Spoilers: (minor) spoilers to movie Ad Astra.

2020 has finished and 2021 has started. I am writing this at the start of January 2021 which is a weird time to post a “new years resolution” or “goals for 2021”. This post is neither of those things. These are just random thoughts I found interesting reflecting upon 2020, looking towards 2021, and the future.

I recently thought how four Latin phrases encapsulate the present and how it relates to some current media (movies and albums):

  • per aspera ad astra -> through hardships to the stars
  • semper idem -> always the same
  • amor fati -> love one’s fate
  • memento mori -> remember that you die

I recently saw the movies:

  • Ad Astra, Soul

and listened to the albums:

  • evermore, thank u, next

Per aspera ad astra

Per aspera ad astra is a popular Latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars”.

Ad Astra is a 2019 film about Roy McBride, an estranged astronaut, as he ventures to search for his father Clifford McBride. (I recommend watching it if you haven’t already) I will be the first to say it is a flawed movie but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t merit a viewing. In some ways it can be argued it is a movie about nothing and in a weird meta way could that be a nuance of the film? I think so.

2020 has been a difficult year for different people and a multitude of reasons. Each person experienced the quarantine and this new form of isolation. People in school don’t have the things that were taken for granted like in-person classes, a campus, office hours, etc. as everything was shifted to online formats of lectures, discussion forums, assignments, and exams. (I fortunately graduated in Winter 2020) Lavish travel plans and meetups are all either cancelled or replaced with online events. It really isn’t the same feeling at all as people stay at home. (There are places that do not acknowledge the ongoing pandemic but we’re not going to focus on that)

Ad Astra is very instrospective film focusing on isolation. Roy ventures to Venus alone to find his father. He leaves his wife on Earth to go on the journey alone to contact his father. As he goes from Mars to Venus he says:

The zero G and the extended duration of the journey is affecting me...
both physically and mentally.
I am alone.
Something I always believed I preferred.
I am alone.
But I confess...it's wearing on me.
I am alone.
I am alone.
Over and out.
I've let so many people down.

Hope isn’t the action of trying again and again in the face of failure. It is the reasoning and conviction that you are doing what is right and continuing to try. Believing that the reasons you believe something will happen are “what is supposed to happen”. Through the hardships of life you look to something in the future. Hope.

For many 2021 is filled with hope of an end to the covid-19 pandemic. For one there is promising news of vaccines, going back to a normal life. The expected timeline to resume normal life is Summer 2021 with some companies like Google pushing it to Fall 2021. We cannot know exactly when it will end.

Semper idem

Semper idem is a Latin phrase meaning “always the same”. When I think of that phrase I think of the feeling of hopelessness and dread associated with both the covid-19 pandemic. You could even extend the meaning and think about the phenomenon amongst people, where people fear the future because they often project their past onto the future. They are scared of more of the same. It feels it will never get better. The pessimism of the future.

evermore is a 2020 album and name of a song on that album by Taylor Swift. Described as the “fall and winter” seasons of the year and dealing with many emotions encompassing themes of love, broken love, noir and grief. Taylor’s album truly is something born in the quarantine.

Gray November

I’ve been down since July

This lyric from the song evermore and whether it means Taylor worked on the album since the release of her earlier album folklore or the fact that the world has felt the grayness of isolation, it still has weight.

I rewind the tape, but all it does is pause

On the very moment all was lost

This lyric from the song everemore examines the persistent of moments in our life that we focus on. When we look back at a snapshot in time and all it does it emphasize the failures of our past. It feels stuck in time forever.

Amor fati

Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. We are built of the experiences that brought us to this point.

This one is the least visible in context to right now because we cannot see the resolution of covid-19. I do think there will be a point where we reflect post covid-19 in possibly positive light. Whether it be opening up more work-from-home possibilities, more flexible working hours for people who don’t necessarily thrive on 9-5, cheaper rent in previously crowded metropolitan areas, possibly reforming healthcare or health protocols, or seeing priorities in your life from a different perspective. Those are actionable things that I have seen that have since shifted in the landscape based on the pandemic.

thank u, next is a 2019 album and name of a song on that album by Ariana Grande. The album blurs the lines of pop, trap, and R&B. The titular album single thank u, next is a song of self-love and growth. Looking at the past failures and literally loving that things happened despite the grief in the moment.

On the first verse and pre-chorus she has lyrics saying:

Thought I’d end up with Sean

But he wasn’t a match

Wrote some songs about Ricky

Now I listen and laugh

One taught me love

One taught me patience

And one taught me pain

Now, I’m so amazing

Say I’ve loved and I’ve lost

But that’s not what I see

So, look what I got

Look what you taught me

Ariana talks about her past boyfriends Big Sean, Pete Davidson, and Mac Miller and describes the lessons associated from being in relationships with them. Her line saying that some people may see it as “I’ve loved and lost” but she sees it as “look what you taught me”. The phrase thank u, next is associated with her taking in the negatives and loving the experiences that occured because it made her a better person in hindsight.

Memento mori

memento mori is a Latin phrase that may be translated to “remember that you die” often depicted in symbols that remind of the inevitability of death. Death may occur in time or money. When I think about people realizing that these moments in quarantine may be “moments lost in time” or “dead air” in their life.

Soul is a 2020 animated movie from Disney. The movie isn’t about centrally about death and I feel a bit guilty of using it in the associated Latin phrase only because the protagonist dies in the film. (This isn’t a major spoiler since the trailer shows this) It is more of a movie on perspective and purpose. In Joe’s death he travels as a soul and gains perspective on his life and other people in his life. What it means to have passion. It is a bit of a philosophical movie which is not par for Pixar movies.

As of now (early 2021) My prediction is that covid-19 will end in Fall 2021 and “resumption of normal office life” will be early 2022. Can I be wrong? Definitely. But just as time is observed as being a lost cause right now, It can be assumed that covid-19 should end at some point as well.

Closing Thoughts

Ad Astra’s final quote uttered by Roy is:

I'm steady, calm. I slept well, no bad dreams. 
I am active and engaged. 
I'm aware of my surroundings and those in my immediate sphere. 
I'm attentive. I am focused on the essentials, to the exclusion of all else.
I'm unsure of the future but I'm not concerned. 
I will rely on those closest to me, and I will share their burdens, as they share mine. 
I will live and love.

That does wrap it up quite well. The line that sticks out to me the most is talking about being unsure of the future but ultimately not letting that be a concern.

There is lots to look forward to in 2021. If you read this far I am surprised you did. We will continue to work through the many hardships and the uncertainty that the future holds.