Distorted Consequences

Since their musical breakout in 2013 with their popular single “Pompeii,” Bastille has continued to grow in international fame. The band, through their dynamic— and, at times, apocalyptic— songs have never shied away from talking about the difficulties and joys that people face in life. Their most recent releases are no different. After a series of unexplained utopian posts on lead singer Dan Smith’s Instagram page marketing the fictional company Future Inc. and the company’s augmented reality (AR) headset, FutureScape, the band released their newest single: “Distorted Light Beam.”


“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,

It isn’t enough, if this is real life
I’ll stick to dreaming, come see what I see
The song uses language of deep dissatisfaction with what a person experiences in life—an all too familiar feeling for many people today. Regardless of whether we are talking about an external or internal trait, we can all name some things about ourselves or our lives that we would prefer to be different. And that is where Smith reveals the answer to this problem—change what you see: distort the light beam.

Feeling like, if this is life
I’m choosing fiction
For Smith, it seems that at least part of the solution to the problem is to choose fiction, or, as he expresses later on, to dream up a different world where all the things that we wish were different about ourselves or our lives were changed—a world where we can do everything that we can’t in this one. In the midst of a world where what people can do is limited by government restrictions, social norms, or a lack of money and fame, this is a freeing idea. Many people would jump at the opportunity to live out their craziest and wildest ideas, especially if there were no consequences to worry about. It’s that kind of world that Smith wants when he sings “don’t wake me up.”

What is Real?
However, the song takes a turn when the lyrics shift to say,

Leveling up, delete my history
Choose how you see me and the future’s easier
Leveling up, in here, I’m winning
Smith presents a logical next step to the desire to change ourselves and our reality—deleting what we have seen and done in our pasts, making our present reality more difficult. Of course, it’s obvious to those of us living in the present reality that this is impossible—no one can go back in time and undo what has been done. Yet anything becomes possible in a world that isn’t limited by reality. People can become drunk on the feeling of getting what they want when they want it. If a person can “win” in that reality in a way that they can’t in the real world, then it makes sense that they would rather live in their second life—whether that is found in video games, pornography, alcohol, drugs, or some other form of alternate reality. The lyrics then shift from “feeling like if this is life I’m choosing fiction” to

Feeling like this ain’t life
I’m choosing fiction
In other words, after indulging in their own brand of reality for so long, the real world no longer feels like real life. And from there, it quickly turns to

Will I ever wake up?
Hope I never wake up
This is perhaps the point to which Smith refers when he mentions that a world of limitless possibilities can become an unhealthy one. He seems to recognize that there is a vital importance to not letting an altered state become more real than reality. Once that happens, life doesn’t become better—it becomes more and more unbearable as people wait for their “day job” to pass so that their “real life” can begin.

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.

True Fulfillment
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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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.