Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Belief and Unbelief

I was prompted to write this post after i received a reply to my carefree tweet. In the back of my mind, I knew i had it coming (that's why I added the smiley at the last second), but i still sent the tweet. And so here it goes...

Earlier today, I frivolously tweeted that "I respect all beliefs, even unbelief" in which what I had in mind was the loose definition of "belief" as somewhat similar to an "opinion". For example, the context in which I say "i believe there is life on other planets". So i think that someone who "does not believe" in the existence of extra-terrestrial life is entitled to his or her own "belief" or opinion. And i respect that belief, even if it does not agree with my own belief. That was what i meant in my tweet, no offense intended.

But the trouble is, i used the word "belief" instead of "opinion" in my tweet. And for that, it deserves much thought, careful examination, and reflection, especially when "respect" is in the same sentence as "belief".

In the course of writing this post, I came to the conclusion that "belief" is a deeply loaded word where often, when people hear it, what comes to mind is Religion, Christianity, Islam and all the others. So I should expect some reaction from unbelievers if they are grouped together with those who believe in the existence of God, and vise-versa. Atheists do not believe in the existence of god. In that context, Christianity and Islam is under the umbrella of "belief", but Atheism is outside any form of "belief".

Belief and unbelief is as distinctively separate as how light is from dark, how "yes" is distinctively opposite from "no". The non-existence of god is as equally possible as the existence of God. Thus, believing and not believing in God are opposites but equally valid points of view. With neither one under the scope of the other.

To say that "unbelief" is under or within "belief" may be offensive, and perhaps disrespectful to some who feel strongly about it. And thus, I apologize for that statement that seemed to put unbelief as a form of belief. Needless to say, my apology is also for some believers who perhaps were offended by me throwing non-believers in their camp.

Of course, i need to explore a case similar to "zero and one" (binary bits) or "left and right" (chirality) where both states together are described by one word for the purpose of study. In the same manner, is there a 'non-loaded' word that simply includes both "belief in the existence of God" and "unbelief in the existence of god"?

I hope that a word must exist to describe both states where it doesn't evoke strong emotions. Worldview? Whatever it is, i need that word so i can describe what i mean by "belief and unbelief" in my context without running into trouble on twitter or anywhere else.

Oh boy, I just love twitter. It compels me to write. And when i write, it forces me to think!

Well, at least that's what i think!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Perception of Inception

The mention of ideas being powerful once it gets in your head was a great way to start "Inception". It rightly set the tone that this movie is cerebral. Indeed, it leaves you thinking about reality and dreams even after the movie has finished.

Dreams are powerful, and essential. Perhaps that’s when and where ideas truly play. And that, I believe, gave Nolan a great focal point for his movie.

I often engaged in conversation with some of my family members--as they talked in their sleep! And I found it funny how senseless the things they talked about. A few times, I actually tried to coax some information from our conversations, so I can tease them the next day. However unfair it seems, I maintain that no one must ever do that to me, for I would never want my wife to uncover secrets from my subconscious!

But I can tell you that it's actually impossible to “extract” any sensible information from sleep-talkers, or sleep-walkers! The best you can do is enjoy that moment and giggle while they murmur incomprehensible sentences.

Perhaps that is the reason why I never thought of injecting some ideas into vulnerable minds as they slept or dreamed. I think that if garbage was coming out, then they’ll perceive incoming ideas as garbage as well.

If I knew that implanting ideas into a sleeping person's mind would work, then i would have tried to trick my dozing Dad (who, at one time--I caught sleep-talking) to increase my college allowance back in those days.

And so, with the thesis of Inception, the “extractor”--whose usual job was to “extract” information--was also hired to “implant” an idea into a person’s mind. All that will be done via “shared dreams”.

That seems like a simple plot, isn’t it? Yes, but there’s more. It also involves layered dreams within a dream within a dream. And the technical aspects of such dream-layers was also accounted for--such as time dilation between each layer of dreams.

All that plot mechanics would’ve been enough for me, and it already is a great movie with that complexity alone. But Nolan overdid it with some snow mountain shooting action sequence which i think was unnecessary.

The movie also failed to tap into the emotion spectrum. Cobb's wife, who i suppose should deliver that part, played the weakest character of them all. The only scene that moved me was the quick flash of an elderly couple (Dobb and his wife) walking together while holding hands.

I also think that the “architect” was not creative enough in conjuring dream settings. Her “powers” were not tapped thoroughly.

Although i liked the scene where she pulled two mirrors facing each other. But then I instinctively looked for the camera (and the cameraman) in that scene, expecting them to be visible to me, as reflected by the mirrors. So in effect, what the scene did was to snap me out from being an "audience". At that moment, I began thinking technical stuff (as if i was part of the movie crew) on how the special effects were being achieved.

There were tropes which were apparent, such as dreams within a dream, as exemplified by “Waking Life”, or shared dreams (people entering the dreams of others) in “Dreamscape”, “The Cell”, and “Nightmare on Elm Street”. But with “Inception”, I give Nolan credit for making a movie that stimulates its viewers to think.

Even up to now, I am still thinking what my "totem" would be. Some little object that'll let me know if i'm within a dream or not.

How about you. What is your totem?