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If everything is in constant motion, then the dream of life must constantly be spinning. And we seldom remember, let alone believe, this until it stops and the dream ends, assuming that the way to be sure is to feel the kick of external force. Outside change.

But this is an Escher paradox of ascending stairs that create a fallacy, a fallacy which can only be revealed for the stagnation it is from another angle.

This is why “Inception” minions of subconscious patrol their chosen locales looking for foreign catalysts. Though we may seek the easier task with all labor carried out by others, we cannot believe the fruits we pick to provide satisfying sustenance with no knowledge of the tree’s growth.

Thus, all efforts channeled through others in “Inception” are engineered or found to be labyrinths, the difference between the two near meaningless due to the unfailing encouragement of puzzling complexity throbbing within the epicenters of both.

When reality is not enough and we seek to change our surroundings instead of ourselves, we risk an eternity of ignorant torture in limbo.

Such a zero-gravity, static stasis can birth leeches in parallel lives that can suck the former identity out of someone until they know that death is the only way to breathe again.

Those who, while floating, become infested with this disease wither away long before they can no longer be held tight.

And those who shared the experience but emerged relatively healthy sicken themselves with the regret of not being chosen instead. Or in the most tormented of eventually self-enabling scenarios feel the guilt of ever allowing themselves to love in the first place and taint such beauty with their corrosive pattern of seemingly relentless mistakes. Ferried into the assumed-by-most realm of lost cause by the three-sheets-to-the-wind vessel of crippling remorse.

We cannot see the faces of those who can save us, because our focus diverts not from those we failed to save.

The sightless, wandering cowboy. Feigning desire to be led to repress a need to remove one’s blindfold.

Yet, this is not to say that the external must only be a complete, obfuscating illusion.

There was a time when art not only changed the world, but was perhaps the most reliable source for sweeping change. It still harnessed the power to captivate legions of witnesses. And break them. Then help them rebuild this different person in a different world.

Though this world of (self-)immortalization-via-communication may not vote for replacing the latter with connection in a move to relieve the desire of the former’s prefix, at least movements like “Inception” will continue to implant seeds of second-guessing that may one day flourish into those resilient parasites known as ideas, ideally in a community garden within the collective dream.

And once this utopia is constructed by the great architects, all that will be left to do will be to convince all of equal shared responsibility, leading to the dream within a dream intra-utopia of pan-gardening where the truth requires no deception or convincing.

No start. No stop

Angel in the Snow

Fear of introspection may be the greatest impetus for routine. To many, pride in practice is more than a substitute, but a, nay the, higher goal.

On the surface, that which shifts focus away from the self seems selfless, thus noble.

If true, then why is Ryan Bingham’s backpack empty?

The protagonist of Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” identifies not with the participation in process notion often associated with many Native American and other pre-class-based societies, but with the efficiency in which he believes to have mastered it.

His impenetrable smirk derives from the constant proof that he is even more mechanical than the dehumanizing airport system that nurtures him. Without this confidence, Ryan would not be able to conquer his profession, wherein repeated insults and tableaus of murky futures necessitate a perfected art of detachment, lest one be pulled into the comfortless abyss of infinite consequences.

Ryan’s trainee, Natalie, narrowly avoids this fate by distancing herself from the business altogether (subtly foreshadowed by an expertly framed shot with her boxed in by empty office chairs and a look of quivering disbelief on par with many of those she serviced).

What makes Ryan’s own slow transformation so believable and admirable is just that – it does not happen simply because of a single drastic event that “puts everything into perspective.”

It is not just the broken apprentice. Or the rejection of a non-relationship. Or even the suicide of someone he fired.

His transformation arises from attentive absorption of wisdom. The way adults learn. Such a method of growth is essential for a person incessantly called a child throughout his life by those who know that willingness and commitment to forming deep connections are the greatest indicator of maturity.

At one point in the film, as Ryan and romantic interest Alex are walking up to the pre-reception dinner for his sister’s wedding, Elliott Smith’s “Angel in the Snow” accompanies them. Few lyrics could better describe the interaction family, friends and just about everyone he encounters have with Ryan than a “frozen still life that fell down to lay beside you.” He gradually becomes aware of this chiefly through his relationship with Alex, which is later revealed to be everything he used to thrive on – single serving and constrictively purposeful. Thus, Ryan is able to know what it feels like to be the cold outline in the snow.

He learns one of the harshest lessons upon discovery of Alex’s family, which includes a husband and children. Referred to by her as “real life,” she offers Ryan a glimpse into the avenues he carefully avoided. His earlier talk with a groom-to-be shivering with cold feet, wherein he protects a man momentarily engulfed in nihilism from following the apathetic path of Ryan’s rolling luggage, is shown to be a lesson that Ryan himself had not yet even fully understood.

Struggling in the nadir of doubt, the eventual groom asks, “What’s the point?” Ryan’s answer is “company,” because it makes everything better and life worth living.

It is difficult to tell if he believes himself yet.

He eventually decides to take a flight to an arbitrary destination. No plans. No expectations.

This willingness to let himself be free is why the ending is not depressing.

Now that Ryan has given up questioning others “What’s In Your Backpack?” he can finally look at his own. Moreover, with this newfound openness to self-exploration, it allows room for others to finally enter his life.

Because if there is no space for yourself, how can anyone else fit?