The Neverending Story: Part II

When Bastian hides in an attic to read a mysterious book, he discovers that this is no ordinary story……..the Neverending Story is a living book.

It tells of Fantasia, a land of magical creatures threatened by the Nothing. The Childlike Empress needs a new name and only a human child can grant it. Hardly believing what is going on and shivering in his damp attic, Bastian calls out the Childlike Empress’ new name and in doing so, he enters the Neverending Story.

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He finds himself a character within the story he was reading, Here, Bastian is handsome and bold, a boy equal in strength and courage to Atrayu. As saviour of Fantasia, he is granted AURYN, the gem of the Childlike Empress, inscribed with the words “Do As You Wish.”

Here, his imagination can create worlds. Everything he wishes, comes to pass.

Bastian is cautioned by the Childlike Empress to be aware that his wishes become realities, and these realities affect the fates of other Fantasians. Bastian can only govern Fantasia well when he considers deeply his desires and wishes only for what he truly wants.

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However, as Bastian grows in confidence, he becomes less and less aware of the deep desires that motivate him, and less careful of the consequences of his wishes. With every wish Bastian loses a memory of his former life. Atrayu points out, that without memory, Bastian cannot have a true will and without a will, he will lose himself.

Without a will, he cannot wish himself home again.

Can Atrayu save Bastian from his descent into madness? Will Bastian become trapped in Fantasia forever?

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Ende achieves in the second part of the Neverending Story, new insights of the significance of dream and myth to human health and happiness. Just as travelling into our dreams and subconscious is necessary for human health, a journey required to understand our deep complexes and to do battle with our subconscious fears, so too the converse journey is critical – the return to conscious life.

It is in the conscious world, our external world, where human relationships occur that the deep desires of the human heart are realised. Here we love, are loved, face external challenges and grow.

A person lost in dream or myth, or a person at the mercy of their fantasies and desires, without touch with the real world, is someone who eventually loses touch with their core identity, their memory, their will, even their own name.

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The maddened Bastian becomes so lost in his own fantasy that he needs a saviour, someone who can give him a name and restore enough will for him to remember his father and so desire to return home. Moreover, Bastian needs someone to remain in Fantasia to take responsibility for all the stories that his wishes have given life to.

Atrayu, despite being betrayed and wounded by Bastian steps in, reminds Bastian of his true name and in doing so restores him with enough will and memory to send him back to his conscious life.

It is Atrayu who remains in Fantasia to finish the story. And so Ende delivers the final note to his story. The true hero sacrifices himself so Bastian might have life.

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Atrayu is not a product of Bastian’s imagination. He is the character who drew Bastian into Fantasia, he was betrayed and wounded by Bastian his friend, and now as Bastian surrenders AURYN, at his wits end, Atrayu restores Bastian’s ‘self’ and ability to return to a life of relationship and being.

We need more heroes like Atrayu.

 

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The True Man Show

In 1998, Truman Burbank tried to break out of his own life.

He had been born and raised inside a highly elaborate TV show. Truman’s life had been scripted. His love life, his family, his career, it had all been controlled for him.

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The few things he truly wanted – that girl in high school, that trip across the sea – were all taken from him for the sake of TV show ratings.

FILE - This undated file image originally provided by Paramount Pictures shows Jim Carrey starring as Truman Burbank in the 1998 movie "The Truman Show," in which Carrey's character discovers every moment of his life has been broadcast.  (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Melinda Sue Gordon, file) ** NO SALES **

When he gains inklings of the artifice [a studio lamp falls from the ‘sky’ – among other things] he seeks to escape the story. 

As he punctures through the horizons of his own known existence, the audience of his show, are on the edge of their seats. The daring quest of this man to break free of the contraints of his world – sends ratings through the roof.

He is now becoming a ‘true man’. 

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In a parallel universe, Thomas Anderson, a lonely computer programmer known as “Neo” has inklings all was not well with the world. 

Various clues indicate an alternative reality, and so Neo follows mysterious characters  “down the rabbit” hole. He wakes to find that his previous reality, was in fact an elaborate computer program labelled the Matrix, in which all humans are bound as comatose units of bio-electricity. 

In the Matrix, humans are wired to believe their lives are free but in fact they are litte more than battery cells fueling super-intelligent machines. Neo joins the army of rebels in their quest to “unplug” enslaved humans from the Matrix and to shut down the Matrix. 

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What these stories have in common is the question of ‘true freedom’ and thus the question ‘true humanity’.

They join the poems, songs and stories from ancient times that thread together inklings that all is not well with this life – and in fact a greater reality lies beyond. 

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But is it true? Are we characters in a play? Is there really a great reality lie outside this dusty cockpit stage, or TV sound studio, or augmented reality?

More importantly is there a  ‘someone’ observing us, or scripting, our story? 

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Dare we believe there is an ultimate-narrative, and like Neo waking from a dream, that we can better understand our life there? 

Does this greater truth yield greater freedom? 

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Or when we wake from our dream, to “escape our narrative” will we only we find ourselves in ever higher layers of dreams?

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Moreover, if there is ultimate reality, how would we even know it if we found it?

Religions and faiths can be known as ‘meta-narratives’ or stories that simply explain the nature of reality, the nature of humanity and the nature of ‘true freedom’.  


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The Christian narrative makes daring claims on ulimate reality and so,  to the nature of ultimate freedom:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light to all mankind.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  ~ John 1:1-4, 14.

