The Totem TIF – An Elegant Reality Check

July 3, 2012
Please pardon me if I indulge myself in some quasi-quirky thinking about one of my favorite movies, Inception.  One trip through Christopher Nolan‘s dream epic is not enough to start connecting the dots on its symbolism.  I was just trying to keep up in my first journey; Nolan is truly a writing and directing ninja.   The second time, however, I allowed myself the freedom to participate in Nolan’s multiple metaphors, starting with reality and ending in the “Basement” of the hero’s prison of memories.

My favorite imagery ties into the Totem, an personal item that each dream warrior identified in the real world in order to ground themselves to reality in the dream world.  In Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) case, it was a spinning top.  If ever he became confused as to whether he was in reality or fantasy, he would spin the top and wait for it to stop spinning.  If it didn’t stop, he knew he was in a dream.

Each traveler’s Totem was personal and confidential.  As stated by several characters:

Arthur: So, a totem. It’s a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time…
Ariadne: What, like a coin?
Arthur: No, it has to be more unique than that, like – this is a loaded die.
[Ariadne reaches out to take the die]
Arthur: . Nah, I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you’re not in someone else’s dream.

Ariadne state’s later, after she’s created her item that the Totem is an elegant means to ground oneself in reality.

I remember hearing a story about famed basketball coach John Wooden concerning his Christian faith.  When asked why he didn’t discuss the topic more in public he responded that he wanted to live it more than speak it – which of course he did.  Then he added that he carried an item in his pocket to remind him at all times of the example he provided others regarding his relationship with Christ.  The item was a small metal cross with sharp edges.  When, as coach, he was tempted to erupt in response to a bad call in a game he would reach into his pocket and grasp the cross as hard as possible.  As the sharp edges of the cross pressed against his fingers the great coach would remember Who he represented on the court; then he would take a deep breath to control his emotions.  He rarely if ever lost his temper on or off the court.

I have decided to carry my own Totem, but for a slightly different reason than Coach Wooden.  When I’m confused by a particular circumstance or when pressure mounts quickly, and I’m tempted to let my emotions rule – I need a reminder.  I need to remind myself of three grounding principles:

  • Truth – what’s the truth here?  The truth is God is in control.
  • Illusion – What’s the illusion here?  Is the enemy using something (probably simple) to distract my attention – even by only a few degrees?
  • Fear – What and where is my fear in this situation.  Fear is for the most part illogical, not based on reality – what’s the worst that can happen here?

Truth, Illusion and Fear (TIF).  If I can grasp my Totem and ground myself with these three benchmarks – shouldn’t I be more successful in grasping the “reality” vs. the enemy’s “dream”?

But don’t ask me to show you my Totem… I want to make sure I’m not in your dream (illusion) or any one else’s 🙂

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The Almighty’s Element of Surprise

November 13, 2010

Anybody can make the simple complicated.  Creativity is making the complicated simple.  Charles Mingus

I’ll one up Mr. Mingus.  It takes genius to make the complicated simple.  C.S.Lewis is my favorite “mortal” creative genius; his Chronicles of Narnia are the Occam’s Razor of biblical metaphor.  Two of Lewis’s quotes – one from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the other from Prince Caspian have become my mental mantras to remind me that God is THE creative genius:

Enhanced by ZemantaAt the end of the story Lucy creeps back to the wardrobe but finds she cannot reenter Narnia.  Unknown to Lucy the Professor is sitting in the corner; take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCRfyDXitgI


“It will probably happen when you’re not looking for it.”  Absolutely!  It (whatever we want to happen) never happens when we’re looking for it.  God always shows up in an unexpected way, and at an unexpected time with his unexpected solution.

Which leads to my second favorite quote, this time from Prince Caspian:

“Nothing happens the same way twice.”  If it’s true that IT will happen when we’re not looking for it, and IT will be different than anything we have ever experienced or imagined, then we can assume and rejoice in the fact that The Almighty loves the element of surprise.  The only catch is, we’ve got to trust Him that he is in control and knows what He’s doing.

