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a dream within a dream – is that possible?

There was only one show in recent times that caught my attention and I was glad that I managed to watched it on Friday – the latest psychological blockbuster, Inception. Before I proceed to share my thoughts about this, I’d like to go on record to place this outstanding movie in the list of my all-time favourites. It contains all the ingredients that I hunt for in a movie:

  • A multi-layered plot,
  • In-depth character development,
  • A couple of twists-within-a-twist,
  • A memorable script, and of course,
  • Convincing acting skills.

I’m thoroughly impressed with this film; after all, there aren’t many movies that leave me speechless when I exit the cinema. Yes, I do recommend that you catch it.

Now, there is a huge variety of movie genres and while I prefer drama and inspiration to action and chick-flicks, the ones that truly take my breath away (and arrest my mind) are what I call, “culture-shapers”; I will rename it when I think of a better way to call it – basically, movies that change the way we look at things, us, or even the world.

I’ll list a few examples that come straight to my head. The Sixth Sense causes us to rethink the whole realm of the dead and how it may possibly exist amongst us; The Prestige makes us question the scale of evil that human beings are capable of and the extent we possibly would go to achieve what we’ve set out to do. Inception investigates the subconscious activities in our minds when we dream and leaves us to under ponder upon the hidden creative power that we may have; The Matrix (though it’s not in my list of favourites) challenges us to think about reality and whether we really live in a time and space which we perceive ourselves to occur in.

Basically, all the above-mentioned movies (and I’m sure you could think of more titles) makes us contemplate and challenges us to review what we think we actually know. Without getting existential (and irreverently irrelevant), I actually think it’s great to reexamine the normalcy of what I think is normally normal – know what I mean?

To state the obvious, I’ve decided to call these movies “culture-shapers” simply because they could potentially shape our culture. Regardless of demographic make-up, we will always remain an impressionable generation and it’s films like these that influences us to cross-examine what we’ve been brought-up and educated to think.

(I shall digress here – I think it’s a paradox to be “taught” how to think and in spite of how ridiculous that sounds, we don’t even do that enough, especially in our country – where we are educated to deliver what’s right – where the “correct” answer is the one that gives you the highest score, and not actually what you agree with, or even have a chance to agree with. All right, I think I’m starting to lose my train of thought here and as well as to lose you in them so I shall withhold these particular thoughts for another post in future, if ever. Now, back to movies that make you think…)

There are all kinds of movies, some with twisted and distorted values, some that satisfies our adrenaline appetite, some that quench our lustful desires, some that takes us on a journey back to our childhood days, some that inspires us to dream and achieve things, some that makes us fall in love, some that gently reminds us about the important things in life… And some that simply just makes us think. I’m a huge fan of that last genre because I think it’s the best thing that a secular production could make me do – to think. I’d rather fill my mind with things to think about than things which are spoon-fed to me.

Here are just 15 of my all-time favourite movies (and you’ll understand why I’ve never been a mainstream movie goer), in no order of preference:

  1. Dead Poets Society
  2. The Shawshank Redemption
  3. Remember The Titans
  4. The Prestige
  5. The Devil’s Advocate
  6. The Butterfly Effect
  7. Tuesdays With Morrie
  8. Forrest Gump
  9. Braveheart
  10. Good Will Hunting
  11. Finding Forrester
  12. Dead Man Walking
  13. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
  14. Deception
  15. Inception

I’m sure I’ve missed out other great titles in this list (such as The Godfather trilogy and Schindler’s List which I’ve been wanting to watch for the longest time already). Do you know of any other to recommend? It’d be great if I could hear from you – what’s a “culture-shaping” movie you’ve watched and why did it leave and impression in you? Do leave a comment and share your thoughts with me.

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can i dream with You?

In life, there are many things that we share in common; dreams are one (and nightmares are another, but let’s not go there today). We tend to associate positivity to dreams (e.g. daydreaming always seems light and fluffy, after all it can’t be scary building sandcastles in the sky, right?); and we tie in negative connotations to nightmares. There are, however, dreams that well, are just neutral.

