Stoicism, a school of Hellenistic philosophy, centers around the idea that we can’t control or rely on external events; we should instead accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Within Stoicism, the Discipline of Assent involves understanding our perceptions and only accepting those which we can confirm as true because as the rapper NF writes, “Insidious is blind inception.”
With the release of “Oppenheimer” this weekend I’ve been thinking about Christopher Nolan’s storytelling in relationship to NF’s music. NF is touring for his new album “Hope” this summer. Nolan and NF often explore the concepts of subjective and objective meaning within their storytelling, Nolen particularly in his first major movie “Memento” and NF in his song “Mansion”.
“Memento’s” protagonist, Leonard, can be seen struggling with the Discipline of Assent. He suffers from anterograde amnesia and can’t create new memories, so he’s constantly tricked by his perceptions of reality. His emotional responses are driven by the narrative he creates based on these flawed perceptions. His mission, fueled by revenge, shows his inability to control his emotional response and accept the truth of his situation, which contrasts sharply with the Stoic ideal. However, the plot device of Leonard’s writing his truths down is no different than what we do in our own mind. Thus, the story of “Memento” is that we are all like Leonard deceiving ourselves through blind inception.
In NF’s “Mansion,” the song speaks of an inner world — a mansion of the mind — filled with rooms that represent the stories we tell ourselves about our past. The line “Insidious is Blind Inception” can be interpreted as the unnoticed or unacknowledged inception of false ideas which we allow to dictate the stories of our life — just like Leonard’s condition in “Memento.” The song touches on the struggle to discern and control emotional responses to our past because insidious is blind inception.
Both “Memento” and “Mansion” highlight the importance of understanding and controlling our perceptions and emotional responses. It is no accident that Christopher Nolan’s breakout years are highlighted by his masterpiece “Inception” and have led to his release of “Oppenheimer.” Do we take seriously the disenchantment of the world?
What is real? Who are you? What principles guide your life? What is your why? What do you take for granted? In what do you place your hope?