Inception (the Movie) and the Real Reality

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I saw Inception (the movie) a couple weeks ago. It was very, very cool.

First of all, it was just a really neat idea for a movie which lent itself to some really creative scenes. The story line does get a bit complex in spots, to the point that I’m not sure some of the minor points made perfect sense. But maybe on a second viewing it will come together more clearly. But even that aside, still a great movie.

And while it’s worth a watch sheerly for its creativity, I liked it most for one of the core truths it demonstrates: That truth and reality matter.

Here’s the trailer (commentary below) for the movie, Inception:

Part of the story involves the main character “sharing a dream” (they can do this in the movie) with his wife. (This paragraph will make more sense if you’ve seen the movie). Him and his wife essentially choose to live an entire lifetime in this shared dream. They literally create their own dream world. In this dream-world they grow old together. They do anything they want. They have everything they desire. They create their dream-life together and live it for decades. In their minds, the perceived experience of this shared dream-reality is every bit as “real” as actual reality. But in the end, that isn’t good enough. They long for something more than a perceived experience. Deep down inside they know their dream is not objectively real at all. They long for more.

Perception is not reality. Reality is reality. And we humans thirst for the real stuff. We were made for it. We are made of it.

This deep longing for objectivity goes unfulfilled in our relativistic culture. These days, it is only your perceived experience that matters. Just do what feels good. Don’t waste your life feeling “guilty” about it. Be tolerant of all others’ perceived experiences because what is real for you may not be real for somebody else. Even recognizing or appealing to any sense of objectivity gets you labeled, quite ironically, as judgmental and intolerant.

Such rules-to-live-by, however, are necessary in order for us to maintain the shared make-believe world we’ve created where there are no consequences and ultimately no responsibility greater than the fulfillment of our own desires. The only problem with all of that is that it isn’t real. We have created a dream-world.

We can all get together and pretend that all one has to do in life is be a “good person” and have good intentions, but that’s a fairy tale. We can all pretend that abortion doesn’t end the life of a human being, but it does. We can all pretend that there is such a thing as homosexual “marriage,” but there isn’t. We can all pretend sex was not made to be had within the security of a permanent, life-long, man-woman relationship, but it was. We can all pretend that strip clubs and pornography are harmless, but they aren’t. We can all pretend that children don’t need a stable family with a mother and a father, but they do. We can all pretend that one belief system is as good as another, but it isn’t. In fact, we can pretend whatever we like! It’s great! The only problem is that it will not bring a lasting peace, because it’s not real. In the end it will never be enough if it’s not rooted in truth.

We humans were made to thrive in the real reality. And the sooner we find it and submit to it, the sooner we’ll find the lasting peace our hearts were made to rest in.

6 comments Add comment

Margo September 28, 2010 at 10:22 am

THANK YOU for speaking so freely and clearly about a topic that is in desperate need of attention. I couldn’t agree with you more and I just wish there were more voices coming forward and saying what needs to be said. Father John Corapi has talked about how truth is called a lie and a lie is called truth. He goes on to say that the Father of lies, Satan, is behind the delusion. You have put this together in such a way that really speaks to a person’s heart. This is an excellent article, thank you!

Dan Goddu September 28, 2010 at 11:42 am

Wow! Great, great insight!

Matt Taylor September 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Thanks for the article. I look forward to seeing the movie.

I don’t know if it is not thought of, forgotten or ignored but if reality is only what I perceive it to be then I make myself to be the god of my reality. Yet, sooner or later I am confronted with the fact that I am unable to control my reality. This can lead in many directions but I pray that it would lead many to seek the True God. That they would be given “Gospel sanity” and a peace that can come only from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thanks Again,

Marc Cardaronella October 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Makes me think about the fact that God is existence and created the universe on the pattern of himself. So it’s only in understanding his revelation of himself that we can understand the truth of existence…of reality. Because we are fallen, we have a hard time knowing the real truth and can delude ourselves with false notions of the truth. We can distort reality. But God is reality and his revelation is reality. We’ll only know real reality in union with him and his truth.

Jesse D. Bryant October 3, 2010 at 4:40 pm


Do you find it curious that a post about a film that generated more than 200 million dollars at the box office does not generate more play than what you received here?

