Monday, December 20, 2010

Things as they really are - Cobb has a Totem, do you?

The person who posted this youtube video was probably just in the theater filming this with their digital camera, or more likely at home because every time I saw that part in the theater there was a "OHHH" by the whole crowd. Either way, if you have seen this movie you experienced the crazy feeling that came after that scene where you don't know if you are also dreaming. When I was walking out of the theater for the first time, I thought that I was in a dream. It blew my mind. It was the first time I had been taken that far into the story and idea of a movie since the last time I had seen one of Christopher Nolan's films (The Dark Knight). It really made me ask myself a question: What is real?

So many philosophers have asked this question including Plato in his classic Allegory of the Cave. Feel free to click and watch this on my homepage. The prisoners in this cave are convinced that the only thing that is real are the shadows on the wall. That is all they know. That is all they have ever known. Until one of them is released and is dragged up the path and into the light of the day. His mind is blown in similar fashion as he begins to see things as they really are. He sees the light of the day and a sun and a tree and a person walking and people dancing (all of which are things he never had imagined).

Moses had a similar experience. He was about as high as you could get in society and politics in Egypt. He knew Egypt in all its grandeur and had everything the world had to offer.
Then one day he had a vision. He was able to reach into the heavens with the eyes of his understanding quickened by divine allowance. God showed him everything: "there was not a particle of it which he did not behold..." (see Moses 1). The closest thing we have to this now is what we get from the Hubble Deep Field imagery (which is also quite amazing). After Moses saw these things he said: "I know that I am nothing, which thing I never had supposed."

On top of Mt. Sinai where Moses had this vision.

Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image

How could you suppose such a thing? It is seemingly impossible to conceive something so vast and reaching with the human brain. Even that image that was taken by Hubble makes me have a cerebral-server overload (every dot in that image is an individual galaxy). I feel so small. But it is something that makes me also realize that there is so much more than is on the surface. We only see what is in our immediate presence and what is within our peripheral view. So how do we know and understand what is real and what is not?

Jacob answers this question after mentioning the impossibility of man to comprehend. He says:

"the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be..." (Jacob 4:13)

Therefore, the Spirit is the only way to know the way things really are. What is the alternative? Just Google it. Right? What if you aren't "feeling lucky" in your search or it doesn't give you the results that you are looking for or the only result you get says: "did you mean (fill in the blank)" and it is not even close to what you are looking for. At some point you will reach a moment in your life when you can't just go to Google for an answer. Especially an answer about what is real - an answer about what to do next in your life, and about who you really are and always have been. The only way to know what is truly real is to have the Spirit. This allows you to access the incomprehensible even just for a moment. In the movie Inception, Dom Cobb has what he calls a totem that helps him to know that he is not dreaming. It is something that only he knows the exact dimension of and that is unique to him. Something that when he uses it and engages all his focus on it, it lets him know that he is not dreaming and that things are real. Cobb spent a lot of time in a dreamworld that was not real. A place that had such high fidelity that he lived there for years and couldn't tell the difference. The dreamworld seemed just as real as anything he knew, but it wasn't. The only way to discern was the totem.

We live in what could be called a dreamworld. Jacob even recognizes it as such: "our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream" (Jacob 7:26). This is because we are not from this world and even though there are inklings of reality in many things in this world, there is never a fullness unless we tap into the source of reality and look to where we are from. And the way to tap into that source is through the Holy Ghost. The Spirit is our totem. It is the only way to know things as they really are. But do we really take advantage of it? Do we seek the Spirit? Or are we content with what we already know and with the pseudo-reality that confronts us every day? I feel like I live far below my privilege in using my totem. Here are some passages that make me realize how much is available:
I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; not has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit!
This is Oliver Cowdery attempting to describe an encounter with reality, when he was visited by a glorified heavenly being - John the Baptist. (find this on the last page of Joseph Smith History) He continues:
Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught...but fiction feeds...many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind.
I also love these words of C.S. Lewis (in "The Weight of Glory"):
We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
These words make me want to reach higher and search deeper for my own totem, for the Spirit which will help me know what is real, who I really am and who I always have been. Lewis explains this further in my favorite chapter of Mere Christianity. With the Spirit we are given a username and password (as it were) to access for a small moment, reality. That is the only reality there is on this earth, and it is not from this earth.
When, through a process we call inspiration and revelation, we are permitted at times to tap [the] divine databank, we are accessing, for the narrow purposes at hand, the knowledge of God. No wonder that experience is so unforgettable! (Neal A. Maxwell - Meeting the Challenges of Today)
Indeed, an encounter with the only source of reality we have is an amazing experience. I just need to use my totem more often and truly tap into that source of the knowledge of God. Anyone can, if they will.
But as it has been written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nether hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom... (Moses 6:61).

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