Daily Archives: June 3, 2015

The Spinning Top Generation

(Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite)

(Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite)

What did forthcoming Princeton University graduates want to hear this week as they prepare to enter the overwhelmingly expansive real world that’s full of twists and turns and unlimited pathways that are equal part linear and non-linear?

A speech from today’s cinematic and storytelling expert on grit, epic realities and dreams: Christopher Nolan.

“In the great tradition of these speeches, generally someone says something along the lines of ‘Chase your dreams,’ but I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t believe that,” he told the students at Class Day. “I want you to chase your reality.”

One of the constants in movies by Nolan is that regardless of the setting, everything is realistic (and yes, this applies to those astonishing dream sequences). He proposed a novel idea in his speech: aspiring to our desired reality. This certainly includes, Inception, which he referenced to and added just a little context to that excruciatingly famous ending.

Instead of floating off onto a cloud above our reach towards the bright light of our dreams, he wants us to pick a reality and do anything we have to do to reach it. Like his movies, the main protagonist(s) are thrown into extraordinary situations, yet they choose to battle whatever barriers stand in their way. However psychologically draining or physically dominating their enemy/wave/tumbling hallway is, we must feel the bumps in the road on our feet, the rain on our faces and feel terrified by the surrounding thunder and lightning.


Because we have the knowledge to achieve a lot, but it’s only by testing and adjusting this knowledge through life’s unsuspecting experiences that we will ultimately learn how to reach and become our coveted reality. In essence, Nolan’s message is to add practicality to our journey and future, no matter the environment:

A dream is above us, but reality is in front of us.

I think the students listening were just glad that he adjusted the mind-bending element of his speech down from 90% to 70%.

You could say that was a bit of a dream come true.