Many of you will have seen or heard of the film Inception, which is currently topping the film charts worldwide. Its a film about dreams, about the power of dreams, and about the concept of planting ideas in people’s minds. Its effectively a heist film involving dreams, but watching it raised some serious questions in my mind. Its probably the most thought-provoking film I’ve seen since The Matrix.
In the film the characters enter into people’s minds to steal or plant ideas there, and sometimes go to different levels of dreams - dreams within dreams - to plant or steal these ideas, and sometimes its possible to get so lost in the dream world that you can forget which is reality, and which is just a dream, or a fantasy. The question the film leaves you with - without wishing to give too much away - is whether the main character, Dom Cobb (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) is living in a dream or reality, and you could make a pretty strong case for both.
There are several questions this film raised with me. In the next week or two I hope I can tackle these in a series of blog posts, because I think the questions this film raises are ones we really need to face up to. If you have any of your own, please let me know.
The first question concerns the balance between reality and the dream, and how easy it is to get lost in a fantasy.
You see I don’t actually think we need to dream to live in a fantasy world. We can live that out in reality. We can cut ourselves off from the pain of life, ignore the big issues that are going on both personally and in the world around us, and hide away in our comfort zones. We can buy into the consumer dream that more money/status/possessions will make us happy and even make ourselves ill pursuing that dream, and inevitably we’ll be let down by the dissapointment of not making that perceived standard we think we have to reach. We can also often get so lost in whatever dreams and goals we have, or feel like they are so unattainable, that we retreat into a fantasy world where it’s all easy and there’s no effort to achieve it, no committment, no discipline or patience.
This is a place where addictions of any kind often have their root. The quick high, the quick fix, the easy way out.
Reality involves committment, patience and also facing up to suffering, pain and issues in our own lives and in the world around us, and accepting that this isn’t a perfect world and life isn’t going to be an easy ride - and for Christians, its only through Jesus that we can find a path way not to escape this reality, but to go face up to it and survive it.
However, even Christians can get lost in a fantasy world - a world where everything is great, everyone is happy and blessed, where God answers every prayer and performs miracles in people’s lives, where we have great experiences of God - but what people often forget is that God doesn’t call us to get cut off from the world, to look inward, but to look outward and engage with reality. People who indulge in only the big spiritual experiences and live in some cheesy Christian fantasy land seem to think that their church experience is the ultimate reality of life on earth, and that everything else just doesn’t matter and is somehow distant.
But that ignores the reality of a God who while He has made everything right, and one day will restore this earth to how it was originally made, a place without pain and suffering and death, that the reality now is a lot different, and God calls us to bring heaven to earth now in the places where there is most suffering. Not to look down on suffering or see it as a result of sin, or to pity people who suffer and love them out of duty or pity, or patronise them and give them some cheesy line about God’s love, but to actually show them God’s love and be understanding of their reality - and face up to our own reality, our own issues, in a very honest and open way.
The other reality is of course that Jesus has saved us, forgiven us and made healing and restoration possible, and does give us new and eternal life - but that’s no excuse to get disconnected from reality. Jesus was a real person who really lived, and lived as 100% human, experiencing all the same temptations and emotions we do, yet was 100% God.
And He was real.
500 people saw Him after His resurrection.
He’s not some happy smiley pansy-man in a bath robe, He’s the Son of God and His challenge to us is to face up to Him as the ultimate reality, and to face up to our responsibilities to use what we’ve been given to serve and love others sacrificially as He did, to make our stories part of God’s big story that’s been going on since the beginning and still has time left to go, and in which we have a part to play - and that role isn’t to disconnect and look inward, but face the reality of what’s going on in the world and engage with that in a humble, loving, servant-hearted, non-cheesy and non-patronising way.
This is a challenge to me as much as anyone. Its easy living where I do with the resources I have to escape into films, tv, computers, internet and forget about the real issues going in the world, and escape from the issues in my own life. But its better to face them and deal with them than hide them away, because they will catch us eventually.
Which story are you living?
Are you living engaged with reality,
or are you living in a fantasy world?
How can you live more in tune with reality and engage with the world?
If you’re a Christian, is your faith grounded in reality or is it merely fantasy?
Are you ignoring reality, or are you embracing it?