Inception Part 1: Reality

The Biggest Lie

What is the biggest lie in the world? The lie that has distracted people for the last few hundred years? What lie keeps us from reaching our, and the world’s, true potential?

The lie that this – what we can see, touch, smell, taste and feel – is all there is. That if we can sense something, it must be real. That if something cannot be proven it doesn’t exist.


But the truth, my fellow Pop Chassids, is that the dam to Truth is starting to crack. The Truth, that there is so much more out there, so many levels to reality (eight, actually, if you ask the kabbalists) that if we just began to access them, our souls would suddenly begin to fly free.

This, my Poppers, is the progress that the movie Inception (and its success) represents. One of the big smash hits of the summer, and the only hit that’s “not based on a book, a TV show or an older movie”. We are witnessing history happening before our eyes.

And the most obvious lesson, the one that is impossible not to feel when walking out of the movie theater, is that this world, it’s not all there is. And perhaps, maybe it’s not anything at all (this is a misperception, which I will explain in another blog).


Inception opens with a shot of our hero Cobb laying on a beach, confused, breathing hard, and probably with lots of water in his shoes. He looks up, he sees his children. Then guys with guns. Weird, wild stuff.

The beginning of Inception is like the beginning of our lives: we’re wet, dirty, confused. We see a bunch of stuff we can’t make heads or tails of.

The parallel is purposeful.

We later find out that the world Cobb wakes up in is actually the lowest level of his dream mind. What is called “limbo” in the movie. Limbo is the world where everything is real, and yet nothing is real. A world where people, like our poor friend Mal, can become so caught up, they convince themselves it is more real than the worlds above.

Limbo, my fellow Chassids, is our world. Our physical world. It is a world full of huge buildings, creations built by our own imaginations, a world that seems epically huge. But as Cobb is determined to prove to both Mal and himself, our world is simply limbo, the lowest dream state in a series of dreams.

And the truth is that like Cobb and Mal, at the outset, we naturally believe that the limbo world we inhabit is real. Children, they get it. They believe in ghosts, have imaginary friends, and dance to invisible music. It is only as we get older, get more attached to the physical world we have created for ourselves, that we want to believe that limbo is reality. It is only after we build our perfect house, like Mol and Cobb did, that we start to tell ourselves, “No, this crazy, backwards world is real!”

If we’re not careful, we can end up like the sad sacks in the basement, hooked up to a machine, where the “Dream has become their reality” as the resident weirdo shaman said, thinking that believing in G-d is confusion, and believing that only the physical contains wisdom.

The Truth

But the truth is that there is more. So much more. The truth is that there are levels above us, levels we can’t even imagine. Levels where people fly around in zero gravity, where a physical paradox is not a paradox at all, where we are action heros, fighting for our kids and for truth.

And these levels, Truth Seekers, are the real(er) levels. The levels are where the true source of our zero gravity (the flying car), where the true source of that physical paradox (the Architect), where our children’s – and our – true souls are located.

And like Cobb, our goal needs to always be to rise higher, to get back to the surface, up to the Ultimate Source. The top level where only G-d exists. The lop level, which, in the end, is really the only level.

And it may take until “we grow old together”, or we may have to repeatedly go back down to limbo, but the point is that we strive. That even if we can’t see it, we make the top level the Only Level.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog: on:  Totems







8 responses to “Inception Part 1: Reality”

  1. Marcy Avatar

    I love it! Can’t wait to read the next one.

  2. Bufgu Avatar

    Let me, after viewing many valid and thorough posts and hypotheses, present a different idea, if only for discussion, since we can argue all these points back and forth.

    What is truly fascinating about this movie is how Nolan can make tangible even the most abstract things within the flow of the movie that it seems perfectly acceptable. 1.An actual elevator to go “deeper” into Cobbs brain from the beach to the hotel. 2. an actual architect rendering these levels for the dreamer to fill with information that is revealing to the extractors, or inceptors in this case. These are all almost silly when discussed but fully plausable for those who saw it. Also well done is the exaggeration of dreams based on actual factors. When Arthur is flopping in the van, the entire hotel shifts axis and everyone floats as if in a space simulation parabolic flight. In the fitst extraction, an Entire building begins to flood from the top windows. The avalnch in the third fortress level. Each further level one goes into, the more exaggerated even a little event feels (whch is why they use the kicks at the very least).