If we believe He’s “all that”, which of course He is, then we can follow the Professor’s advice with my third favorite quote (surprise, there’s three) when he suggests to Lucy that it’s “best to keep your eyes open.”


The Dragon with a Tennis Ball in His Mouth

August 23, 2010

My son asked an interesting question on our ride to Belmont University last week.  It was the kind of question you ask on an 850 mile road trip.

If you could be any character in any movie, who would it be?

I didn’t hesitate.  I’ve dreamed of assuming Jake Sully’s role ever since Avatar hit the screens last year.  From behind those goofy 3D glasses I pictured for the first time what heaven might look like.  I wrote about my first experience with Pandora a few months ago – Anticipating My Avatar.

One of my emotional “pings” was watching Jake connect with his dragon (called a Banshee) via a neural bond the Na’vi called Tsahaylu.  Avatar portrayed the bond as far more than a master/pet relationship, it was a mutual understanding between rider and dragon.  Both parties sensed his companion’s emotions and anticipated his actions.  I resonated with that relationship.

We always remember our favorite pet; mine was an amazing Black Labrador Retriever named Dude:

Dude was born with personality and talent.  At the ripe age of five months, and without any training, he plunged into a lake to retrieve an item over 60 yards from his entry point.  Three years later, this time with training, he won a national Field Trial (simulated hunting) event.

I was 8 years old when Mom walked in the kitchen wrestling a black bundle of fur and paws.  I was an early teen when Dude met me at the door everyday after school with a tennis ball in his mouth.  I’d wave him to the far side of our yard and then hurl the yellow ball with everything I had.  Dude had an uncanny canine ability to catch almost any pitch, including those far outside the strike zone. He never lost interest and he always outlasted my arm.

When the topic surfaces in our house about acquiring a new pet, I always respond with the same question, “But can it bring me the morning paper?”  Regardless of rain, sleet or hurricane warning (we lived in Florida) Dude would trot to the curb and sniff the air like he owned the neighborhood.  Then he returned to me with the Tallahassee Democrat between his teeth, sans teeth marks.

Dude was more than a performer.  He was, like all great animal companions, a friend who was alert to his owner’s emotions.  Few teens are fortunate enough to experience a Dude, but I wish they could.  When family conflicts reached their zenith, and waves of hormones fueled my confused adolescent neurons, Dude would put his head on my lap and invite me to scratch behind his ears.  He’d look up at me and I felt the connection.  He knew I needed a distraction from reality with someone who cared.  Those moments, in my opinion, were as close to Tsahaylu as it gets in this lifetime.

I’m surprised at the number of theologians who embrace the possibility of animals in heaven, but I appreciate those who do.  I probably won’t greet all of my former pets in the hereafter, in fact I’d be surprised if a few didn’t find residence in the other eternal alternative.  But I do hope to see Dude.

The Avatar Banshees bond with only one rider in their lifetime.  When I arrive in Paradise, and when I assume my new body I’ll look for the dragon with the tennis ball in his mouth.  He’ll be the one who, once upon a time, shared Tsahaylu with a frazzled Tallahassee teenager.  I’ll grab that ball and hurl it down the canyon.  Then my friend… and then… it will be time to fly.

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The Totem TIF – An Elegant Reality Check

August 15, 2010
Please pardon me if I indulge myself in a series of elucidations on my new favorite movie, Inception.  One trip through Christopher Nolan‘s dream epic is not enough to start connecting the dots on its symbolism.  I was just trying to keep up in my first journey; Nolan is truly a writing and directing ninja.   The second time, however, I allowed myself the freedom to participate in Nolan’s multiple metaphors, starting with reality and ending in the “Basement” of the hero’s prison of memories.

My favorite imagery ties into the Totem, an personal item that each dream warrior identified in the real world in order to ground themselves to reality in the dream world.  In Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) case, it was a spinning top.  If ever he became confused as to whether he was in reality or fantasy, he would spin the top and wait for it to stop spinning.  If it didn’t stop, he knew he was in a dream.

