Meaning And How To Find It: The Deep Dive

Welcome to The Deep Dive.

Here are of my thoughts on Minority Report: Existentialism vs. Romanticism by Real Dimensional Pictures.

For The Surface recommendation see here.

1. The plot of Minority Report

The video is based on the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report (2002).

The basic premise of the film is this (spoiler alert): in the year 2054, nearly all murders in Washington D.C. are prevented before they are committed by a special police department called pre-crime. This is because of a program that utilises three mutants called pre-cogs to detect murderous intent in people before they commit the act.

John Anderton is the protagonist in the film. He is a police officer in this department and he’s the best at his job. Everything seems to be going smoothly until he is predicted to murder a someone and has to go on the run.

So begins a chase around the city as John flees from his former colleagues and he looks for the reason why he’s going to murder that man. Eventually, he kidnaps the senior and most powerful pre-cog: Samantha. He soon discovers that not all predictions are 100% accurate and that sometimes there is a minority report which is a potential – but less likely – future in which the murder doesn’t take place.

The plot then culminates in a meeting with his intended victim. John learns just moments before the climactic moment that this man is probably the murderer of his 6-year-old son. Everything seems to fall into its deterministic place – until at the last moment – John decides not to kill him.

It then turns out that Lamar Burgess, the head of the pre-crime department and its architect, framed John in order to protect the program. Furthermore, Burgess murdered the Samantha’s mother because she wanted her back.

Finally, the movie ends with Burgess committing suicide (despite being predicted to murder John) – thus proving the fallibility of the pre-crime department – and it’s disbanded.

2. Existentialism vs. Romanticism

According to Real Dimensional Pictures, the film highlights two contrasting philosophical approaches to life; existentialism and romanticism.

The first two acts of the film are a scathing criticism of the existentialist tendencies of our modern times. The third act is then a celebration of romanticism and an instruction guide on how to find meaning in our lives.

The film itself has a sense of bleakness – especially in the beginning. That world is no utopia despite the lack of murders. Many of the citizens are psychologically deranged and damaged. The film depicts a nightmarish urban landscape that is suffocating to the viewer and the characters. A pervasive drug problem runs through the city. Eye scanners tracking people’s every move – pop-up ads everywhere. The viewer feels trapped there and desperate to break free.

Yet, there is no obvious reason for the discomfort. This is a world with no murders and with lots of amazing and convenient futuristic technology. Sure, there is a drug-problem but that’s an old problem. Everything is fine, right?

The question then becomes: “What is it about this world that makes it so meaningless and hopeless?

Unfortunately, it’s because the world of Minority Report (2002) is an exaggerated mirror of our own. People dulling the existential angst through drugs and consumption – sound familiar? They have passively accepted invasive surveillance – not from an authoritarian government but by companies trying to sell them stuff – where have I heard that before?

That world is – in a word: existentialist. A prison for minds.

3. You Dont Find Meaning At The Supermarket.

Advertisers have always instinctively known that the best way to get people to buy their product is to create – and then promise to fill – an existential vacuum. Ultimately, the quickest way to our wallets is through vague promises of community, connection, wealth and happiness. Of course the existential vacuum cannot be filled with products but that doesn’t stop us from trying.

The world is becoming postmodern and postmodernism is the logical consequence of existentialism.

The existentialist mindset holds that life is meaningless and that our efforts are futile. God is dead, love is a chemical reaction, our lives are a momentary flickering of consciousness in the vast emptiness of time, etc., etc.

Postmodernism is the questioning of grand narratives. The world is too complex, there are too many perspectives. Narrative-building is solely done for the sake of gaining and maintaining power, and so we must deconstruct and reconstruct them to better suit our purposes. We can disrupt the old structures and build them again from the top-down.

But if grand-narratives and societal structures can be deconstructed and reconstructed at will, that means that they are arbitrary, i.e. meaningless and what becomes of us when meaninglessness replaces the human soul and human civilisation?

In a postmodern society the overwhelming meaninglessness of the constant deconstruction and reconstruction creates an existential vacuum. But hey, at least existential vacuums are good for business.

So we preoccupy ourselves with distraction and surface-level pleasures. The pleasure fades more and more quickly and so we need stronger and stronger distractions. But why are we always distracted? What are we distracting ourselves from?

4. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies Are Preventing You From Finding Meaning.

In the film, people are arrested and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. Instead, they are arrested for crimes which they were supposedly going to commit.

The pre-cogs can be seen as a metaphor for the unconscious dark forces within all of us. In other words, they are what Carl Jung called: our shadow.

The less we are aware of the shadow, the less we are able to control it. The shadow will direct your life and you will call it fate. It then becomes imperative to become conscious of it and to integrate it into our conscious self.

Jung said: “He who looks outside dreams, he who looks inside awakens.” This is what we have to do. If we fail to do so, then we are at the mercy of our shadow. We become puppets on a string – lifeless and pulled about by an unseen force.

Existentialism or postmodernism seduces those that want to give up their freedom to choose. Because they dont want to do the hard work of choosing meaning and purpose.

5. To Find Meaning, You Must Choose It.

It might seem strange to argue that people in the modern world suffer a lack of choices. However, the choices we are constantly being presented with are largely illusions. A choice between wearing the red hat or the blue hat – as opposed to the real choice – i.e. whether to wear a hat at all.

The real choices lie in choosing between good and evil – between meaning and meaninglessness. And we are always free to choose. Existentialism obscures the existence of that choice. The truth is that you find meaning by looking inside yourself – not outside of yourself.

The problem is that so many of us dont want to look because its hard. It requires a deep self-examination and a heroic journey into our psyches where there be monsters.

Far too many of us choose not to venture to that underworld. Being guided by the external is just easier. Because they never dare to question, they will remain in the dark.

When John choose not to kill, he blew a hole in the fabric of his reality. He opened a previously unseen door. He decided not to be a puppet of external forces – a puppet of his DNA, his environment, his trauma and the ruling ideology. In other words, he denied his shadow (the precogss prediction) by becoming aware of it.

It really is that simple. You don’t “find” meaning. Meaning is a choice and you have the freedom to choose, no matter how hard you try to unconsciously obscure it from yourself.

Conclusion – You Find Meaning Within Yourself.

Existentialism is poison.

The more we indulge in it, the worse we feel. It breeds meaninglessness, aimlessness and derangement.

Finding meaning is a matter of choice. Don’t rationalise. Don’t overthink. You don’t have to do anything. Get to know yourself – warts and all.

There is more to life than the external and the coldly rational. Embrace your internal contradictions. Do not let the world repress you. Believe in something. Love with your whole heart. Be a romantic.

The antidote is within your grasp, you only have to reach out and grab it.