Real Life Lessons from Science Fiction

I desperately needed a night of deep relaxation and reflection. A friend and I went to the dispensary to help relieve the tension. On the walk home, I was saying how lucky we are to walk into a store and walk out with bags full of marijuana, even with his fake looking North Carolina ID.

Just a minute after saying “I love LA,” I screamed in panic. My PTSD sent an army of electrical impulses through my body with the message, “SOMETHING IS TRYING TO FUCKING KILL YOU.” This time, it was this tiny little dog that came out of nowhere and started barking at us. Still shaking a few houses down I almost jumped again at the sight of this old woman wearing a nightcap and gown, staring at us while she smoked her cigarette. I fought myself from screaming because I didn’t want to offend her. Then my friend jumped and said “OH MY GOD!…WHY?!” We started cracking up. “We aren’t even high yet and already we’re in the Twilight Zone,” I said.

We took some edibles and started searching for something to watch. I told him I wanted to watch some science fiction that makes you rethink your purpose in life. Finally, we stumbled upon this show, called Electric Dreams, based upon Philip K. Dick’s stories. Other film adaptations of his writing include Total Recall and Blade Runner. We knew we made the right choice after the opening, which shows trippy images such as a flying robot stingray and a pregnant man. The high commenced and we started to sink into the couch. Feeling detached from our bodies, our consciousness stared at the screen, our minds wide open to the universe’s messages.

Philip K Dick’s Electric Dreams Poster

The first episode, “Real Life”, is broadly based on Dick’s short story Exhibit Piece, which begs the question what is reality? “Real Life” imparts a lesson much deeper and more personal than I was mentally prepared for.

The episode has you trying to figure out which character is real and who is a subconscious creation stemmed from a new virtual reality device, which allows you to “vacation” from your troubles. In one reality, Sarah, played by Anna Paquin, is a lesbian supercop suffering from PTSD ever since her colleague was killed. In the other reality, George, brilliantly portrayed by Terrence Howard, is also tormented by trauma and sorrow after the brutal murder of his wife.

The show was only 50 minutes but it felt like hours we were consumed by attempts to differentiate reality from delusion. George and Sarah both doubt their realities and start to wonder if the “vacation” is real life. When Sarah’s girlfriend starts talking about guilt and what she thinks she deserves, I said “Oh God, are they really going there. Is this going to be about self-abuse and victim mentality? I just can’t handle that right now.” Then Sarah lays down and slowly puts on the virtual reality device. I start to cry somewhere deep inside.

“Is she gonna off herself?” my friend says in an overdramatic voice, “What the hell is going on?!”

I pretend to scream, “I don’t know what’s real anymore!”

*Spoilers Ahead*

We then find out George was having an affair on his wife when she was murdered, and therefore decides to destroy the headset that would allow him to go into his virtual reality. He says he deserves to be punished. After he crushes the headset, the screen shows Sarah flatlining in a hospital. In the alternate reality, she justified her guilt by making up the affair. Her girlfriend says,

“We all want to be punished, even if our sins don’t exist.”

Suddenly I felt overcome with guilt for my guilt. We all do this to some extent, some more than others. This message has been coming to me in many forms lately, STOP PUNISHING YOURSELF. I have suffered countless traumas in my life, but THEY ARE OVER. No one is hurting me now, no one but myself. I survived those voices telling me I’m not worth the air I breathe, and I escaped them, but they follow me, and now those voices have become my own.

I have this overwhelming fear that things will never get better, that others will always sore above me and leave me rotting in ashes.

The only one who wants me to fail is me. I am getting what I think I deserve.

I do deserve happiness. I deserve success, I deserve to reach my highest potential. I deserve to be recognized for my attributes. I deserve love, true love. I deserve to be loved the way I love others, with my entire being. I deserve a family, a family who deserves me. I deserve wealth and I deserve my health.

We always make things so complicated. We make excuses for our failure, “It’s because I have no money, it’s because I have no support. I can’t do that until this happens.”

All you need to get what you deserve is truly believe you deserve it. The virtual reality system in “Real Life” is a symbol for the power of the mind.

So push every negative thought out, let go of every lie you’ve been told about yourself and continue to tell:

You can’t.

You aren’t.

You won’t.

And replace it with the truth:

You can

You are.

You will.

Because they are the things holding you back, more than society, inequality, your health, or your finances. They and they alone are what divides you from your destiny. They are what will destroy you if you give them that power.

You are your worst enemy, you are the only one holding you captive from your dreams, from living a life you a proud of. The life you deserve.

“Hope is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all -”

-Emily Dickinson