A year or so ago I watched "Moon" via Netflix. I guess at this point I need to enter an obligatory spoiler alert, in case anyone hasn't seen this 2009 movie and thinks they might want to see it without knowing a crucial plot element.
This was an intriguing movie, though not super-entertaining. The acting was good, but not exceptional. What I distinctly remember was a shocking twist.
There Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell) is, at a base on the moon where a mining operation is taking place. He's looking forward to returning home after a three-year solitary tour of duty on the moon.
Sam gets pleasure in recorded messages from his wife on Earth, who was pregnant when he left for the moon. Communication difficulties prevent live back-and-forth communication with his wife.
All this seems completely normal. However, through a series of events that I've mostly forgotten, Sam eventually discovers a shocking secret the mining company has been hiding.
Sam is a clone.
The memories he has of his wife and previous time on Earth were implanted in his brain. None of that is real. Sam isn't who he thinks he is, a human being like everybody else back on Earth. Though his body is human, his mind is artificial.
How Sam deals with this occupies the rest of the movie.
What galvanized me as I watched "Moon" was that moment when Sam realizes that everything he relied upon to help get him through his stint on the Moon was false. The foundation of his existence was shaken to the core.
Not only wasn't his Earth life what he'd thought it was, he himself wasn't who he thought he was.
And this wasn't a shift in consciousness like, say, someone finding their more genuine self after psychotherapy, climbing Mt. Everest, or whatever. It was a total reversal of how Sam had looked upon the world.
Well, even more than that, since a reversal implies that the thing being reversed is simply the flip side of what the reversal reveals -- like someone realizing they aren't heterosexual but homosexual. A big change, yet they're still sexual.
Rather, Sam went from seeing himself as a normal human being to seeing himself as not at all human, but a manufactured clone, no different from hundreds or thousands of clones exactly like him that he discovers in a hidden section of the moon base.
What struck me about this aspect of the movie is how Sam's shocking realization could be viewed as a metaphor, or reflection, of another sort of shocking realization that could be possible for any of us. Not that we're a clone, but that we're not who we have always viewed ourselves as being.
Now, I don't know what that shocking realization might consist of. Or if it really would be shocking. Maybe it would feel entirely natural, as if we'd woken up from a dream that had been going on for our entire life.
I'm not talking about a religious realization, such as "God loves me" or "Jesus is my savior." These are additions to a mind that don't overturn a mind's basic assumptions. Nor am I talking about something supernatural.
Rather, I see this realization as being along the line of "The world as I've known it is an illusion, but there is no world more real than this one." In other words, it is the perception of the everyday world that is turned upside down in some fashion, not the world itself, which remains just as it is.
My best bet as to what this sort of shocking realization could consist of -- which arguably is very much in line with Buddhist enlightenment or nirvana -- is an experience that the self we take ourselves to be actually doesn't exist.
This is akin to what Sam experiences in "Moon," aside from the fact that Sam was distressed by the fact that he wasn't who he always thought he was, while the experience of selflessness would be much more pleasant, blissful even. Or at least no less pleasant or blissful than our previous existence as a self, just different in a difficult-to-describe way.
Along with this would be a realization that the free will we always thought we possessed also was an illusion.
I see this as a massive relief. I've had glimpses of such a state of being in which I see that who I am at any given moment is the result of causes and effects extending back to my birth -- and even far beyond that, to the moment of the big bang 14 billion years ago.
My view, which isn't at all original, is that evolution adapted us to an illusion of ego/self because this aided in our survival as early humans.
We continue to buy into this story of individual separateness because every human culture teaches it is true, even though some cultures (Chinese and Indigenous, for example) buy into it less than other cultures (American and European, for example).
Anyway, I like the idea that our view of ourselves could be upended in a dramatic fashion.
I'm not sure how this could come about. It simply seems like a real possibility that fits with experiences I had with psychedelics in my college days, and other experiences I've had with meditation/mindfulness since.