Peek-a-boo

Dear Rich, why would you base your worldview on a late-90s action movie? That sounds kinda dumb.

Perhaps that’s backwards thinking. Perhaps The Matrix was designed as a subtle introduction to the underlying nature of reality for those that could only imagine in the images of action-movies. Even Neo had a hard time accepting the true nature of reality when he left the matrix. How can you explain to someone that grew up in the 80s and 90s that they’re living within a simulated world? Morpheus said regular people would typically fight against the truth while desperately clinging to the only reality they knew.

Therefore, you create a movie based in the modern-day using modern-day iconography and explanations. Those who see it, see it. And those that don’t want to see it, simply perceive a sci-fi movie. No harm, no foul. It’s a not-so-subtle clue for those seeking answers. And the movie’s theme is dank and dark because that’s the only way to draw in pessimists who will say: “I knew it!!! The world really IS a post-apocalyptic hell-scape filled with sheeple!!”.

But eventually, if you really take some time to think about it: what doesn’t work in The Matrix, what fails to be adequately explained, is the nefarious nature of the matrix. The enslavement of humanity doesn’t make sense and causes all sorts of debates. The so-called sequels don’t make sense either by the way. And that’s because life is NOT a nefarious affair. The Matrix itself demonstrates this, by failing to create a convincing villain.

And again, The Matrix was simply an introduction, it wasn’t meant to explain everything. It drew-in certain people that couldn’t be drawn-in by other means. God and spirituality and all that stuff makes no sense to pessimistic realists — so the only option to reach them was through sci-fi action flicks. Ultimately, the world wants its players to have a good time — but in order to have a good time, a player needs the right balance between fact and fiction.

A player must be invested enough to care about in-game outcomes, but not overly invested to the point of perpetual worry. If you only believe in a harsh and brutal world ruled by random-chance, then you’re going to have a bad time. You need some perspective, some distance, you need to see yourself as a player engaged in an enjoyable adventure. But when you’re too lost within the game, you can’t comprehend this. And so clues are provided, alarm clocks — The Matrix simply serves as one of the ways to help you wake up.

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Matrix Rewatched

I was a young adult when the movie The Matrix came out. I’m mentioning this because I just re-watched it. The concept of the illusionary nature of existence has been around of course, but that particular movie illustrated the idea with a modern perspective for a modern audience (modern for the late-90s at least).

The primary theme I take from it, is that boundaries are artificial constructs — and power lies in the ability to shed these self-imposed limitations. To me, the other stuff in the movie is just filler to tell a compelling story. For instance, I certainly don’t believe in the nefarious nature of the illusion. And, I think the sequels went off on a tangent.

But most importantly, I think the movie sows the seeds of doubt about our own existence — perhaps our world is a complete fabrication. The particular scenario in the movie is painted as overly dramatic of course, but it sets the stage for questioning to begin. And certainly, it’s a good question to ask: is this real?

Another story, The Bhagavad Gita, which is also set in a time of turmoil, similarly expresses doubt about the obviousness of existence. Arjuna must ultimately accept his role in rebalancing the conflict even though initially he wants to avoid participating. Through his realization of the unreality of life, he finally consents to his duty.

I’ve certainly found it true that a belief in the dream-like nature of existence is a very powerful idea for facilitating comfort. And it does make me wonder, just how lucid the dream can be — in other words, how malleable is this world? What are we capable of once we stop imposing limits on ourselves and each other.