“Distorted Light Beam” is a lament about real life not being “enough.” Because of the inadequacy of real life, Smith sings “I’ll stick to dreaming.” In the official music video, Future Inc.’s AR headset can be seen on countless people as they laugh, smile, and enjoy a projected reality of their choosing with glazed eyes. It’s seen very quickly that this AR solution to real life seems a lot more dystopian than utopian. And, yet, over and again, the lyrics of the song reinforce the idea that “if this is life [then] I’m choosing fiction.”
Smith himself says that this kind of escapism can be “amazing in some senses but can be really unhealthy.” That being said, there is no doubt that everyone has enjoyed an escape from “real life” from time to time, whether it be through a book, a movie, sports, or some other form of entertainment that seems to put the rest of our lives on hold. However, compared to that kind of distraction, the escapism presented in “Distorted Light Beam” seems to be a whole different animal—one that carries with it devastating consequences. And, unfortunately, it is the kind of escapism found everywhere in the secular world.
Dreaming Up a Better World
The song opens with a clear message of internal unrest as Smith sings about a desire to “distort the light beam until I like me,” and adds that,
I’ll stick to dreaming, come see what I see
I’m choosing fiction
What is Real?
However, the song takes a turn when the lyrics shift to say,
Choose how you see me and the future’s easier
Leveling up, in here, I’m winning
I’m choosing fiction
Hope I never wake up
It may seem like a far-fetched idea or worry—after all, who would ever actually choose a dreamlike world instead of a real one? With the rise in popularity of shows like Black Mirror, Sword Art Online, and other escapist-themed media, the idea may not be that far-fetched. People recognize that life is sometimes sad, scary, and stressful, so they long for a way to ease those difficulties. However, this reliance on a “reality” of our own making always ends poorly.
Greg Kokul of Stand to Reason says that “bad worldviews, even if deeply believed, cannot undo reality. God has given every human being the ability to know truth about his world.” <sup1 People have experienced the truth that life is challenging. In today’s world, truth has become “fuzzy” for many people. Many things that were once unchangeable seem to have become flexible. Rather than address the difficulty of life by trying to overcome it, the “better” solution seems to be creating a new reality where difficulties like sickness, violence, and death don’t exist to begin with. But no matter how deeply a person believes in their own reality or “truth,” they cannot undo the world that God has made. But when people try to reject the reality of the world that he has made, they are actually rejecting God.
God has created people to have a deep longing for his love—which comes through a relationship with him—and nothing else can fulfill that desire (Psalm 42:2). Ultimately, we look for an escape from the hardships of life because we are looking for that fulfillment. However, we are so blinded by our sin that we often can’t see past our hopes and our desires for the things of this world. But a world of our own making can never satisfy that deep longing for God (who is love) or the feeling that something is missing from life. A life spent in pursuit of our own version of reality will only leave us as distorted and warped versions of who God created us to be.
God knows that, left to our own devices, we tend to care too much about ourselves and what we want. But through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, we are no longer alone in trying to overcome our selfish desires (Colossians 2:11-12). Out of love and a desire for us to once again have access to communion with him, God reconciled us to himself through the death and resurrection of Jesus (Colossians 2:9-10). God gives us a choice about who we want to be and what life we want to live. He gives us the choice of life or death (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). The truth is that life cannot truly be life when lived without God.
As Christians, we cannot simply walk in the direction that we want and hope that God will help us along our way. We cannot create our own realities. If we want life “to the full,” we must walk in the way that he directs and change our desires to match his (John 10:10). This is the reality that God has created, and no matter how much we try to distort it or ourselves, it will never change because God never changes.
By Rebecca Sachaj
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