes you, and neither one can remember who is the original. The alien mimics your every feature and move, but at the same time seems completely oblivious to your existence.
There is no malevolence in this process. This is not a mad scientist splicing together disparate species in order to play God. There is no intent– no goal other than “this is what it does.” Does this alien presence even comprehend what it’s doing? Is this some active process where it seeks to make itself whole, yet cannot even when it wholly subsumes someone else’s identity? Is it doing exactly what everyone, including the cast of “broken” women sent into its domain to discover the truth, is trying to accomplish with their life? Is it seeking purpose, but the capacity for us to understand it and for it to understand us simply isn’t there? Are we seeking the same goal, but our very make-up makes it impossible for one to exist with the other? Are our purposes so diametric that only one can survive?
And that leads me to further question whether we as individuals can really co-exist. We can form friendships, truces, and social contracts in order to maintain order on personal levels and various levels of social strata, but is that compromise holding us back from personal fulfillment? Are the things that help maintain our ability to survive as a species also the things that keep us from thriving as individuals?
And that’s the beautiful paradox of being human.
We are not ever-living beings with all the time and all the potential to become whatever we want. We only have so many years to live, and those years can be cut short because of diseases physical and mental, the actions of others, and natural events beyond our control. We only get so many choices, and we make those choices despite knowing our next could be our last. We don’t always make good choices, but they define us none the less. No one’s ever going to make the same choices, even if many of us find our life-paths crossing others frequently.
And none of these choices result in us achieving complete fulfillment, enlightenment, or “winning” at life. We don’t get an all-clear or end credits after we make that last choice. Maybe your religion talks of rewards and punishments, but even if you go to heaven, you’re still an incomplete person. You didn’t achieve everything you could during your life, and that reward or punishment is of another being’s making.
We will never truly be whole, yet we keep trying, and we do that within the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. We have rules and laws that will keep us from going to the extremes some may feel are necessary to achieve certain goals. Those that break those rules and limited in their future choices. We intentionally deny fulfillment in order to make sure the odds are slightly better for more people (or at least that’s the pure intent, if not the actual way things play out).
We’re OK with never really being complete, because that means others have the chance of making it further in their own quests.
Annihilation gives us a “foe” with no comprehension of how any of this works, yet has the power to override it all. Even with the apparently victory in the end, was this being defeated? Those that survived are forever changed and unsure of their identity. That uncertainty– that lack of playing by the rules and caring about the self– has gone past The Shimmer despite its destruction.
These broken people looking for answers to this alien problem find the solution– not just of what’s threatening them, but of their personal broken nature– and that’s horrifying.
I like being incomplete.
It won’t make any of us complete, but it’d make you totally rad if you checked out my Patreon.