Each traveler’s Totem was personal and confidential.  As stated by several characters:

Arthur: So, a totem. It’s a small object, potentially heavy, something you can have on you all the time…
Ariadne: What, like a coin?
Arthur: No, it has to be more unique than that, like – this is a loaded die.
[Ariadne reaches out to take the die]
Arthur: . Nah, I can’t let you touch it, that would defeat the purpose. See only I know the balance and weight of this particular loaded die. That way when you look at your totem, you know beyond a doubt you’re not in someone else’s dream.

Ariadne state’s later, after she’s created her item that the Totem is an elegant means to ground oneself in reality.

I remember hearing a story about famed basketball coach John Wooden concerning his Christian faith.  When asked why he didn’t discuss the topic more in public he responded that he wanted to live it more than speak it – which of course he did.  Then he added that he carried an item in his pocket to remind him at all times of the example he provided others regarding his relationship with Christ.  The item was a small metal cross with sharp edges.  When, as coach, he was tempted to erupt in response to a bad call in a game he would reach into his pocket and grasp the cross as hard as possible.  As the sharp edges of the cross pressed against his fingers the great coach would remember Who he represented on the court; then he would take a deep breath to control his emotions.  He rarely if ever lost his temper on or off the court.

I have decided to carry my own Totem, but for a slightly different reason than Coach Wooden.  When I’m confused by a particular circumstance or when pressure mounts quickly, and I’m tempted to let my emotions rule – I need a reminder.  I need to remind myself of three grounding principles:

  • Truth – what’s the truth here?  The truth is God is in control.
  • Illusion – What’s the illusion here?  Is the enemy using something (probably simple) to distract my attention – even by only a few degrees?
  • Fear – What and where is my fear in this situation.  Fear is for the most part illogical, not based on reality – what’s the worst that can happen here?

Truth, Illusion and Fear (TIF).  If I can grasp my Totem and ground myself with these three benchmarks – shouldn’t I be more successful in grasping the “reality” vs. the enemy’s “dream”?

But don’t ask me to show you my Totem… I want to make sure I’m not in your dream (illusion) or any one else’s 🙂

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Treasures of Darkness

August 11, 2010

Isaiah 45:3

3 I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the mind bending, neuro-circuit-blowing film, Inception:

If you haven’t experienced this film and spent the ride home + the next two hours discussing the film with your son-in-law like I did, let me just say it’s based on an unexplained technology that enables someone to invade the dreams of another in order to influence critical decisions.  Leonardo Di Caprio plays the tortured protagonist who agrees to recruit the expert team that will join him in extraordinary task of venturing “4 levels down” into the dreams of corporate executive.

In the course of his journey, Di Caprio intertwines his own dreams into the experience and, as a result, faces his most dreaded, and “buried” fear.  By facing that fear he’s able to free himself from self-torture and pain that resulting from a poor decision years prior.

My close friend, Dr. Bert Chandler, enjoys a reputation as one of the most highly regarded Pain Management Specialists in the country.  Icon medical organizations like Medtronic pursue him to participate on their advisory boards.   He is innovative, passionate and brilliant in his ability to diagnose and treat chronic pain.  According to a Time Magazine article several years ago, Pain Management has a reputation more for “Narcotic Management” rather than productive therapy.  My friend often sees patients who come to him with a long history of drug dependency inflicted by physicians who were satisfied to scribble a non legible prescription for Vicodin or Oxycontin.

Often Bert’s diagnostic “radar” alerts him to a possible hidden pain that his patient has buried.  He looks at the x-ray, looks back to the patient and asks, “Is there something you’re not telling me?”  More often than not, tears flow and the patient describes a tragic hurt inflicted years prior that disguised itself as chronic physical pain.  The revelation by the patient often results in the release from the pain they so long endured.

Is there a connection between the “treasures of darkness, hidden in secret places” and the buried pain so many experience?  Is the revelation of that pain in itself the treasure to release the treasure seeker from bondage?  If it is, even in isolated cases, then it is treasure trove indeed.

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