Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Odysseus, Meet Leonardo DiCaprio
The Odyssey. Yes, that beloved epic poem composed by a blind Greek bard whose wordcraft that was utilized thousands of years ago is still taught to every freshman in America today. Through its pages, we learn about what transpires when our favorite war hero, Odysseus, does not thank the Greek god of the sea ,Poseidon, for his work in helping Odysseus win the Trojan War for the Greeks. Therefore, Poseidon and his gargantuan ego decide to make Odysseus's journey back to his homeland, the Greek city-state of Ithaka, as miserable and long as possible. In the end, it takes the man ten heart-wrenching years to reach Ithaka, where he finds that a horde of men have come into his royal palace to court his wife while ignoring the true heir to the Ithakan throne: Odysseus's son Telemakhos. Through this prolonged journey, however, Odysseus comes into contact with a very unique figure: the breathtaking sea nymph Kalypso, who holds Odysseus captive on her tropical island paradise of an island for seven years. She is saturated with ardent lust for the man and poses a very enticing offer to him as well: immortality in her tropical paradise with constant sexual attention. Odysseus, however, knows through a prophecy told to him before this life-altering moment about the horrible state that has possessed his wife and son and therefore refuses Kalypso's offer. But his decision to leave the divine paradise and attempt to reach Ithaka by boat again instead has numerous consequences, these including the endurance of another excruciating storm sent by Poseidon and the difficulty he will face in removing the suitors from the royal palace back in Ithaka. Is it then worth it for Odysseus to give up a life where his desires are constantly entertained and not a single issue troubles him except the distant thought of the family he left behind? Even this thought would be gone, since Odysseus would have to make himself completely ignorant to all memories of Ithaka if he planned to reside on the island with Kalypso forever. The real question that faces Odysseus is really if it is worth accepting ignorant bliss when an ocean of horror lies behind that veil of ignorance? Would he rather live with the knowledge that the horror lies there, or meet the horror in hopes of eradicating it? Is it better for him to live a life that gives him every pleasure in the world but one, or dedicate his life to attaining one pleasure?
The most encompassing skeleton that lies in Cobb's closet turns out to be that he has been charged with the murder of his wife, Mal, and therefore cannot return to the United States until one of his clients in able to pay the government enough money to free him of all charges. He actually did not commit the crime, but his secret lies in the fact that he might as well have. You see, the reason why Cobb knows that inception can occur is that he performed it on his wife, and the idea that he planted within her mind grew to be so powerful that it convinced her to commit suicide and blame her husband for the death. Why did Cobb perform inception on Mal? Well, it is revealed that Mal was also an extractor who was just about as excellent as her spouse, and one day the two of them decided to experiment with the idea of multiple layers of dreaming. What they discovered was that there can only be so many dreams within dreams; after delving into so many layers, one finds himself on the shores of his own subconscious, a limbo between the worlds of dreams and reality. Hours feel as if years in this place, and the couple finds that they are forced to remain in the limbo until waking up is feasible. What Cobb and Mal execute to pass the time is create a world for themselves, a bustling city with skyscrapers and any possession that the two of them could ever desire including replications of each of their childhood homes. However, Mal eventually finds herself convinced that this world is indeed reality after living in it for so long and locks this conviction deep inside of her mind; therefore when Cobb and Mal discover that they can leave the shores of subconsciousness for reality, Mal is left thinking that the shores actually are reality. Cobb's solution to this conflict is inception, the idea being inserted into Mal's mind being that her reality is not reality and everything in what she reasons is the real world is just a projection (a reflection of the human subconscious that takes the form of a person or object of some significance to the human). The way to wake oneself up from a dream is to commit suicide within that dream, and that is what Mal and Cobb then do to return to reality. There is another problem, though, when the couple wakes up: Mal finds herself in what she thinks is the real world while still being possessed by the notion that the real world is just a dream. This sinister thought makes the woman convinced of two facts: that she must commit suicide in order to reach what is truly reality, and that her husband must accompany her in this martyrdom for her idea. In order to act on the aforementioned thoughts, Mal decides on the night of her wedding anniversary to jump from a window across from the hotel room where she and Cobb usually spend the evening and to leave a note back at the couple's house that frames Cobb as Mal's killer so that he can join her in suicide. But Cobb refuses to jump, and from the dead body of Mal rises the phoenix of guilt within Mr. Cobb stemming from his thought that he was the person gave Mal the idea that murdered her.
The dilemma Walter Cobb faces could have been avoided; if he had simply accepted the shores of subconscious as reality just as his wife did, then the two of them would have lived long and pleasant lives within their own escapist universe. But would the mirth he would have received from that life outweigh the horror that would have been generated at the thought that while they two of them are living happily in the world of dreams, everybody who depended on Mr. and Mrs. Cobb in the real world are in a state of panic? Odysseus is in a similar situation: he can live a wondrous eternity saturated with pleasures galore alongside Kalypso, but with the acceptance of this life would come the realization that Odysseus's wife and son would never receive the help from the man that they so desperately need. Forget that-Penelope and Telemakhos wouldn't even be able to experience the joy of seeing the man again, plus Odysseus would also love to undergo the pleasure of seeing the two of them again once more.
So is living one's life in escapism truly better than facing reality? Well, my answer is...partly. Escapism is a marvelous method through which to contemplate reality because an escapist world is separate from reality. We each can therefore learn more about our own worlds through contemplation within an escapist world and use the thoughts generated during this experience to live better lives once we emerge from the mysterious depths of our personal universe-however, that is the most imperative component. When one submerges herself into an escapist world, she must insure that she will exit from it before the removal from reality negatively affects her actual life. NEVER can one accept an escapist universe as reality as Mal did since that can actually harm one's life, which is the inverse to what the effect of escapist contemplation should be upon a person. The rule that I established in the Super Sad True Love Story post indisputably applies here: an excess amount of a positive phenomenon is utterly and completely negative.
What are some forms of escapism that one can use to contemplate the world, you may ask? The answer is any activity that makes you feel as if you are somewhat disconnected from the preoccupations customarily generated in your life. I have recently observed that the arts and exercise are two forms that are particularly successful in achieving this escapist aura. For me, being the psychotic maniac I am, the path to the greatest escapist contemplation is the composition of the words you are reading at this very moment.