Mark and I had a conversation yesterday, which led me to write this article. I am basically thinking out loud now, so I too gain clarity on the huge subject that opened up though our conversation.
The conversation started after I finished my daily check in phone call with my parents. So you may know my parents live in Moscow. They are old, and my mother can’t walk. My father’s life revolves around keeping them both alive. All conversations that I have with my parents revolve around the pain and difficulty of life associated with the pain, and carrying on in the daily struggle of their situation.
As a rule, when I am not with them, that is daily, because I live in New York, after these conversations I feel sad. I also feel guilt, because I can’t be there for them, to get the food, or carry the groceries, and sometimes I feel shame, because I am here and I didn’t NEED to choose to live here. Well, that all is another story. Anyway, as we talked, Mark remembered about a movie he saw and I missed: The Truman Show, with Jim Carrey.
Imagine being in a show 24-7 where you are the star. Yes, your life is on TV for millions to see. Everything you do, think, say, and experience is for the viewer to observe, gossip about and judge. This is what was happening in the Truman Show when a man was on display, since birth until he was in his 30s, without him knowing or consenting to it. When he found out about the corporate scheme around him, that was when his real Hero’s journey began.
Not unlike Jim Carey’s character, Truman, I remember thinking myself a star in my own continuous movie, since I was 7 or 8 years old. I often wondered, who is watching me sitting on the toilet, or running to school, eating my supper, or playing. Not all the time, but once every so often I was struck by a thought that I am being watched. The “watchful eye” of the “big brother” was always seeing. This concept was no doubt well orchestrated and supported by the Soviet government’s constant reminders for citizens to remain obedient and fearful, or else!… The elaborate system of punishment was well established throughout work place and home. A good citizen was to be well behaved, and follow the rules, and do what he is told and not display his want for more or less. Once the creativity spurts it had to be punished so the others won’t think to deviate from the party line. Of course, when I grew up, and then further down the road moved to the US, all that was well forgotten, and I adapted to my new life, but in my conversation yesterday it came up as my daily “aha” moment.
When the system is closed, as it was the Soviet Union, the system begins to decline and deteriorate. Like the filming set for Jim Carey, being an enclosed system could not allow the outside influence, could not let the hero travel abroad or meet unscheduled people, because abroad there were no film sets, and because unscheduled people could reveal the truth, everything had to remain a routine, not to upset the system.
In my old system, there was no travel outside the country without an approved reason. You couldn’t just take off to see the world. You had to have an invitation and a permission. I knew that, growing up. I was well groomed to be average, and was prepared to live an average life of an average rule-abiding citizen.
Until one day, when the Iron Curtain started to open up to let the sun into the system. I won an international competition and my prize was to go to Prague for a week. You know what? At first, I really didn’t want to go!
I was living in a closed system and I liked it. I felt safe and comfortable. I didn’t want anything else. I didn’t even know that there are things to want!
Yes, sure I have heard about tall buildings and large cars, houses with a pool and a back-yards, pretty fashions and unbraided free flowing hair. But it all seemed a dream that was not mine. It seemed so far away, it was unreal. It was like a novel. Somebody, not me, lived in it.
My reality was in the Soviet Union. The system that is grotesquely obvious in its inability to support the dream of a fulfilling life. But having lived in the US for 25 years now I notice that secretly the same closed system is being developed here as well, and I want to scream! Wake up! Start walking! Become aware!
It’s that simple.
Well, but I get it, it’s not that easy to wake up. As Christoff, the producer and the creator of the Truman Show in the movie, said: “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented,” responding to the interviewer’s question why Jim Carrey’s character hadn’t looked for the way out. Why Truman did not think about change, he didn’t even dream about anything else, was because he just didn’t think there was any other way to dream about!
The matrix is perfect. It creates and recreates itself and keeps us involved at the level where we don’t think that there is another reality, a more real reality. We don’t think that the reality we are living is, in fact, a lie, no more than a story, someone else is telling us to believe.
But that someone else is us. We are telling our story. We create our reality show and we are the producers, writers, and stars of the show we are creating.
What if there is another way to tell our story?
A story where we are the way we want to be, effective in our intention, in our actions, words, ways of being.
A story where we are not only a hero who struggles, who attacks the demons and defeats the monsters, but the one who is powerful enough to create the reality that works for self and other, intent in relationships, connections, action, and who brings the love from the inside to outside and shares it, keeping the faith even though the majority cannot appreciate it.
What if starting with us, there are more and more people who give up their struggle, their worry and begin to believe, and actually do what it takes to live life in the way we design it, not is the way they are expected and programmed to do?
Spoiler alert: as Truman realizes that he lived in a trap for all those years, he makes a decision to leave, that puts him in impossible conditions and he nearly dies. And yet, the victory is sweet, when it is self-conceived, fought for, and is well rewarded with the new adventure in the life lived with passion and not by default.
As Joseph Campbell said: “If you know what’s going to happen in the next 20 year in your life, this is not your path. You are living someone else’s life.” The real adventure begins with saying “a hearty yes” to the life in which you are the creator.
Join me and Mark tonight at the next meetup for Experts of Influence to continue the incredible adventure to the life of meaning.