    So with that in mind, I will say the whole movie is a dream and an exaggeration of a fully relatable problem many fathers faec with their children in the corporate day of age. He is always on the road, going from place to place, losing touch with his kids, who he would love to be there, and his wife, who he must have arguments with. He has lost reality by ways of his constant and demanding job (one could even question if he is an actual dream grifter/incepter – or that is just his symbolism for someone who is in psychology or even something like advertising where he can manipulate the mind into wanting to buy a product or figuring out what focus groups like–which is why i can even believe someone saying this movie is actually in the past {look at the clothing and hairstyles emphasizing the 1920 to 40s–then again the hotel had modern technology.. anyways).

    He is a man always on the run, and in his dream, he had fabricated that it is not his fault he is constantly o nthe road —

    1.”numerous anonymous corporations are constantly chasing you. “, which Cobbs wife uttered to him and questioned whther or not HE was dreaming, when they were both in limbo before she stabbed him.

    2.a. His wife turned him in to force him to “take a leap of faith” with her and go into reality by jumping off the ledge. b.He is not allowed to go into the country because of this or he’ll be shot. c. Others seem to know about this without being told.

    3.his kids are never facing him, but turning and runnin away, almost going on childhood withouthim.

    4.His guilt creates a wife who is a menace and dangerous (which he calles a shadow) , even though she seems so pretty and harmless, as an excuse to leave as if he doesn’t have one good enough for himself.

    So He is using companies and work as a scapegoat. He feel compelled to work just as much as he does to be with his kids. But the pressures of the corporate empire press down on him more than his guilt.

    In this movie, his dream, his wife jumps off the ledge wanting to get out and into reality. She does this because she confuses reality with dreams based on his inception and follows his advice from a deeper dream to escape (by riding the rails so to speak). In actuality, its Cobbs own confusion of reality and perception of his day to day jobb. Cobb projects his wife, instead, being confused, and he jumping off the ledge is his own manifestation of him feeling he is losing his relationship with his wife. It’s exaggerated, since it’s symbolic in a dream, like the avalanche and the turning hotel. The reasons he is banned from the US based on this are almost absurd, since the police can find out the verdict fairly simply.

    Cobb cannot jump with her, and be in a commitement with her forever, like he promised in marriage, his own perceived dreams by wearing the ring, and numerous times in the dream, because he is so reluctant to abandon his alternate reality: his demanding job -his day to day reality,, his dreeam/this movie and take a leap of faith to his family and kids.

    Saito, is his fantasy. A man who can come and fix everything for him — by force no less. he can make a call, he can let him be with his kids. how? by Cobb convincing an heir to a corporate kingdom, to break it up into less powerful entities. How convenient. Cobb;s ticket to his family is by breaking up the establishment: convincing a corporate titan, the future runner of an international empire, to lay off, for lack of a term, and demagnify its hold of Cobbs everyday life. This is cobbs dream, a man to come sweep him and save him. Saito asks him to take a leap of faith, and cobb does… for a man in order to break up an empire first, family and guilt next. He cannot go back unless he takes care of his hecktic work situation and he cant take care of the work situation(by breaking apart the oppressive companies —the inception mission) until he can deak with his guilt.

    The whole movie has a continuous loop theme. 1.the endless staircase 2. the recurring characters 3. most importantly, the clockwise depiction of a dream Cobb scribbled to Ariande, in her dream, of a mind constantly processiong and creating in a loop. Cobb then draws a line saying “this is what we need you to do, create, so the mark can process”. This line is what the movie is. Cobb processing his situation above the surface (not in the movie) and creating more based on that procession below the surface (what is shown in this movie). It is prefect how the movie, like a clock, basiclly ends where it began, on the 12, on the beach in Japan, but like a clock, the hand may still be on the same number but it is in a different time, not 12am but 12 pm. Saito is old, relecting now Cobbs anti-hero, the opposite of Saitos early depiction of a fantasy. Old and alone, regretting his inaction is saito, just like he told cobb not to be.

