The Truman Show and Awakening Consciousness
Nearly 20 years after its release, The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998) is still an educational monument in philosophy and psychology. This movie manages to clearly portray the complex process of awakening consciousness using media and symbols.
Conscience and Consciousness are cut from the same cloth
To understand what it means to awaken our conscience, we need understand what the conscience is and what consciousness is.
According to the Webster’s dictionary, conscience is conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good. Consciousness is the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition, and thought.
Therefore, an awakening of consciousness happens when a person isn’t just conscious that she is present in the world, that she exists. It is when she is is something or someone related to the world.
We can also think of this process as the time when we realize our transcendence. In this moment, a spark lights within us that makes us doubt everything we’ve been told.
When we get to this point, we can decide to live with what we already know, or overcome our fears and insecurities to leave “the cave”.
The myth of “the cave”
The Greek philosopher Plato (427-347 A.C.) created the allegory of “the cave” to symbolize human knowledge. According to his theory, man is like a prisoner in a cave, and everything he knows is just a shadow, or reflection, of reality.
But real life is happening outside the cave. It’s hard for us to understand because we’ve never left the cave and we’re used to working with the shadows. In other words, we don’t know what’s real, or we are afraid of it.
What is our cave? Our family home and the surroundings we grew up in. Normally, a set of values is instilled in us in childhood. These may be religious, political, or anything in between.
We believe in the traditions that come from being born in a particular community, and they give us our identity. That’s why many people don’t like new things. They fear losing their identity.
Human beings always seek security. Hence our tendency to embrace traditions that our loved ones practice. However, neither society nor family teaches us how to “look” (although we might be able to observe).
They don’t encourage critical thought. Few children grow up with adults who teach them to analyze, compare, and have their own opinion. No one encourages them to practice self-awareness.
Truman’s Awakening of Consciousness
Truman, the main character of the movie, is a man who has never made his own decisions. At the moment of his birth, a television program took him to be the protagonist of his own show.
All the decisions he makes (date, get married, buy a house, work…) aren’t really his decisions. The creator of the television program guides all of his actions. The creator, in this case, is compared to a god.
Truman is happy and completely oblivious to everything. He lives in a huge dome that the producers built for him, the city where he lives.
When he does suspect something or feels a twinge of doubt, he can’t leave his world because he is controlled by fear. The producers of the show instilled certain fears him, like his fear of the ocean and a trauma he experienced with his dad.
But there comes a point when he can’t ignore his doubts anymore because his world isn’t what it was.
The truth is, we are all like Truman. The only chance we have of being authentic is when we feel that spark, that awareness. Our will is the only thing that can help us overcome our fear about what might be waiting on the other side.
Thinking is the purest act of freedom
When we awaken our consciousness, we gain energy and determination to leave our comfort zone and our surroundings. The feeling that things will be clearer if we distance ourselves from the ordinary encourages us…
And then later, we ask ourselves: What do I want to do with my life? Are my beliefs still satisfying me? Who do I trust? What do I believe? What is truth?
Your answers should be more valuable to you than anyone else’s opinion. That’s because they are perfect for you. They are tailor-made for you and not for anyone else.
It’s easy to think that we aren’t free because we all have responsibilities (family, school, work), but really thinking is the most accessible act of freedom.
We are free to think and imagine what we want. We are also free to make decisions based on those thoughts. Truman — he also has the opportunity to find out the truth.
When we stick to what we know and what we’ve always been taught, we’re getting in the way of our own growth. But we can overcome our fear of the unknown and seek out knowledge.
That’s when we forge our own path and acquire principles, values, and beliefs of our own. They will be more healthy, authentic, and less dissonant.
Overcoming these fears will make you freer. To do this you only need two ingredients: an awakening, and courage.