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About Spinning Tops

“Maybe one day we will wake up and this will all just be a dream.”
Mockingbird by Eminem

Two days ago, I watched the movie Inception for the first time. Given that the movie came out in 2010, I think it is fair to say that I took my time before finally watching a movie considered to be one of the best in the business according to most people who have seen it. May it be for the writing and thought process that Christopher Nolan developed when he was giving life to this story, the quality casting which starred people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, or the added suspense value through the composition of the famous symphony entitled Time by Hans Zimmer. The combination of it all is what makes this movie so intense that any person seeing for the first time the impression that several ideas have the tendency to collide with each other without creating any collateral damage.

In order to avoid any spoilers for future generations and for those who have not watched it yet, I will keep the ideas in relation to the film to a minimum. If you ask anyone about Inception, they will often think about one word: dreams. This is the core concept of the plot, connecting to several philosophies that have been developed across history. Whether we are talking about Sigmund Freud’s psychanalytic perception of dreams and their meanings in connection to our sexual beliefs and fanstasies, or if we decide to pay more attention to the theory of Dualism by Plato à couple of millenia before, dreams – like light and quantum physics – remain an aspect that we have struggled to understand despite the countless evolutions we have gone through. However, there is one particular point elaborated that is connected to the movie and is represented through the protagonist’s use of a spinning top.

Whenever he would wake up from a dream, Dom (the protagonist in the film, played by DiCaprio) would use his spinning top in order to know if he was still in a dream or the real world, based on the result of the spinning top eventually falling down when he was back in the real world and was actually awake. In the event of still being in a dream, the spinning top would keep on spinning endlessly. The interpretation is quite simple on that level: in a dream, we do not play by the laws and rules of the universe such as physics; instead, we play by those of the host who is the dreamer (in most cases, ourselves). This would tend to explain why when we are able to remember bits and pieces from our pieces, they often tend not to make sense.

As real as they tend to appear while we are in them, it is no wonder that we end up laughing at our dreams due to the absurdity and particularity of the adventures we have just witnessed. How we tend to suddenly shift from sitting on a bench in London to being on the frontline of riots taking place in some remote village against oppressors. In the flash of a second, the entire scenery can change and we would not question it, as it is all the result of our subconscious calling the shots, therefore meaning that we do not know that we are dreaming in that exact moment. We only know that once we wake up.

“Our perspectives and perceptions affect so much of our individual realities.”
Sonya Teclaj

If I were to keep one lesson from the movie I got to watch at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night, it would be the importance and description of the role allocated to that spinning top. Here is why: any spinning top would eventually stop spinning at some point and tip over to one side. This is just how reality works, helped by the forces of physics, biology, chemistry and much more that we are yet to discover. Unfortunately, this does confirm one thing: we are living in the real world. This is reality. This is not a dream.

In other words, it means that everything we have experienced up until this moment actually did happen. You did eat that pizza with your partner the other day. You did get to watch your favourite band live in concert last year. You did become a father two months ago. All those amazing memories you only have a glimpse of did take place and they are now part of the person you have become. Those seconds of euphoria and exhilarating joy are represented in the pictures and souvenirs you have hung up on your wall and worn on your arms and neck, sometimes even across your body as a tattoo. These stories turn into symbols and whenever we look, we immediately remember how we felt in that special moment. The same can also be said with songs, or am I the only one who whenever they hear a specific song, they go back into the exact emotional state they were in when they heard it for the first time?

On the other hand, because we live in the real world, this also means that every moment of pain, sadness and anger we have witnessed did take place as well. Everything was real. You did tell your sibling you loved them, not knowing that it would be the last time. You did feel your heart ache and shatter when she told you that it was over. You did get into that argument with your friend and said horrible things to each other, to the point that you still do not talk until this day. I cannot explain how or why, but we also associate symbols to sad and painful memories, through tattoos, songs, quotes, stories, blog articles, and other forms of art. Our perception of the real world changes with every step we take, with every fall, with every rise.

In both scenarios, we pinch ourselves in order to know if this is really happening or whether we are just imagining things. When things are going our way, the joy within our bones intensifies exponentially. However, the same happens in the opposite turn of events. The difference is that the pain tends to stay for a longer period of time, often consuming from the inside and nurturing that feeling of guilt, making it impossible at times to even get out of bed for days, even weeks.

Where does that leave us?
How can we get rid of guilt?
Is it really all just a dream?
When do we really wake up?

To be continued…

“Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions.”
Robin Hood


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