Since we are so often at odds, thought that I would weigh in on a subject that was interesting to both of us and comment on the films underlying message/questions. One being: How does one know what is really real? All those who took part in shared dreams in the film had some object that they could refer to if they became confused about whether they were in a dream or in the real world. For myself (spiritually speaking), that point of reference is the Bible, and understand that for you it is the Church. This raises the question: Which of us has been deceived? You can talk to Mormons, JWs, Christians from the numerous (and dreaded) denominations, Catholics and even Muslims (many of whom will murder for their truth) and they will tell you that they found real peace and purpose in their faith. The next logical question is: Do we know what real peace and purpose really are if all we have ever tasted is a substitute? Surely, all religions provide a structure––a clear plan to live by, which one would think has to be better than the atheistic view of meaninglessness or the standard alternative––namely, the faith of ME. Perhaps this is enough to deceive most. For most of us, could it be that our beliefs are the result of some form of inception? We think we arrived at these conclusions on our own, but did we really, and objectively? Brainwashing is a term that does comes to mind. A film that deals with that issue is the Manchurian Candidate (the original or the remake). People can be duped and controlled, we just always assume those people are not us.

For the Christian, what is the most objective point of reference?

Another film we probably share interest in is––you guessed it––the MATRIX. Neo lives in what he believes is the real world, only to find out that his real world is fake. Morpheous makes the comment that they don’t usually free someone as old as Neo because the mind can’t adjust––won’t accept that their entire existence before this ‘rebirth’ was not real. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias tells a story about speaking to some unnamed world leaders, after which one of these powerful leaders comes to him and tells him that he believes what Ravi has shared with them [the gospel] is the truth, but that after 70 years of believing a lie, it is so hard to change. In the Passion of the Christ, Pilate asks, “What is truth?” Do you hear it? Recognize it when it is spoken?” This is a question that is expressed, but that, just as it is recorded in the biblical narrative, is left unanswered.

Many do look for more and so many have that inner longing. I believe that is was CS Lewis who referred to this as a sense of ‘something other’. Many atheists deny this longing. The average person, unsatisfied with their reality, seeks escape––sex and drugs being some of the most common methods, entertainment the most accepted. Talk to the average American and their ideas of God or Heaven, their spiritual beliefs, are figments of their imagination (whatever makes them feel good about their own destiny), or simply what they have been taught growing up––again, a belief they would claim to have arrived at on their own. In reality (no pun intended) most of us prefer more of a ‘What Dreams May Come’ kind of approach to faith, meaning, and our own ultimate and unavoidable end.

How many years have you been a Catholic, Matt? Were you ever anything else? How much have you studied other religions? I was born into a Christian family, went to a Christian school, and lived out in the country with very little TV to influence my thinking. I have to be open to the idea that the possibility exists that I may be ‘one of those people’.

In INCEPTION there are layers to the dreams. Each layer increases the odds of losing control, each taking you deeper into the subconscious, and ultimately into limbo. In our quest for truth, how many layers are we willing to peel back to get to it? If what either of us believes is true, we have nothing to fear from whatever is hidden behind the veils of other religions, all the layers of religiosity and deception. If your answer is, “All of them”––we are on the same quest. If you are not willing to open yourself up to the possibility that what you believe may not be entirely true (one character in the film pays the ultimate price for failure to realize the difference between the real and the dream), then you have reached your limit, your ‘kick’ has been administered, and the dream is over.

If you remember, in the MATRIX, Neo follows the white rabbit, and is told by Trinity that, “The answer is out there, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you. If you want it to.” If what you believe is not true, do you want to find the really real? Let me answer that question first and honestly. Yes. But not if that truth is not more than what I hold already. In other words, if the really real is more akin to atheism than the gospel of Jesus Christ––I’d rather not know. If what is really real is just another dream, then I don’t want to dream anymore…

I believe that I have found that inner peace, and quenched the inner longing in the person of Jesus Christ. Not in an organization and not in religious practice, but in the person. If what I could experience is so much more, as you have assured me, would I want that? While I am not intending to be flippant in any way––but what does Neo say when they plug him into his training for the first time and is then asked if he wants more?…

Jesse D. Bryant

Matthew Warner October 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Jessie – you say “we have nothing to fear from whatever is hidden behind the veils of other religions”. I totally agree. That is one thing I love about the Catholic faith is that it embraces truth in all places…recognizing and celebrating that other religions and philosophies do indeed express some truths. We hold that the fullness of the truth, however, can be found in the Catholic Church. And throughout history we see example after example of the Catholic Church embracing truths found in other religions and cultures and showing their compatibility (where they ARE compatible) with Christianity.

You ask, “If what you believe is not true, do you want to find the really real?” My answer is absolutely yes. Of course, I do recognize I could be wrong about anything I hold as true. I’m an imperfect, limited being. But I do my best.

I’ve studied as many other religions as my limited time and capacity have allowed and plan to continue to do so.

I’m looking for truth, period. I’ve found that truth to be a person, Jesus Christ. And Jesus left us a Church (not a bible) that we might find him and have an intimate relationship with him and each other. The Church then passes down these truths (the bible being uniquely important among them).

Even the bible itself tell us very clearly that the foundation and support of truth is the Church (1 Tim 3:15).

Very interesting stuff in these movies! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! As you guessed, I’m a big fan of the matrix also! :-)

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