Friday, July 23, 2010
"I had a terrifying dream as I lay in bed and the images and visions of my mind frightened me..." Daniel 4:2
We all dream - and what lies inside those imaginations can captivate, inspire, or frighten us as we wake again. This fascination with the world within our mind is why a film like Inception captures movie-goers.
At its core, Inception is a heist movie; however, the landscape is not a Vegas casino or a New York bank - but rather, the deepest layers of the subconsciousness.
The film follows as dream-heist thief Dom Cobb (Leonardi DiCaprio) embarks on what he believes to be his final mission: instead of stealing thoughts or secrets, Cobb and his crew will do the impossible: put an original idea into the mind of another person - and do this so covertly that the target will never know anyone was ever inside his head.
To do this, Cobb's team will have to go very deep - to create a dream within a dream within a dream, for a process called "inception." But Cobb, a troubled man who is dealing with the loss of his wife and family, is also taking his own injured memories and dreamscape onto the journey - causing even more havoc for the heist.
Inception reminds us that our minds our complex places - and to pay attention to our dreams, which are our unedited, unrehearsed stream of consciousness.
In our lives, we often mask our true feelings and thoughts in the presence of others. We do not let others see our fear or insecurities. We do not share with others our deepest secrets or sins. We do not allow others to get close enough to see our pain or anger. Instead, we project a confident, unflappable version of ourselves into our reality - hoping that these projections might keep us safe from others' reactions or judgment.
Our dreams, however, do not have such sheen and polish. They are raw collections of our most real thoughts. As Nebuchadnezzar, king of Bablylon, reported to the prophet Daniel in the Scriptures: "I had a terrifying dream as I lay in bed, and the images and the visions of my mind frightened me." (Dan. 4:2)
Dreams can indeed frighten us, especially if the person God created us to be is far from the illusion that we have created in reality. We can hide all we want from our fears and secrets, but God knows our innermost thoughts when we do not confront and work through them.
On the other hand, as Inception shows us, our most creative and wonderful ideas can emerge from the mind God has given us. Without dreamers, we might still be living in the dark ages. Without dreamers, we would have no art, music, science, or technology. As much as our minds are places of raw emotion, they are also factories of great inspiration.
In the Scriptures, the patriarch Jacob and the king Solomon are moved to action through their dreams and young men like Joseph and Daniel use their dreams to help others deal with their nightmares. In the New Testament, Mary's husband Joseph also has dreams - that inspire him to protect his family and make a home for his son Jesus. In our own age, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned a nation where all people are treated equal and shared that notion with us all when he declared, "I have a dream..."
But just as we mask what lies within our minds, we can also stiffle inspiration and vision - and cut off the dreams of what could be. We can make a thousand excuses for closing the door to our dreams - choosing the status quo of reality over the possibilities of something wonderful.
And when we look to confront those raw emotions or open ourselves to visionary possibilities, we don't have to do it alone. In the movie, Cobb is joined in the dreamscape by a right-hand man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an actor/communicator (Tom Hardy), an architect/designer (Ellen Page), a sleep-inducer (Dileep Rao), and a financier (Ken Wantanabe). The architect, whose name Adriadne evokes the story of a woman of the same name from Greek mytholology who led the hero Theseus out of a dangerous labyrinth, does the same thing for Cobb here: she accompanies him on his own dark journey and encourages him to release the guilt and anguish which he masks for everyone else. This reminds us that God gives us others in our lives to help us through those difficult tasks of unpacking our mind and allowing ourselves to be who God intended us to be.
Like Cobb, we need people around us who will help us. Whether that be family or friends, colleagues or fellow believers, let us surround ourselves with good people. Without them, just as in the movie, we might be lost forever in "limbo" - unable to make it through reality or simply living life without action, inspiration, or joy.
What lies in our minds can frighten us, as it frightened Nebuchadnezzar, but it can also remind us who we truly are and who God hopes for us to be. And when we wake from this slumber, let us be open to accepting ourselves and taking hold of our dreams to build the kingdom of God.