Sunday, October 6, 2013

Finding One's Way to Freedom

We have a strong desire for the 'real' but are captivated by 'show', says a religious sister writing in the Kyeongyang magazine. She often lectures and conducts retreats, bringing up the topic of Truman, the protagonist of the film The Truman Show. Truman was imprisoned on a stage set for 30 years and didn't know it. All his movements, 24 hours a day, were being telecast live to a world audience of millions. The desire for reality the public seems to want to experience was offered to them in Truman, but it was only a virtual reality, and yet the audience was enthralled.

He was living in a large dome on an island, and everyone he met--neighbors, friends, postmen, police, and so forth--were actors. Every scene or happening he encountered from birth onward--including the death of his father, another actor, by drowning when Truman was  a teenager--was scripted by the director of the Show. The only person who didn't know that the events and people around Truman were not real as he imagined them to be was Truman.

Are we autonomous human beings? the sister asks, or have we accepted what is presented to us by others? Are we, like Truman, living a phoney life because it has been scripted by others? This is the world of the variety show in Korea, she says.  We are being manipulated like Truman was and, like him, most of the time we don't know it.

The philosopher Martin Heidegger said the lion in the zoo is not a lion, only in the jungle is he a lion. When we look at a monitor of a TV set and see the movements the camera show us, we are dealing with staging, editing and make-up. Though what we see cannot be said to be fake, they are artificially managed. Truman didn't know the truth about what was happening around him, though it was real enough for him. But can it be said, in any sense, she asks, that what Truman experienced was real.  Those who are behind the manipulation are trying to make what is presented to the audience more real than reality.

Living in the digital world, we see the real and the virtual real, often feeling the virtual attempt is more real than the real. We  leave our own reality and seek the manipulated reality of the digital world for vicarious satisfaction and pleasure. Why are we seeking the real and our  healing from the TV screen? she asks. Instead of going to TV programs dealing with children and their world, why don't we go into the world of the children we know?  Why give more attention to the situations and characters we see on TV than we give to those that surround us?

Are we not like the audience in the movie The Truman Show? she asks. Are we not being used in our modern digital world, as Truman was used, as a pawn for the ultimate satisfaction of commercial interests? The bottom line being higher viewer ratings and increased profits. Though the virtual reality we are given frequently gives pleasure to its intended audience, she wonders if it also makes our daily reality boring and uninteresting.

Truman did finally realize what was happening to him and, despite all the blocks put in his way to keep him from realizing he was being used,  did find his way out of the virtual world and to freedom.

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