    He is in his deep limbo here, on the beach, washed ashore on the coast of japan. his own mission to save, within himself, his sanity, is complete with the inception into fischer. He can go to his kids again, and not have to work. The totem spins, and just when it wobbles, the movie ends. It’s not important, Cobb doesn’t care anymore. He will stay in this state with his kids to leave reality and responsibility of work and fam.

    The top – the top is cobbs totem all along, Not Mals. Why? The only totem not shown in the movie is either Cobbs or Mals. Many think the top is not cobbs, due to obvious scenes where it clearly shows her owning it. However, throughout the whole movie, Mal is a projection by Cobb. She is the only one guaranteed to not be in the movie. In no way is she hooked up to the machine on any level. Since the movie is a dream and all the figures in it are projections, Cobb can know their totems since he created them in his mind, whether his subconscious self knows about them or not. Since Mal enterred the dream with Cobb on the same level, and is now, one can argue, awake, Cobb’s subconscious doesn;t know his wife’s totem because she never showed it to him in reality. So, when he, in his limbo, projects his wife, his closest thing to him, he renders his token as hers since, when they entered the dream, he had no clue what she would use to know reality. By him projecting his wife to lock the totem safe in a vault, he is convincing himself on a deeply subconscious level that his wife’s dream of them to be together and not have him jet setting for work are unrealistic (since in that dream they made in limbo they were together always). He then spins the top and changes reality to make her believe this is not possible. This is him trying to convince himself his work is worth it. He ends up regretting it because his wife jumps off a ledge because of this.

    By spinning this deepest level top, his whole perception of a totem being a link to reality. On his deepest level, he changed the meaning to what a top spinning means. So when his wife jumps off the ledge and the top is still, it is his reality since he convinced himself it is. He is confused, just as his wife said, just as ariande said, just like michael caine said (sorry forgot his name), and his totem lost meaning. So at the very end, when the top spins and wobbles a bit, He is in a fantasy land, but it doesn’t matter. He walks away to join his kids in a state he wants to be real and convinces himself to be, although it is not. He is in limbo.

    how is that? well, the way the top wobbles is telling. nolan could have cut the scene at any time after the wobble, but only does when the top is perfectly upright. Of course, when filming, the top eventually fell, but when the screen is cut is totally arbitrary and the top looks as if it will recover. It is purposely vague, because this is scence is vague, even to Cobb, but it doesnt matter sinec he convinced himself to be able to accept the guilt of alienating his wife for work, at least in his make believe state. His kids, he can have now that the corporation is broken up and work is done. When he is in reality, he may have to quit his job, but for now all good.

    why are the kids different? they are slightly different in dress and in positioning in the final scene which is extremely telling. Since in cobbs mind, he has not seen his kids in some time when he finally does his brain knows to render them a little differnt. However, his brain only has that one image to work with, so the alterations are ever so slight, but not enough to probably reflect reality, since he cannot.

    who is ellen paige supposed to be. well, ellen paige is his own representation of a female young Cobb. A young Cobb, after college, would question cobbs actions constantly and and play counter to his actions. She is a flat one dimentional character, as is his wife, since they are projection by cobb to convince himself conflictiong things. They bother question if he views reality correctly and oppose his actions. They are made by a man to oppose a man, so its not deep. However, the college kid is described as being being “even better than”cobb was at her craft. the kid is his old self asking why do you do these things? old self knows. he views her as his better self.

  3. The Pop Chassid Avatar


    Thanks for posting your theory on my blog. I really appreciate the amount of thought you must have put into it.

    I agree that people could go all day back and forth on what the movie is trying to say.

    Luckily, I am not trying to figure that out. Although I do have a theory about the movie, this website is not the place for such theories.

    No, Pop is a site that is devoted to finding out G-dly truths behind art, even if they were not meant to be there.

    If you want to find out more check out the About page at:

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