My moment of impact this week occurred after watching The Truman Show for the second time in at least a decade. This moment, which is still unfolding, occurred as Jim Carrey delivers his Oscar-worthy performance as Truman Burbank having a nervous breakdown in the process of hunting for truth in an entirely fictitious world. The rolling waves and thundering night sky you see in the GIF there are man-made, the product of a television set that Truman doesn’t even know he was raised on.
The movie was a dystopian presentation of the utopian promises of the 50’s middle class lifestyle: stability, peace, innocence, and perfection. Truman grows up surrounded by professional actors playing their parts, who smile and wave at him behind white picket fences, hiding a sinister truth. His best friend grew up lying to him and so does Truman’s television wife. Everyone thinks he’s fooled, but throughout the movie you can feel that Truman senses a facade, though the artificial experiences have already made their real impact. He can’t tell if the prison cell is in himself or outside, a conspiracy against him created by the people on the island, or in his own fears, mania, and truths.
So much of this has been coming up for myself, lately. Where is the boundary of my cell? What are my inner and external obstacles? My greatest weakness is my belief that the world conspires against me, that I live in a cruel and sadistic labyrinth of people who lie, deceive, exploit, and use me for a means to an end. It seems like adult life, the life waiting for me after I graduated college, is a life swimming against a current. Maybe I was freer in the confines of the university, where the world revolved around me, my needs, and my growth. This world seems eerily close to Truman’s, a completely controlled environment, idealistic, stable, and kind.
Is my labyrinth real or perceived? Is life just an entanglement I’m trying to escape? Will our world always be so difficult, or do we just make it that way? When nothing seems to match up, how do we find truth?
Truman sets off to sail the tumultuous sea to the ends of the earth, so he thinks, braving his crippling fears of the water to escape Seahaven. His boat pokes through the set, painted to look like an infinite sea, and finds the exit to the rest of the world. If only one day I could discover a wall within myself to break through to another reality, one where life wasn’t a labyrinth but an open field. Or maybe the real world is just a product of our own warped perceptions, colliding and collaborating to create a false reality that we inhabit. It is almost too bad that our walls can’t be physical entities that we bump into. What other option would we have than to know the truth?
“Moments of Impact” is an original Falcon Post series dedicated to stop-in-your-track moments. It’s when the daily routine becomes jarred, experiences, knowledge, and emotions find a meeting point, producing a revelation that you could sit in your chair pondering for hours like David Bowie in the Labyrinth. I personally hope that I have at least one moment of impact a week. Indeed, this is a weekly series.
Melanie Falconer is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles, California. Her writing mainly concerns philosophy, personal experiences, cultural commentary, and her love of the visual and performing arts. If you’d like to reach out to her, you can do so here.