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I saw Inception last week, a film set in the architecture of a mind.  In the movie, Dom Cobb enters the dreams of powerful people to obtain and extract valuable information. The plot centers on Cobb’s biggest challenge: planting an idea in someone else’s mind, an act known as “inception.”

The visual and conceptual worlds created in the movie are deeply multilayered, blurring the lines between reality and dream, between a dream and a dream within a dream, between a dream within a dream within a dream. The characters can lose themselves anytime, anywhere — if they forget who they really are while in the dream state.

The confusion of dreams and reality in Inception led me to ponder the blurring between ourselves and others and what this implies about our identities.  We influence each other in everyday life to the point that we can’t determine where ourselves end and others begin.  Is it even possible to determine the origins of oneself?

When I think about my own origins, I think of Heraclitus‘ river and his famous quote:

Στην ίδια ποτάμια μας βήμα και όμως δεν το βήμα, θα υπάρχουν και την ίδια στιγμή που δεν υπάρχουν.

Into the same rivers we step and yet we do not step, we exist and at the same time we do not exist.”

When I look into the reflection of that river, I see myself  but I also see others.

I see Maciej, my high school classmate and my boyfriend.  This is the first time I am at his house.  We are standing in the living room.  I see a silk arrangement, autumn leaves,  in the vase  on the table and I say, we have the same arrangement at my house except that all the leaves are green.  Maciej laughs and says, you don’t have to lie.  I am not but he doesn’t believe me. And then he dies in a motorcycle accident.  I imagine the way his bike slides on sand spilled on the asphalt by a sand truck.  I imagine how the bike hits the tree on the side of the road.  I imagine Maciej’s thick black hair colored with blood and I want to wash it and dry it with the linen towel he liked, and I think that he will never find out the truth about the trivial lie that wasn’t a lie.

I see my mother’s eyes wide open, her eyebrows lifted to make me believe her words.  And I do because I am six years old.  She says: You should wear this underwear because it might be cold and we don’t want you to catch a cold.  And then she says, in even more convincing voice, that I look beautiful. This is a special day for me.  My aunt, my mother’s sister, a teacher, is taking me to her school to attend a class.  The family wants me to experience real classroom time.  It’s so much fun, they say.  They want me to see it because next year I will be in a first grade. I am wearing a lavender-pink long sleeve dress that covers only about a third of my thigh. I am also wearing thick white tights and a long bulky underwear that shows through the tights about five centimeters (two inches) below the short dress.  My aunt asks my mother: Do you have to dress her like this?  And she points to my underwear.  My mother says something that I don’t remember but I remember my aunt shaking her head. I feel excited and beautiful until we enter the school and I don’t know why I still believe the words I have heard from my mom.

I see the priest who taught me catechism in high school.  He talks about abortions and shows us a fully formed fetus in a jar of formalin.  I see myself getting up and pointing my finger at him saying: You are an idiot!  How can you say this is a fully formed human being and then show us the fully formed human being in a jar.  Why don’t you respect the fully formed human being?   You are a fully formed idiot! Then I leave the classroom. The next day, the priest comes to my house and talks to my parents.  He says that I am a rare eagle and that he respects me but doesn’t want any trouble in class.  My three-years-younger sister, Aleksandra, says: Let’s close the windows to make sure she won’t fly out.

I see them all — family members, teachers, friends, students, neighbors, passengers on trains and buses, authors, poets, politicians, actors, waitresses, cleaning ladies, priests.  Their words and actions embedded in me, my words and actions embedded in them, forming what is called life.

I suddenly know that I step into Heraclitus’ river in every single moment of my life.  I can’t separate myself from the river and I can’t live without leaving my own trace. We exist interconnected in a constant flow, constant change, in constant Panta Rei.

4 Responses to “Inception: or dream up your life”

  1. […] of you who are reading my posts regularly:  On the picture in this post I am wearing the infamous short dress. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Was that called Pizza?????Short story… pt. […]

  2. thoughtfulweirdo says:

    I haven’t seen Inception but I really want to see it, I love your article, really!

  3. Billy says:

    Lao Tzu once wrote:
    “ I went to sleep and I dreamt that I was a butterfly.
    Then I awoke.
    And now I don’t know.
    Am I a man who dreamt he was a butterfly?
    Or was I a butterfly dreaming it was a man?
    I can never know.”

    In one of his poems, Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote:
    “What if you slept?
    And what if, in your sleep, you dreamed?
    And what if, in your dream, you went to heaven
    and there plucked a strange and beautiful flower?
    And what if, when you awoke,
    you had the flower in your hand?
    Ah, what then?”

    There is an ancient Chinese idiom:
    “The thoughts of the day became
    the dreams of the night.”

    And finally… are we simply human beings seeking a spiritual life… or are we really spiritual beings living a human experience?