Life Isn’t What You Think

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Recently I took the Munchkin (my granddaughter) to the movies. She was finally old enough to be able to sit through 90 minutes or so without too much fiddling or many trips to the bathroom.

At the ticket booth, she smiled broadly, saying “Two, please,” and offered hers proudly to the ticket taker inside. She selected a treat from the lobby vendor. We found our way to our theater, chose our seats and settled in. The lights eventually went down and the screen in front of the room lit up with previews, previews and more previews. The Munchkin wiggled and jiggled and finally sat still just about the time the movie started. We sat enrapt watching the animated story. She didn’t want to leave when it was over.

The best movies are those that draw you in by plot, character, and setting. Sitting in your seat you relate to the characters. You begin to see yourself in the setting and are pulled along by the events of the story before you. You laugh or cry. You may be on the edge of your seat or cozily into the plushness of it. Even after the house lights come up and the credits are rolling, you may continue to feel those emotions. Like a dreamer waking from that so-vivid dream, it takes a moment or two to re-connect to your experience as a movie-goer while you make your way from the theater into the lobby and then, ultimately, into the parking lot to find your car. If you’re the one driving after an action-packed movie, you may even feel the urge to drive faster or with less care than usual. Beautiful scenes may inspire you to look into travel to that area. If a friend asks you about the movie a few days (or even years sometimes!) later, as you describe it, you feel again the feelings you had in that theater seat.

The images on screen are ephemeral and have no substance—yet they attach themselves to us as “real” through the power of our minds reacting to the sights, sounds, and the experience of depth and breadth. You “know” you’re sitting in the movie seat, but the action in front of you pulls you in and makes you feel part of it.

In another movie, The Matrix, about a computer geek who learns the true nature of his existence, rebel leader Morpheus explains the nature of the Matrix to the astonished Neo:

The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

He later challenges him to define what’s real by understanding that what you feel, smell, taste and see are simply signals interpreted by your brain. In a similar way, a movie can create a reality by appealing to our senses. We even have a term for it–the willing suspension of disbelief. We become absorbed in what appears to be going on around us.

Who would you be if you could realize your life as a movie that only had the reality you give to it? What would your life be like if you went about your business while holding firmly the notion that you were actually sitting in your seat at the picture show? In other words, can you imagine what it would be like if you stopped believing everything you think?

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