Monday, 13 August 2012

Is This the Real Life?

"Open your eyes, look up to the skies, and see." - Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' 

Reality. Something we've never quite got our heads around. Some of us think we have it figured out. There are others who can't deal with it and go crazy. Or maybe it's the "insane" ones who have it figured, and the priests and scientists who are mad. What is reality?

One film I can't get enough of is Christopher Nolan's Inception. It tackles this concept with the perfect blend of conceptual vagueness, engaging complexity, and relentless hints of multi-faceted and infinite ambiguity (Johnson 2012) that are the closest to representing the best justice we can do to this topic.

For simplicity's sake, reality is 'existing.' Existing is like a rollercoaster at a theme park. It has twists, turns, thrills, chills, highs and lows, and it's very brightly coloured, and it's fun, for a while. But in the end it is just a ride. There is no inherent meaning, no blood on the wall, nothing outside what we can perceive. As Morpheus famously says in The Matrix (1999), "If real is just what we can see, taste, smell, and touch, then real is just electrical signals as interpreted by the brain." And there is no more accurate way to measure reality, to know that it is real.

This is the best we can do, but this is the real beauty of existing - our perceptions actually shape and create our reality. There really is only one moment, one continuum of creation, expressing itself subjectively in all the ways it possibly can - infinitely. Space, time, and physicality are our perceptions of them.

I remember a train trip my brother and I took. There was a man behind us engaged in a lively conversation with somebody named Roland, who neither my brother nor I could see. My brother murmured, "he's insane, there's nobody there!"

Very much as the caretaker in Yusuf's basement said of his dreaming charges, "who are you to tell them otherwise?" I remarked to my brother, "how do you know that Roland isn't real, and we're the crazy ones for our inability to see him?"

What you see and feel when you look at a painting will be very different from what I see and feel. I could use any number of adjectives to describe reality, but it can only come down to this: Reality is eternal, a gem of infinite beauty and facets, which we all appreciate in our own way according to our choices.

There are therefore only four laws in the entire universe.

1. You exist. As Descartes put it, 'Cogito, ergo sum.' - I think therefore I exist.

2. What you put out is what you get back. Whatever else this reality is, it is definitely causal. Credit to The Matrix's Merovingian for reminding us all. The continuum of creation that is reality is a consequence of the choices that the participant makes.

3. The one is all, and all are one. If you exist, then you are relationally attached to everything else.

4. There are no rules, except for the first three.
The reason you can't will a million dollars into your bank account is that you perceive it is a more preferable choice for you not to do what you need to do to get the money (Robinson 2009). In effect, you signed up for the specific way these rules meshed together on planet earth, and if you want something more than you want what you currently have, then you'd make it so.

Perceiving is believing. Believing is seeing, not the other way around. Let's stop blaming God, the government, the 'system,' our pasts, our weaknesses, etc. for what we have. For what we are. For all we can taste, smell, touch, see, hear, and love.

These are truly the things that matter the most. The faculties of our belief, the tools with which we craft and create and perfect our dreams, right now. Especially the last one - it is the pinnacle of existing, the sublime idea that makes reality reality. It is what Cobb risked everything for (Johnson 2012), what his journey was always about. As much as I hate Saviors, it is what made Neo sacrifice himself. It is, I believe, what makes the world go round. And who are you to tell me otherwise?


Descartes, R. (2003). Selections from Principles of Philosophy. [Project Gutenberg E-book version]. Retrieved from <>

Johnson, K. J. (Ed.). (2012). Inception and Philosophy: Because it's Never Just a Dream. John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Robinson, K. (2009). The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Viking Penguin, New York.

Wachowski, A. & Wachowski, L. (Directors & Writers). (1999). The Matrix [DVD Movie]. Warner Brothers.

Zizek, S. (1999). The Matrix, or Two Sides of Perversion. Philosophy Today, 43. <>

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