Inception is one of the few great movies that can really get you to question what it means to exist (or not exist?). I am such a sucker for these types of films that make you think and really challenge you to consider some pretty heavy ideas. To warn you: this blog post is going to go to some pretty deep places –you better have your “kick” ready in case you need to snap out of it.
It seems to me that a lot of people can’t handle (or don’t like) considering the notion that perhaps all of existence is nothing more than a “meaningless” dream. I use quotes around the word “meaningless” because I suppose it depends what frame of reference you’re viewing “meaningless” from. In the scope of altering cosmic matter, we’re pretty damn meaningless. I am reminded of Carl Sagan’s quote recounting his realization in looking at the voyager probe’s final photograph of earth from afar:
“…if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam”
In terms of the cosmic scope of being 1 soul among trillions of trillions (of people/creatures who have lived on our planet throughout it’s life span) we may also appear “meaningless.”
In terms of altering time –our existence may at first appear “meaningless” –yet, in actuality (as comically illustrated by a Simpsons episode) the faintest of our actions will affect matter and our universe for all of remaining time.
For some reason it makes us uncomfortable to think that everything we ever do will, quite possibly, be for “nothing” in the end. … If that were the case, why, then, would anyone ever bother to do anything? Why not just end your life right now and be done with the bother of having to live out your life? Well I’ll tell you why I bother to live: living is fun! I am one of the very few lucky privileged people who has had and will likely continue have a whole slew of amazing things to do in my life –so humbly, I shall enjoy it!
In my little “meaningless” life I have a whole slew of extremely meaningful connections, thoughts, ideas, values, etc. The value of “love,” for example, is one of the most meaningful reasons for me to live. I love to love! I enjoy it! It is fun! It is amazing –and for me it can equal the epic and cosmic proportions of our bewilderingly large universe. But what physical matter is involved with this experience? -Probably just a few very tiny electrical impulses in my brain and perhaps also a chemical release of dopamine into my blood.
Let’s get back to the movie Inception. :::SPOILER WARNING::: In Inception we traverse multiple layers of the human subconscious which are navigated through via dreams. Dreams, like the feeling of love, are nothing more than electrical brain activity (in terms of the physical world). But –to the people dreaming, as the trailer for Inception points out- dreams feel as though they are real. Scientists have found, in fact, that there are very few differences between how people perceive their own existence in the waking life versus the dream life. All those nightmares you’ve had about showing up to school late in nothing but your underwear? Those dreams were real, dude –for you, they might as well have happened (aside from the fact that only YOU were the one aware of them.)
I applaud the way Inception ended. The ending was purposefully left vague so that you could believe that the main character (Leonardo DiCaprio) had either successfully left the dream world and achieved his goal of re-uniting with his children –or he was stuck (forever?) in the dream world where he was able to re-unite with his memory of who his children were. I notice that I am tempted to say that, in either case it doesn’t matter because Leo was still able to achieve his emotional catharsis of getting to believe that he was with his kids again. Yet, I remember an interesting point that was made earlier in the morning when Leo was commenting on his experience of spending time with the memory of his dead wife. He said something like –the mere memory construct of his wife can nowhere near equal the beauty, complexity, and depth of the real woman herself. His construct of her, by comparison, was quite feeble. It is almost as if mystery and intangibility defines our greatness. So if Leo actually was stuck with only the memory of his kids… eventually he would probably realize that and it would probably suck for him (unless he realized that he needed to wake up –or die or whatever.)
“For who knows, what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.” Who is to say we aren’t already “dead” right now? Who’s to say that we aren’t just some weird aliens plugged into a machine somewhere to experience what we perceive as being our life (a la Matrix)? Who is to say we don’t exist in a mere illusion? What is the benefit of even thinking of any of this crap? … well –for me, I find, it allots me the opportunity to relax and be at peace. Rather than feeling dismal and depressed about the vastness of the unknown or the “meaninglessness” of my life –I find comfort in knowing that, with perspective, the universe will always be way larger than any of my little problems. Then, with that comfort in mind, I find that I am better able to live a life worth living. Relax, everyone! What will be, will be.
“Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie car mes joies
Aujourd’hui, ça commence avec toi”
Ready?! … KICK!!! (ignore everything that I just told you –it was all just a dream.)