What is the most resilient parasite? An Idea.
The Academy Awards are this weekend. Now given that Nolan has twice been robbed of directing Oscars for directing two of the greatest films of the past decade (Dark Knight and Inception) I don’t hold too much hope that this near completely irrelevant award show will have the good sense to admit the basic truth that Inception was unquestionably the greatest film of the year (okay maybe not unquestionably, I can see how an argument for The King’s Speech or The Town might work, but I still think Inception is superior hands down).
Reality is that the Academy is probably going to show it continues to be out of its mind and give the Best Picture award to something like The Social Network (who in their right mind would want to watch a movie about Facebook?).
However, Inception is not just a great movie in its own right; it is also a wonderful film that demonstrates many of the themes and ideas of New Age belief. Now I’m not sure Chris Nolan is actually sympathetic to the ideas of New Age thought; nor am I saying that the movie is arguing that these ideas are true—however, whatever Nolan’s intent, the film does allow for several ideas of New Age belief to be understood in a deeper, or at least more understandable, way.
Where to start?
“Dreams feel real while we’re in them.”
One of the first ways this movie demonstrates New Age principles so well is in its portrayal of what we perceive to be reality to be an illusion, a dream. And not just any dream but a dream with layers. What New Age thought realizes that many other beliefs systems do not is that the afterlife is as much a dream as this world is. The cycle of karma and reincarnation is going constantly between two different levels of the dream, neither one the reality we will embrace when we reach enlightenment, but both appearing quite real when we are in them. This constant cycle of never being able to escape the dream and its intoxicating nature is shown again and again in Inception. In the group of men who come to Yusef every day to dream because “The Dream has become their reality”; in the nature of Cobb’s totem, a top that never stops spinning symbolizing this constant cycle that never ends; in the shade of Mal’s call to stay in limbo because “you don’t believe in one reality anymore” the temptation to stay in the dream and how hard it is to separate ourselves from its Siren’s call is shown in Inception as a perfect parallel to New Age belief.
The nature of the illusion of the dream
Inception also does a wonderful job of showing what the nature of the illusionary world is. Not only does the film do an excellent job of pointing out the fluid nature of time and our perception of it (see the video above). Time is in the mind like everything else, and our perception of it can be just as fluid. Also there is the fact that it shows that the time spent in reality is negligible to the time in the illusion. “Who would want to be stuck in a dream for ten years?” Remind me how long ago the big bang was? Inception also starts with the basic premise that New Age belief, along with most eastern philosophies would agree with that, “pain is in the mind.” Everything is in the mind. Because it is ideas that create and form the world of the illusion.
“The smallest seed of an idea can grow to define or destroy you”
Ideas are what create and drive the world. The physical is probably the least important thing in life. It is ideas that are the prime factor, and this is shown quite well in Inception. We move forward or don’t by the force of our own ideas. And like Cobb’s projection of Mal, we often put our own worst obstacles in front of ourselves and have no one to blame but ourselves. It is our ideas that need to change and not our physical condition. The movie shows us that we are the ones who create our own prisons through Mal’s decision to remain in limbo, “She had locked something always something deep inside her a truth she had once known but choose to forget. Limbo became her reality” but it further shows us that we are the only ones who can truly free ourselves, notice that in Inception the idea while it can be suggested to the character of Fischer must come from himself if it is to become rooted in his mind. But Inception also shows how ideas, especially those left at that bottom level of limbo (i.e. for a New Ager the physical world) affect our ability to move out of it—Cobb could not move on before he dealt with his issues with Mal in limbo, and no one is reaching Enlightenment until they deal with their issues here on this planet.
The Labyrinth of the mind and Ariadne’s thread
But luckily Inception shows the way out of limbo which is strangely similar to the way out of the prison we have created for ourselves in real life. While the dream of Inception is intoxicating and filled with deep personal issues, the character of Ariadne (named after the mythological character who led Theseus out of the labyrinth and then married the god of spiritual understanding) tells Cobb “Your guilt defines her. It empowers her…if we are going to succeed in this you have to forgive yourself. “An interesting parallel to a New Ager is the lack of forgiveness and guilt and fear is what keeps us from achieving Enlightenment. But even Cobb knew a spark of this truth himself as he was obsessed with a song entitled “No I have no regrets” (the song they use to time their kick out of the dream, also that is the translation of the lyric we always hear in the film). He knows, just as we need to learn that it is regrets that tie us to that bottom level and it is regrets that prevent us from living in the real world. And it is through happiness and forgiveness that we give up our regrets, or a Cobb states, “Positive emotion trumps negative emotion any time. We all yearn for reconciliation, catharsis.”
So the question now only remains will you let go of your regrets, forgive and love?
“Do you want to take a leap of faith, or become an old man, filled with regret, waiting to die alone?” And you may complain that death seems to be the way out in Inception keeping in mind that death has always been a metaphor for killing our lowest and darkest fears that hold us back.
And on a final note. The pitch went down and it wobbled.