Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thoughts on Life and The Matrix (Part One)

I trust that the few reading this are familiar with The Matrix movies, if not parts 2 and 3 then at least part one. If not, then I pity your deprived existence. GO OUT AND WATCH THEM NOW. Basically The Matrix in my eyes is the crowning achievement of the art of film that I have yet witnessed in my lifetime. I'm not saying something already out there or something that will come along wont surpass it, but I haven't seen anything that does yet.

To me, these films resonate to the core of my being. Almost everything I hold to be true about life, the world and everything is somewhere in these films, perhaps buried deep in symbolism, hints or fleeting thematic glances but there nonetheless. It was likely watching the first Matrix way back in 1999 that set me along the path or at least showed something to me about myself that was already there.

The reaction you will find among the general public to these movies tends to go something like this. "Gee, Matrix one was amazing, shame about the sequels though". I can understand why this is. Because as the philosophers on the DVD commentaries so precisely put it, The Matrix Part One as a self composed entity is easily understood, and it plays into traditional expectations of a narrative. Matrix One is good vs evil. Humans good. Machines bad. Matrix, the computer generated prison for humanities minds bad. Outside Matrix good. Neo good. Agent Smith bad. And people were HAPPY with that. Then came parts 2 and 3. Reloaded and Revolutions are like waking up in heaven and finding out things aren't as they were cracked up to be. They are disconcerting, they subvert expectations, they turn everything on its head. Reloaded and Revolutions is where we find out that the Matrix isn't so bad, and the role of Neo perhaps isn't so good. It's where we discover that profoundly it is the MACHINES that is invested with the singular spirit and consciousness that humanity lacks. It's where we find out that Agent Smith himself is the only way that leads to Neo's wholeness, salvation and nirvana. And the typical person on the street is not happy with ANY of these developments.

To put it simply, parts 2 and 3 are trashed because they are better movies. Because we want easy answers. We want easily identifiable good vs. evil and loathe complexity. The Matrix trilogy as a whole is perfect. If only people would engage with it on it's own terms and not bringing their limitations to the experience. But really that's what the whole Matrix is about. That 99% of humanity live in a self imposed dream world of oppression. Could it be any other way that the majority of people don't get these movies??

Anyway, this is part one of me referencing ideas, themes, scenes and characters from the Matrix and how they relate to life as a whole for me. I hope somewhere out there finds this worthwhile and illuminating, and most of all I hope it inspires somebody to go back and watch these movies in the spirit they were made. It could be a most rewarding experience.

One of my favourite scenes from Matrix One is this one. Morpheus takes Neo into a simulated training program where they walk along a crowded city street as squalls of people, businessmen, women and nameless scrawls of people advance past them on all sides, an endless torrent of humanity living in their dream reality.

Morpheus tells Neo that these are the people they are trying to liberate and yet, because they are not liberated they are DANGEROUS. Morpheus invites Neo to turn around for another look at a gorgeous woman in a red dress who caught his eye and instead he finds himself staring down the barrel of an Agent's gun. Every single time I walk down a city street with tons of people around I think of this scene. In London that was almost everyday. It is such a profoundly true statement about our world.

These people, the ones around us every day, ambling to their jobs so they can pay the bills, and sustain themselves within this system of control will pay you no attention, as long as you're one of them. Start questioning the system like Neo and WHAM! You're a threat. And all at once, these people become dangerous, like an amorphous Agent in symbolic form, because whilst these people accept the status quo, they will always look down on ones like myself, who do not. In Morpheus's words "these people are so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will FIGHT to protect it." One look at the subscription rates to the US military will illuminate the truth of these words.

Go ahead, try it one day. Go to a person in your life who has never thought to do anything except conform to the expectations of society and the secular world. Ask them WHY they live like that. Chances are the most common reaction you will get is a blank look on their face as they myopically stare of into the distance, lost in a Manichean dream. Dig a little deeper and you'll get some pushback, some resistance. Dig even deeper and the hostilities towards you will begin. It's as inevitable as the day is long. The Wachowski Brothers in this scene have captured the heart of the matter PERFECTLY. What motivates the masses and their choices is what the philosopher Ken Wilber dubs the Three C's. Conformity, Complacency, and Cowardice. Trying to live outside the boundaries of the three C's is to take the red pill. Ignoring that still voice in one's mind that cries out "this world is not enough" and falling in line is to take the blue pill. And we all do it. In one way or another. Because it is easy. In mental slavery we are our own gatekeepers. We locked ourselves in the cell and we swallowed our own key. It's just easier that way ain't it? All this thinking, and being different and yearning for something more is just fucking depressing.

Look at those people next time you're walking the streets. Look at all those unsatisfied lives coated over with the thinnest layers of makeup, fancy suits, nail polish and filled wallets. Look at the phallic symbols of material dominance that stretch up into the sky and the roads that penetrate in all directions playing into the most base of desires. Look at all the empty people with their empty lives, extinguished dreams and downgraded desires. Yes, it's the easy road. As Ecclesiastes 1:18 says "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief." The red pill existence is hard, with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. In the Matrix the Agents keeping it all in line can punch through walls, transmute themselves into anybody's body and are virtually indestructible.

Is the struggle against these seemingly insuperable forces worth it? Or is it just better to take the blue pill and be blissful in self contained ignorance? That is one the questions the Matrix invites us to answer and one of the reasons it is one the greatest films of all time. Stay tuned next time as we investigate the character of Cypher, the embodiment of conformity, and the man who chooses blissful ignorance over harsh reality.

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