Are You Paying Attention?
Like good dark chocolate, The Imitation Game satisfies in sublimely bittersweet fashion — in telling the story of Alan Turing’s brilliant contribution, and subsequent “reward” for significantly shortening WWII and (by implication) preventing the violent deaths of countless human beings. A mathematical puzzle; a wartime spy thriller; a character sketch of maladjusted genius; a report of ignorance to the nth-degree in relation to sexual freedom – this film interweaves these themes beautifully.
From its opening scene — in which we hear a voice (which turns out to be Turing’s) asking “Are you paying attention?” and urging us to listen carefully to what follows – through to its triumphant and heartbreaking finale, the film juxtaposes poignant glimpses into Turing’s childhood with a narrative portraying the fully-grown mathematical wizard at his vulnerably arrogant best: defying all odds by creating what was, in effect, one of the world’s first computers.
To Whom Am I Speaking?
The title – “The Imitation Game” – refers to a game devised by Turing to determine whether it is a machine or a human to whom we are speaking. In the film, the question at the core of this game is posed directly to Turing during a police interrogation, and in more indirect ways structures the entire film: To what extent can a non-sentient machine imitate the intelligence of a human being? Considering the punishment meted out for the non-crime of Turing’s sexual preferences, one might be forgiven for not assuming basic intelligence as an inherent quality of human beings. But that’s another story …
The point here is that it was the computational speed of the machine created by Turing that accounted for its capacity to do what no human mind — or congregation of minds — had previously been able to accomplish: namely, cracking the German’s Enigma code (through which their most sensitive military information was transmitted). Does this make the computer “more intelligent” than a human? Or perhaps — as Turing in the movie suggests — it’s just a “different kind” of intelligence? — Interesting food for thought.
True & True: The Translation Game
Now apparently there have been some complaints in relation to the degree of authenticity with which Alan Turing himself and/or specific events are portrayed in The Imitation Game. Though it is based in a general way upon verifiable historical facts, it also is a fictionalized account and – in the interest of the internal coherence and aesthetic interest of the film as such – takes some liberties. Perhaps Alan Turing was not quite as psychologically challenged as the film portrays him being? Perhaps certain subplots didn’t really happen, in exactly the way the film portrays — but were instead inserted as dramatic “spice” to the “main dish” of the movie’s central narrative?
While I can appreciate the relative importance of distinguishing “fact” from “fiction” – and acknowledge the possibility of doing this in the manner of “inter-subjective agreement” – I’m also more than willing to grant significant poetic license to the writers and directors of films such as The Imitation Game. As the “truth” of a poem emerges not only from the meaning of its words, but in equal or even greater degree from the beauty inherent in its rhythms, line-breaks and choice of imagery – so it is, at least potentially, for a movie.
What’s more important: presenting as historically accurate an account as possible; or offering a film whose poignant beauty emblazons itself deeply in the hearts/minds of its viewers? What’s more important: transmitting the so-called “objective facts,” or evoking the spirit and historical resonance of a series of events? These are, of course, questions that every translator wrestles with, and must come to terms with in his/her own way.
In Search Of The Real Alan Turing
Who was Alan Turing, really? If we look deeply for Alan Turing – as an isolated, autonomous (and in this sense “actually-existing”) entity – via the tools of nondual spiritual inquiry, we of course come up with no-thing at all. We’re left “only” with the infinite, eternal luminous Presence within which all (human and non-human) apparent “things” arise.
Along the way, we might notice that there are as many “Alan Turing’s” as there are sentient beings perceiving (the entity named as) “Alan Turning.” To wit: for each of ten people perceiving/conceiving Alan Turning, there will be ten mind-projected “movies” in which the projected character “Alan Turing” appears. Where there is significant overlap in our conceptions/perceptions of “Alan Turing” — as determined by our conversations with one another — there emerges a (statistically-weighted?) inter-subjective agreement around who and what the “real” Alan Turing is. But even this is fluid and ever-shifting: a sand-castle perpetually eroded by rising and receding tides.
God & The Enigma Of Ignorance
While the cracking of Germany’s Enigma code was the end of one game, it was only the beginning of the larger game of winning WWII. And this larger game involved the very selective leaking of the massive store of German strategic information now available to the allies. The most intelligent strategy involved a statistically driven balance between revealing and concealing this information: To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (i.e. to act directly on all of the available information) – would not have accomplished what needed to be accomplished, in the big picture – since it would have tipped off the Germans to the fact of the allies having cracked their intelligence code.
In similar fashion, God in her playful-serious “war” with mind’s limited version of ourselves (i.e. egoic ignorance) chooses — in the mode of master strategist — to reveal the ultimate fact of Her Infinite Radiance only in flirtatious glimpses: understanding (like Krishna on the battlefield with Arjuna) that her True Form might overwhelm – and hence, at certain points, be counterproductive. Knowing that the war is ultimately already won — the code of ignorance from the timeless beginning already cracked — Her patience can be infinite. And with infinite compassion She appears as circumstances that maximize the statistical probability of ending the deceptive (appearance of) this suffering as soon as possible — anticipating the sweetness of the victory parade; and of continuing, every now and again, to enjoy a good movie.
On a related note: imo, it’s generally more enjoyable playing games with balls rather than bombs and bullets — but hey, there’s no accounting for taste 🙂