By Vince M. Ragay
Every moment, we see a story unfold before our eyes. Even before we stir awake, we dream stories we would never have concocted. Remember Pharaoh who saw seven thin cows eating seven fat cows? Joseph proved spectacularly that the story came from heaven. Some of course consider it myth but the story is as true as the dreams that eventually find fulfillment in real life. Or even in reel life. For there are those who make movies out of their dreams and thus make them part of a two-dimensional reality that our minds can effectively conceive and sometimes even real-ize in life. Think of the many real-life James Bonds whose undercover exploits we read in magazines or genuine Dr. Frankensteins who have prolonged the lives of many through organ-transplant surgeries. Truth, as they say, has always been stranger than fiction.
Yet even if some of our dreams never become films, the stories they tell are as exciting or compelling as stories contained in novels, newspapers and magazines. We differentiate between true-to-life stories from those which are fictional because we put more trust in the reality or dependability of historical events. We define sanity as being able to distinguish what is and what is not. And because we believe something is not, thus we label it with disparaging names as fairy tale, myth, deception and, yes, hallucination.
Movies can truly be tools to propagate a lie or to distort real events. Whether this kind of activity amounts to insanity or not, we will leave for others to decide. It, however, leads many to confuse what is false with the truth. Ultimately, people come to believe what is untrue. (Hence, even before Da Vinci Code premieres, someone comes out with Da Vinci Code: A Deception in an effort to protect Christian believers.) Or at least, they enjoy themselves being led to accept and enjoy something that is fantastic or unbelievable. Such is the nature of make-believe stories we see in movies or read in pocketbooks. Entertainment then involves a kind of self-imposed deception, whether temporary of not. Oftentimes, we become lazy and forget to check if something is right or wrong, valid or invalid or practical or useless. Movies can become a potent tool for intentional or unintentional mis-education.
And why not? Movies can stretch the limits of our imagination with their capability to expand or warp reality. Characters become more than what humans really are. They can fly faster than airplanes or travel back in time. They can defeat all their enemies using only the hands or travel across the galaxies in tiny spaceships. A million things they can do which we ordinary mortal cannot. All for a chance to tell an exciting story.
The danger in all this exercise lies in the possibility of people remaining trapped in the make-believe realities that movies induce. This is particularly true for our young ones and even the more mature who become enamored by their screen idols to a point that everything else they say or do arises from that misplaced adulation. Thus, a mother will rejoice over the fact that her son has a smile like Brad Pitt’s and will dismiss her husband’s retort that the child got it from him (which is more probably the case). But why would a mother want her own unique child to look like somebody else, even a handsome Hollywood actor? Why should it even be a point of a joke, if that is what it’s all about? (The mother didn’t look like she was joking though.) Because the harsh realities around us are somehow replaced by the perfumed un-realities that exist in our movie-fixated minds. It is in effect a kind of insanity that creates a wide gap between what we can potentially achieve and what we merely want to attain in life. We chase shallow fantasies and fleeting pleasures when we can stand on solid foundations of liberating truth.
Thus, we can reasonably conclude that although the un-reality of our thoughts or imaginations has no palpable value for others or even for ourselves, they can even become more powerful than the reality of real reality. Sorry for the re-redundancy but we wish to exorcise from our minds the devils that lead us to surrender usable stories or principles in favor of those which are useless or destructive. We must discern true values from passing fancies.
At some point in our lives, we must be able to appreciate fairy tales for what they are, not simply as kid-stories but as stories that may have real values. Hence, we may not necessarily hope for all marriages to last happily ever after; but we can certainly strive to find the reasons why and how real blood-and-flesh people like us should and could sustain fresh love till death do them part. For all we know, the same energy that allows Disney to continue making feel-good stories may be the same thing we need to keep us enthusiastic about our own relationships. If we have the unlimited imagination and technology to make Pixar-quality movies, why not the creativity and means to run a democracy that truly works? Why should goodness and possibilities remain confined in the sacred chambers of our imagination and not in the dust-covered or sweat-moistened spectrum of reality?
Some politician might crack that the dynamics of movie-making are entirely different from the dynamics of politics. (It was actually a senator who said that Pacquiao’s desire for Filipinos to unite does not apply in political realities, sports being different from politics.) Now this is exactly the kind of dichotomized thinking that prevents us from integrating our various experiences into one cohesive and organic paradigm. This lack of creative energy among some leaders stops us from applying the positive values of our total life experience into solving our more pressing problems.
Were fairy tales or movies, for that matter, meant only to divert the minds of kids or adults until such time that they may be ready to face “other” realities in life? Were sports invented to give people a venue for releasing pent-up energies until such time when they can use their “other” energies for “more” important things in life? Can we not learn to love positively from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as much as we can from Rizal’s life? Can we not learn the value of friendship from The Lord of the Rings as much as we can from David and Jonathan? Can we not learn humility from Jim Carrey’s Bruce Almighty as much as we can from Manny Pacquiao? Which fairy tale, myth or dream does not differentiate between real and fake romantic love, real or fake loyalty to one’s country and real or fake human happiness?
The stories in our minds are stages upon which eternal human values live and die, shine or disappear, magnify or diminish. We dream or make stories because we all exist in a Universe that abhors a vacuum of nothingness. Our very own lives are stories that fill up the pages of eternal memory. Not so we can have a minute taste of life but so we can fully savor what there is to savor. Life has a purpose whether we live with a purpose or not. We are because we were willed to be. Desiderata put is another way, thus: “No less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here; and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should.”
And so, we yearn for meaning and wholeness (in stories or in life, in general) because we carry in our bodies and souls the spark of life that allows us to achieve order and beauty. Without that spark, there would be no life, no light to shine upon our mind, no energy to fire up our imagination.
How we use that spark determines what kind of life we live and pass on to the next generation. In the end, either we help truth to finally unfold or we remain trapped in the darkness of our own deathly delusions.