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 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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The Velvet Hammer

June 22, 2008

 

In The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren states that life on earth is three things: a series of tests, a trust, and TRAINING. John Wooden built 10 national basketball championship teams with training, training, and more training; diverting attention from the scoreboard to drills and discipline. Wooden is arguably history’s greatest coach, and he never used the word “win” during his career. His mantra was “be at your best when your best is needed.”

Much of God’s training seems to occur when we’re not looking for it, or don’t recognize it. One of my all-time favorite movie moments occurs in The Karate Kid. You know the scene; Daniel(san) desperately wants to learn karate and anticipates that his teacher (Mr. Miyagi) will use traditional methods to get him there. Instead, Miyagi assigns Daniel to a series of seemingly meaningless chores – tedious, boring, and exhausting. After several days, Daniel gets his “Popeye” face on (“…that’s all I can stands I can’t stands no more…”) and threatens to bail:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q0h8hBqv3M

Wham! One Velvet Hammer made to order right across the kisser. I love Daniel’s expression when the light comes on. He doesn’t see it coming, but when he “gets it”, he’s got if for good, and never doubts Miyagi again.

We’ve all had our share of divinely delivered Velvet Hammers, haven’t we? Times get tough or tedious, sometimes monotonous to the point of madness. A few months (or years) down the road we respond in a situation with information or skills learned in the “Tunnel” and then pick ourselves off the floor, jaw first.

We live in an era when education has defaulted to a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach, laser focused on literacy without regards to learning styles and the essential development of creativity. Please take a few minutes to watch this humorous, but incredibly insightful discussion by Sir Ken Robinson at the TED Conference in Monterey, CA:

 http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66

How does your son learn? Sitting, moving, listening, watching, etc.? Life’s lessons, those concerning character, discernment, and decisions can’t be learned, for the most part, in a classroom. What “hammers” can you create that will best fit your son’s learning style and leave him with pupils dilated and jaw on the floor? Time invested in this type of training will help him now and in the future to be at his best when his best is needed.

Recommended (that’s putting it mildly) reading: Wooden on Leadership by my hero, Coach John Wooden.