In my volunteer work for an international Jewish matchmaking site, I work with many dreamers. The people who dream the most are single men over 50 who want to marry girls under 35 because they would like to have children. On the surface, the dream makes sense, but the reality proves otherwise. Most girls in their thirties do not want to marry men in their fifties. And the dream gets scarier with advancing years. Men in their late 50s and even men over 60 cling to the dream while life is slipping away. It is very sad, because the dream prevents them from dealing with reality. I sometimes suggest to my “clients” that they should at some point reconcile themselves to the reality of just having companionship into their senior years rather than cling to an impossible dream that, in the final analysis, will leave them isolated and alone as mature adults.
G-d tells us that “it is not good for man to be alone.” Companionship, even without the possibility of having kids, is superior to being by oneself. Our tradition tells us that a shared life refines a person. Being married compels one to think of another, not just of oneself, and that paradigm is Torah-based. The Torah tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the penultimate neighbor is one’s spouse. Therefore, it is good occasionally to dream but it also good to live in the real world.
To dream excessively is dangerous for it can make you lose touch with reality. This is the crux of Inception, a wildly imaginative thriller that deals with dreams and their consequences.
The story line of Inception is almost impossible to summarize. In simple terms, it involves a plot to plant a dream in someone’s mind in order to change an oncoming reality. In the course of the film, reality and dream are constantly intertwined, so you have to pay close attention to determine which parts of the narrative are real and which are projections of the subconscious. It is this confusion that is at the core of the relationship between Dom Cobb and his wife Mol. Dom is involved in corporate sabotage, extracting valuable secrets from vulnerable subjects who are dreaming. He is so expert at this that he introduces his wife into the world of dreams, with terrible consequences. Mol loses touch with reality because of her deep and extended exposure to the dream state of awareness, and their life together is transformed from a dream into a nightmare.
The only salvation for Dom is to return home to reality, a reality which requires him to leave his idealized mate in her world of fantasy. In a wrenching climactic scene, Mol asks Dom to remain with her in her dream world: “You said you dreamt that we would grow old together.” Dom responds that they did grow old together in their dream world. An image of intertwined hands of an elderly couple walking together exquisitely expresses this idea. He then confesses to her: “I miss you more than I can bear. But I have to let you go.” He understands that as painful as it may be, he must leave the dream world in order to enter reality and survive.
This willingness to accept reality even though it is not ideal reflects a mature outlook on life. We all need to dream, but the dream has to be tempered by a true comprehension of the real world around us. This perhaps is emblematic of the dream of Jacob’s ladder. Alone in the wilderness at night, Jacob had a dream of angels going up and down a ladder; but the ladder, which soared into the heavens, had its feet firmly planted on the ground.