Madness and denial in Shutter Island

The 2010, Martin Scorcese film, Shutter Island explores madness and denial in a film noir style detective thriller.  The two protagonists are led on a winding tale of secrets, conspiracy, and double motives. Two US Marshals, Teddy and Chuck [Leonardo Di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo], travel to Shutter Island, to visit Ashecliffe hospital, notable for housing the criminally insane. A woman patient, guilty of the drowning death of her three children,  has escaped and things are not well. Strangely her doctor, Dr. Sheehan,  has also just departed on vacation and the doctors and patients seem caught up in a web of secrets.  When the two men arrive, a storm traps them there for several days further complicating matters and compounding the eerie mysteriousness of the island institution.

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Upon arrival, the men are stripped of their weapons and treated to the harsh regulations of the islands. Mysteriously they are barred from viewing certain buildings, and their actions are heavily monitored.  Despite the assurance that the island has been thoroughly searched,  the inmate Rachel Solando, seems to have vanished without explanation.

Throughout the film, Teddy suffers flashbacks of terrors he witness during WWII, especially during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. He has instinctive suspicions about the motives of the head Doctors, particularly Dr. Naehring, who has a German accent. Moreover, he is haunted by visions of his deceased wife Delores who died in a house fire, set alight by one Andrew Laeddis. In one dream, Delores tells Teddy that Rachel is still on the island, as so is her killer Andrew Laeddis.

After a terrible night of the storm, alarms have been reset and patients are found wandering outside of their cells. Without explanation, Rachael Solando is found. Suspicious the doctors had simply been hiding her, Teddy interviewis her, when she suddenly starts shrieking that Teddy is her [dead] husband.  More and more suspicious the truth is being hidden, Teddy breaks into C Building alone and encounters George Noyce a prisioner in solitary confinement there. He assaults Teddy, telling him to stop searching for Laeddis and warns warns that the doctors on the island are performing illegal lobotomies on patients. He claims that everyone including Chuck is playing and elaborate game to deceive Teddy.

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Increasingly confused by the mysterious island and contradictions among resisdents and staff, Teddy and Chuck explore the forbidden Lighthouse on the island and the two get separated. Thinking he can see a body fallen from the cliffs, Teddy climbs down and meets a woman hiding  in a cave. She tells him she is the real Rachel Solando, who worked as a doctor on the island until she questioned some of the medical experiments being undertaken at which point she was committed as a patient to prevent her from escaping. When Teddy returns, he discovers the staff believe he came to the island alone and that Chuck Aule had never accompanied him.

Isolated but determined to uncover the plot, Teddy returns to the forbidden light house where he encounters the head doctor, Dr. Cawley. Here Cawley explains that Teddy is himself Andrew Laeddis [and anagram of his own name], incarcerated for the murder of his depressive wife who drowned her own children. Thus, Rachel Solando is an anagram for his wifes name Delores Chanal. The past few days, the staff of the institution had experimented with a new therapy, allowing Teddy [Laeddis] to role play a Federal Marshall investigating the island, in an effort to break through this conspiracy laden insanity. The only way Teddy could live after her death, was to invent an elaborate story of her murder and his desire to seek down the killer. Chuck is in fact Teddy’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sheehan.

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The doctors indicate that Laeddis has achieved a state of clarity 9 months prior but had degenerated again into a state of denial. Here again Teddy faces the truth of his actions and admits his guilt for not realising his wife’s trouble and getting her help when she needed it. However, despite this clarity,  the next morning it’s clear that Teddy has regressed into the role play again, refusing to ‘remember‘ who Dr. Sheehan is. Teddy then asks whether it is better to “live as a monster or die a good man.” The film closes as he willingly follows the orderlies, who take him away to undergo a lobotomy.

The film explores a dream-within-a-dream. As we dream of Teddy [as viewers], he dreams of Teddy as Laeddis. The truth comes to him in flashbacks and hallucinations – his wife, the children, her killer. His fractured personality, created to prevent himself from bearing the full weight and terror of understanding his actions, creates in him a distance from his visions. His visions are his true-self.  He can only handle clues, one at a time, a mystery thriller he must solve as the protagonist, the good guy, hunting down the culprit. However, when he discovers the truth it is again too much to bear and he reverts again to the “dream” of forgetting. Finally, he would rather live without the memory and “half a man”. He would rather die with the delusion of being good than know his true self.

If only we would heed the truth that comes to us through dreams, through stories. There we can act as the protagonist and hero, seeking out the culprit to all the ills and wrongs of life. However, when faced with the reality of our own human nature, will we accept it or revert instead to the dream of denial? Would we rather live with the delusion of being good than know our true selves?

 

 

Stephen Hawking and Imaginary Time

In this video, Stephen Hawking talks about his most significant theory, Imaginary Time.

“People think it’s something you have in dreams, or when you’re up against a deadline. But it’s a well defined concept. Imaginary time is like another direction in space. It’s the one bit of my work science fiction writers haven’t used. Because they don’t understand it.”

The expansion and contraction of time within stories and dreams is in fact something which has long been explored by stories. Characters disappear through a wardrobe and live a lifetime of adventures before returning as though no time had passed at all. Alternatively, children disappear into the land of Faery and return to their home to find their parents long dead and everyone they  know old and almost forgetting their existence.

“Put your hand on the a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like minutes. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein

The journey a soul or imagination goes upon during a story, is a fascinating one, one Science Fiction writers should explore more. Journey into dream and travel in “another direction in space”.

Sonnet XLIII

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Does art mirror life or does life mirror art? Critics will tell you the best art conveys feeling and that even photographic art emotes. Art is more like  a dream -vision of reality, whether nightmarish, beautiful or haunting. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43 captures the relationship of art to life.

Art is the waking dream, and when we dream, we see as though to the heart of the artists emotions.

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