It’s a good thing I’m a Christian because the movie Inception was too close to the bone. I still have a tendency to struggle with the question “What is real?” The main things in life are resolved (God is real; I am God’s), but old tendencies manifest at 3 in the afternoon as I type a post on a sunny summer day and wonder if it is consequential in any ultimate way, or if working in the garden would be more real. Of course, if I were out in the garden, I would doubt that too.
There have always been movies asking about reality, meaning, perception, and time, but Inception is The Matrix on LSD.
We have not one dream to contend with but three levels, plus layers of memory and flashback and psychological games—in other words, it’s a lot like your own life. In the indeterminate future (or is it the present?) Dom Cobb is a skilled “extractor” who invades other people’s dreams to steal secrets. He wants out, but for that he needs to do one last job, a mission of planting rather than purloining, something perhaps impossible.
My brother used to say, in our Buddhist days (about two weeks long): “If I dream that I am a butterfly, how do I know when I wake up that I am not a butterfly dreaming I’m a man?” After that we both became Christians, and not a moment too soon. Without the Scripture for a touchstone, we were ooze falling through ooze.
But Satan is the man of a thousand faces and reincarnations and turns up as an “extractor” and dream-planter in my renewed life. He has myriad ways, and you can read about some of them in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Beware of distractions, contented worldliness, slippages from prayer, busyness, forays into nostalgia or regret, love of money, fear of man, Walter Mitty-fantasizing, materialism, bandwagons and noble causes, the long-term erosion of very small sins, theologies that induce complacency, addictions to food, addictions to sex, addictions to anything.
Like the great lion said to Jill:
“Remember, remember, remember the signs. Say then to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. . . . I give you a warning. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. . . .”
There is a “totem” in Inception that the characters can consult when they are so turned around that they are hopelessly lost without a reliable plumb line of truth. I read the Scriptures more now than ever in my Christian life. It isn’t because I got more religious; it’s just because something tends to come over me around 3 o’clock in the afternoon.