Unquestionably, Inception ranks as the best film of the summer (in my opinion). Writer/director, Christopher Nolan, creates a technology that enables an elite group of people to invade the dreams of other people. The dream team uses the technology primarily for corporate espionage, stealing business secrets from the subconscious of corporate competitors.
The technology offers a more complicated twist. Cobb, the most skilled dream weaver, knows how to plant an idea into the mark’s subconscious in order to affect his choices in the real world – known as an inception. Due to the nature of dreams, this requires a more sophisticated plan, involving several layers of dream activity. Each layer dangerously approaches limbo, a state where the mind loses any connection to the real world and cannot wake up – much like a coma.
Limbo is a state of mind created by the dreamer, a personal utopia. It allows the dreamer to escape personal troubles and create the perfect relationship, perfect job, perfect life. Limbo still has residual effects of the real world, however, For example, people still age and can die. Dying in a dream world, however, only returns the dreamer to the real world.
Spoiler Alert: The movie ending leaves the audience wondering whether Cobb has actually returned to the real world or has deposited himself in limbo. It has generated much discussion and debate. People have repeatedly watched the movie, looking for tiny details to answer the question.
Kofi Outlaw has written an outstanding discussion of the movie and its ending on ScreenRant. He makes a stunning statement. “The important question is not ‘Is Cobb still dreaming?’ – What is important is the fact that the character of Cobb goes from being a guy who is obsessed with ‘knowing what is real’ to ultimately being a person who stops questioning and accepts what makes him truly happy as what’s real.” Outlaw concludes, “In a way, the movie is its own maze designed to plant a simple little idea in the viewer’s mind: ‘reality’ is a relative concept.”
Utopia seekers have always populated human society. Some, such as Ponce de Leon, have scoured the earth looking for a fountain of youth. Some have attempted to forge whole societies through tyranny and propaganda, such as Stalin and Hitler. Others have manipulated the mind with chemicals. In the ‘60s Timothy Leary promoted LSD usage with the slogan, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
The strategy of creating one’s own reality has surfaced in the postmodern culture. Outlaw asserts that Cobb finally learns to accept a reality where he is happy, even if the reality exists in an altered mental state only. This symbolizes the postmodern belief that absolute truth, and thus an objective reality, does not exist. Truth and reality are entirely dependent upon each individual’s preference. It is a defiant act of sheer will.
Discussions about truth in recent years have collapsed into the dismissive statement, “That may be true for you, but it is not true for me.” Postmodernism has empowered people to believe what they want to believe and, in effect, to create their own realities. It permits the creator to ignore facts and evidence that contradicts their reality as long as it is convenient to do so.
Postmodern practitioners spurn rules and conventions to construct their own truth. The academy especially demonstrates this. In literature, deconstruction permits the reader to form her own interpretation of a work, disregarding the author’s intent. In history, revisionism rearranges events to devise a different narrative of the past, usually one coinciding with the historian’s political agenda. Truth is no longer confined by objectivity and rigid rules of interpretation.
This approach to life has limited shelf life. For example, most people would write out aging and death from their perfect stories. The real world, the one they reject, will not cooperate. No matter how much I want to dunk a basketball by my athletic skills only, the laws of physics and physiology deny me. I can do it only in the story I write or the latest version of SimLife.
Christianity teaches that truth is found in a person. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus left his position in heaven to live among humans and reveal absolute truth to us, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” He is a literal, human, historical figure. He lived and died as the gospel accounts tell us. He is not the creation of someone deconstructing the Old Testament or revising ancient history.
Those of us who believe in him know him. He has changed our lives. He impacts the way we live each day. We have experienced his love and thereby know him as truth. We do not need to manufacture a dream version of the happy life. We discover that life as we live in relationship to the one who is truth and life.
This is the real life.