Like most of you, I can’t quite recall the majority of my dreams. I do recall a few particular (bizarre) ones, such as:

  1. It was 1994 and the first World Cup I watched. Brazil won Italy on penalties and it was Italy’s maestro Roberto Baggio who missed that decisive last kick. I was Signore Baggio and I remember placing the football on the penalty spot. The millions of spectators in the stadium were rapturous in their chanting of “JOEY! JOEY!” (Yes, indulge me, please). Very non-chalently, I silenced all of them with a wave of my hand and I knelt down to gather a handful of grass. (This is when it gets crazy…) I put one blade of grass into my mouth… And I shouted, “MEE GORENG!!!” (!!!) This catapulted everyone into delirium and they began their choruses of “MEE GORENG! MEE GORENG!” I went on to score of course, not that it mattered anymore. Crazy, I know.
  2. A part of my childhood was spent in the messy precinct of Jalan Besar and that was when I was really into Taoism – deities, ghosts, spirits, souls blah blah blah. It was also the time that I was really into Ghostbusters… (Yes, the TV/movie series with Marshmallow Man.) I recall being able to fly and manoeuvre around the estate on some cool skateboard machine. My main task each evening was to heroically exterminate the spooky beings in the (there’s-something-strange-in-the-)neighbourhood. I did that with ease and a dash of suave of course, shooting out from my bazooka green, acidic, slimy blobs of I-don’t-know-what and sucking the vermin into an ashtray-shaped ghost containment unit. As with all crazy dreams, before the mission was over, I ended up RECRUITING these ghosts instead. There is no sense in this, of course.
  3. When I am stressed, I almost always end up dreaming about looking for a needle in a haystack. (Cliche, but that’s the most normal bizarre dream…)
  4. And when I am very stressed, I dream about eating a piece of cake that grows bigger and bigger with each mouthful, and this stupid piece of cake (I remember it to be a strawberry shortcake) grows to the size of a HDB flat! It gets really insane because I’m supposed to finish eating a piece of cake that doesn’t quite finish!

These are the four dreams that come to my mind all the time, but I think if I had the time, I’d be able to pen down a few more ridiculous ones. Does anyone have crazy (or crazier) or recurring dreams like that? Do share!

On a more serious note, I actually am of the opinion that creativity takes place in the purest form in dreams. It’s as if each night we go to sleep with a white canvas, beckoning God to paint on it. Think about it, there are absolutely no limits in dreams; I can be anyone, doing anything, at anywhere I desire, at anytime I determine and with or without anyone. To an extent, it is when we actually get to experience what CREATING is like. (With God as the supreme Creator, I opine that human beings have absolutely no creativity. We are only able to innovate because everything that we “create” is but a reference from something else that already exists. More on that in another entry…)

Hence with dreams potentially serving as such powerful platforms, I’m inclined to do what I wanted to do some time ago – put a small notebook beside my pillow and to jot down, in whatever semi-conscious state I am in in the immediate aftermath of any dream. This is as good as getting free downloads from the Creator of the universe. Sounds lunatic, but dreaming actually taps into the creative power of God. (I say that very loosely and irresponsibly, of course.)

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that new songs and poems can be written and inspired by dreams. Dreaming is the playground for divine revelation and forward thinking. Our (finite) imagination is the platform for infinite possibilities. Holy smoke, I don’t even know how those statements came about. I believe that dreaming (whether day or night) transports us to places that our human eyes cannot see and our cognition cannot handle. We should not underestimate what (the work of God in) our minds are capable of accomplishing.

Of late, I keep dreaming of one particular action but in different scenes; I dream that I’m running against the wind – be it in football matches, away from crooks, chasing buses or even just regular jogging. Wind (or resistance), be it external or internal, is the immediate obstacle that is common to all, that all of us must overcome. I have mine and you have yours, in varying intensities. It’s always easier to cycle downhill or swim with the current; but it is running against resistance that train muscles and going against opposition that confidence is built up. These song lyrics sum up my sentiment perfectly:

逆风的方向,更适合飞翔;我不怕千万人阻挡,只怕自己投降。- 五月天:《倔强》

(Translated: Traveling against the wind is the best way to take flight; I’m not afraid of the opposition of a million people, I only fear my own surrender.)

I haven’t the faintest clue how this article evolved into this ending but I’m glad it did anyway; I just kept typing. In a sense, I put into practice what Finding Forrester advocates:

“No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

Spoken like a classic Sanguine, without first dreaming, we are never going to get anywhere. Dreaming without action may be useless and a complete waste of resources but without dreaming we have no solid action to execute at all! Let’s engage God in our dreams. Can I dream with You?

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