In March 2021 I received an email from Netflix telling me that the movie Cloud Atlas, a 2012 adaptation of David Mitchell’s book by the same name, would be leaving the platform soon. I looked at the cast and there were various actors I liked, so I decided to watch it. I liked it so much I bought the book the next day.
Cloud Atlas is special to me because it tells the story of how every choice and every action we take affects those around us, like ripples in a lake, even after we die. It is my belief that if something needs to be done, then it is my responsibility to do so, and that if I do, then even after I die my choices can still affect the world for the better. That’s what Cloud Atlas shows.
The book is the story of six sets of different characters, each set at one of six different generations, past, present and future, and how their choices affect each other across their own times and beyond.
It deals with forces like choice and destiny in a way physicists deal with quantum physics: as something that can be measured even though you cannot see it. This book has cemented in me a religious outlook that resembles a scientist’s — the impact of my actions can be measured not by the actions themselves, but by the way they affect the ones around me. It reminds me strongly to pay attention to my choices, because they will affect more than just the people closer to me. They may not end up in history, but they will change someone’s story.
One particular excerpt from the book really struck me and encapsulated what Cloud Atlas is all about:
“Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity and principles of uncertainty. Phenomena that determine the course of our lives. Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another…These forces that often remake time and space, that can shape and alter who we imagine ourselves to be, begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.”
I have given copies of this book to many family members and friends, one of whom said: “The best part about this book is that you have six different timelines that make it relevant to any age group; the 1800s timeline caters for the more erudite of us that love history as well as the two futuristic timelines for the younger generations that love sci-fi and fantasy. It really is the perfect gift because it can easily reach anyone.”
David Mitchell, 2004. Cloud Atlas. Random House Trade, New York.
Editor’s note: If you would like to share with other readers what faith-related book, including those with theological, spiritual, ministry, Church history or justice themes, you have given away (or referred) the most and why, please email the anglican focus team, and they will let you know what is needed.Jump to next article