Thus far in my lifetime, one of the most philosophical movies I have ever had the privilege of watching was The Matrix (1999). It deals with reality as we would like it to be versus the harsh actuality of life; choices, and more importantly, the will to better ourselves so we can in turn make society better (or change it for the better by being an instrument of change).
This saga revolutionized not only the way people thought and behaved, but also had an impact in the realms of technology, cinematography, design/creative education, fashion, filmmaking and advertising; not to mention the very rigidity of technology (amongst a myriad of other things).
Regardless of how ‘free’ we think we are, there are forces in the ‘natural order’ of things that keep a check and balance on how we ought to be or behave, a type of social conditioning. This is the reality of life, be it in the jungle or a super modern intelligent city. (At least we call it ‘reality’.) In truth, everything is governed by some form of authority to keep and maintain order. There is a ‘system of control’, whether we consciously realize it or not…
In the world of The Matrix, however, this ‘authority’ is being exercised in a virtual world. The key character, Mr. Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves, has inclinations and tendencies that hint that there is much more to the world (his world) than he perceives (which is in fact very much the world in the ‘real world’ we too know). In this world, humankind is always searching for ‘the truth’. This is not so different from the world where Neo (as he comes to be called subsequently) abides. As it turns out, his pursuit of the ‘truth’ is valid; for he discovers that his world – a world that seems so orderly and systematic, operating like clockwork, riddled with precepts, laws and bylaws, conditioned by fear and governed by authority – is in fact nothing more than a stupendous lie!
The main antagonists in The Matrix world are the ‘Agents’, program enforcers (appearing as stern men in black suits), and the baddies in the real world (a dark post-apocalyptic Earth) is AI (Artificial Intelligence) and its army of machines – primarily enforcers with multi-tentacles, called ‘Sentinels’. So in essence, the battle in this movie happens on two fronts. Neo becomes ‘unplugged’ from the system by choice, once he is aware of the real Earth – a war-torn planet with black skies ruled by machines which sordidly use human beings (mostly raised and harvested in farms, instead of being born) as batteries to power themselves, their technology and their cities! Neo (unpleasantly I might add) learns that The Matrix is actually a breakthrough computer program (designed by a computer program) that helps all said human batteries ‘sleep’ better, thinking that they are going about living and operating normal everyday lives; when in fact they are operating (or rather, powering) their machine slave drivers. He struggles to digest the truth that his entire life up to then has been nothing but a slumbering lie…
Neo proves to be made of sterner stuff, willing to embrace the hard life, willing to turn his back on the bliss that ignorance offers – simply because it is the truth.
He is believed, most of all by Morpheus, to be ‘The One’ – a saviour for the human race. Neo is trained on how to ‘jack in’ and navigate The Matrix system by a group of ‘freed’ humans (some who are also born free) attempting to make a last stand against their machine oppressors; amongst them being Trinity, the love of his life, and Morpheus, the enigmatic leader of the band and a legendary visionary (ironically named after the god of dreams and sleep in classical mythology) who seeks to wake people up from their long slumber and free their minds from slavery by The Matrix. Neo attempts to first unlearn what he knows to grow into his full potential; and in so doing, ultimately proves to be even above the confines of The Matrix itself. Something changes inside, and as an ‘Anomaly’, he starts to believe in himself and is eventually able to overcome even the best Agents in the system with his remarkable ‘unchained’ abilities –which is no easy feat! Neo stood his ground where others would tremble and flee; and was victorious. (It is only in the sequels to this first movie do we learn why is able to do what he can do though.)
What Neo discovers in his transformative journey is essentially to unlearn his perception of things, the limitations imposed by a system of control (being The Matrix, fashioned from the ‘real world’ adapted from the human point of view). After all, how could a system that exists only in the mind of those ‘plugged in’ operate by the normal laws of physics such as time, gravity and space? These are ‘ghosts’ that human beings bring into the system with them, clinging on to their backs like burdens, anchoring them down, vestiges which continue to torment them day and night in their surreal existence. As I was watching the movie, this idea from the mechanical world became organic…
I too wondered if we actually live life in a similar manner. Do we let our past experiences, hurts, failures, disappointments bog us down? Do we let the pessimistic voice (our own voice or that of our oppressors) continue to tell us that we cannot do something? Do we struggle in our acceptance of our true self? Is it always an uphill battle to do something outside the norm? Are we able to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, look around us and reassess our situations in life? Are we capable of having a relook at the existence we often take for granted, often bogged down by routines, regimens or habits? Are we ‘handicapped’ by this unfortunate conditioning and thereby, for lack of a better word, stunted – unable to grow into our full potential? Are there invisible ‘puppeteers’ pulling our strings and telling us what we ought or ought not do?
These questions, though stemming from science fiction, can very well be crucial in science fact (and more importantly, in the facts of life). These ponderings cradled my energies into a new nebula of thought… I saw walls collapsing within. I too craved to ‘wake up’ and become ‘unplugged’. I too desired to unshackle myself so as to be free to shape my own destiny.
There is no doubting The Matrix is deep, philosophical, reflective, breakthrough and all that. But at the end of the day, for me, this saga stirred aspects within that sincerely required recalibration. I realized that there are dimensions of potential ‘hidden’ within us that just needed the right ‘pill’ to get it out.
“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” (Note: Extracted from the movie dialogue, the term ‘red pill’ refers to a human that is aware of the true nature of The Matrix).
I say we need to take the ‘red pill’ and wake up our true potential. It is high time to believe in ourselves and what we can do, even if our mind tells us it is impossible. The challenge is not in the doing of something, but first and foremost in the victory over the small inner voice that can make a big difference.
So it’s time to wake up and spring into our full potential! After all, in real life, we are our own ‘Matrix’… There is a ‘Neo’ inside each and every one of us just waiting to rise and shine!