OK, so I got a little choked up and uncomfortable toward the end of the movie. Then I got thoughtful. That old philosophical training kicking in and rescuing me from my emotions.
Here’s the scene: DiCaprio’s dead wife – she committed suicide and he feels responsible – is very much alive for him in his subconscious. As part of the plot of the movie, he finds himself visiting her again. She is doing her best to convince him to stay there with her. He knows she is dead, he knows that the person sitting across the table talking to him is a projection of his own subconscious, but how tempting it must have been to stay there with her.
Would I stay locked deep in my subconscious with Amy if presented with that same choice? If there was some way to trigger that experience, if there was some way to bring her back to ‘life’, would I do it? If I could go back and create a world that matched our first years back in Michigan, maybe Amy at 7 and Lisa at 4, and then played itself out forward from there, would I? At some level, it would be obvious (to people outside of my head) that I was insane, living inside my own mind. But would I care? My family would be whole again. Amy and Lisa growing up together, healthy and whole. Best pals heading off to school and to driver’s training and to their first jobs and boyfriends and weddings and kids.
As Plato and Liebniz talked about (each in his own way), as the Buddhists insist and as the Matrix movies toyed with, isn’t reality a construct of our consciousness anyway? Intersubjectivity is our measure of reality (at least that’s the best I can make of it), but in a world of my own making, wouldn’t all of the other “people” argue that they were real? Could I make any convincing argument to them that they were wrong?
It made me wonder about how other people in the theater were reading it. Yet another experience of the Rorschach test that is reality – each of us in the theater brings our own experience to the film and each of us gets something slightly different out of it.
All of which is the intellectual part of it. The emotional part is that I allowed myself to sit there, only partially interested in the rest of the plot, and actually feel the weight of that decision. Sitting in the dark, watching the screen and replacing Mal’s face with Amy’s, it was difficult. I’ve been conditioned to immediately respond to questions like that with a quick “well, it’s better to live in an imperfect reality than a perfect illusion” but I begin to understand Cypher’s comment in the Matrix:
Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?
[Takes a bite of steak]
Cypher: Ignorance is bliss.
Ultimately I still come down on the side that says living in reality – with all of its pain and imperfection – is better, but it was sure nice to visit with Amy for a few minutes.