These are not deep thoughts, really, but late night ramblings after a few drinks. Profundity should not be expected.

The Matrix has you…

These words were seen 20 years ago for the world. I think it is hard for folks to remember the impact that The Matrix” had on folks back then. It came like a Gnostic shot at the archons out of the pleroma. There were lots of weird movies in the 90’s but The Matrix” and Fight Club” are ones that still echo to me, 20 years later, as someone in his late 20’s when they both came out. They both pushed back against the culture we were being sold in fairly subversive ways yet were also mainstream successes, breaking out across all boundaries.

This week a local theater is doing a 90’s film festival and showed us all the Matrix again. We got to see Morpheus, Trinity, Neo, and the others in their initial explosion onto the screen. I’ve watched the movie on and off since it came out. It was literally the first DVD that I ever bought, the actual reason I bought a DVD player. Seeing it on the big screen brought a bunch of things back to me that watching it half-assed, on my tv or computer while doing other things, hasn’t over the years. The movie had lost much of its impact for me but when you see it on a giant, curved, 70mm screen from the third row, it is hard to ignore it or half-ass it.

Something that came to mind at in my late 40’s seeing it again, compared to being in my late 20’s when it came out, is just how young everyone is, how it resonates at different levels for me at this age than it did when I was young. What I took from it then, I can’t exactly recall, except that desire, always present, to buck against the system, to not knuckle down and just be the Man” working for a sort of exoteric success in the world, to be my own person. We’re all enmeshed in the System, the Machine, of Capitalism. Constantly and without ceasing until it is literally, like the Matrix, the air we breathe and we cannot see it, let alone imagine an alternative. We strive to make do or to do well, at least financially because…well, what are your other options? Push and strive hard to succeed, make your money, get the good job and the house or wealth or you, too, could wind up one of the Poors, the Marginals, those doomed to get by on the margins, if they are allowed to get by at all. Fight Club” had much of the same ethos except it is a more personal story and all a less cosmic scale. In The Matrix,” the entire world is part of a literally all encompassing machine that dupes us, makes us its gears, turning and turning and for what end? To perpuate the machine? Is that it? To make new gears for it? All of it controlled by malevolent intelligences. We know now that there is no malevolent intelligence behind things. We have a machine with no one at the front steering and morons like the President banging on the horn on the steering wheel in order to imagine they’re in charge.

When I was younger, in college, I had the wish to be something more. I wanted to not be a part of that machine. I think many of us dream of that when they are that age. I also had a hard reality. I’d grown up poor until high school, when I lived with family with more money (not that I directly saw much of it). I no longer lived on the edges, as much as you can see when you are young, and I very much did not ever want to go back. I had friends who were magicians and anarchists, older than me by a decade. They were 30 when I was 20 and good people but…they were poor. They pinched and scraped and their lives were going nowhere.” I told myself that I didn’t want to be those people. I never had a grand strategic vision to make a reality of this but I made every tactical decision towards that end along the way. I got out of college, moved in with my girl, lived the kind of life where you choose between food and rent at times, and, every time an opportunity came knocking, I chose that opportunity if it meant money and security. I didn’t do this ambitiously, driven to become the Wolf of Wall Street or the like. I was never that motivated but I chose the job, the Machine, really, the Matrix, whenever it came up. I wanted to live securely and not ever worry about food or rent again.

Fast forward more than 20 years and two marriages and seeing the movie tonight reminded me of these choices. I’ve often told the story of these friends and the moment I said to myself, I don’t want to be their age with nothing and working the same shit job, just to get by, at 30 that I am at 20!” Did I make the right choices? Did I embrace the blue pill? At the time, I’d say that I didn’t. I was still fuck the man!” in my heart but I went into the office every day, even doing jobs that bored me or working for companies that I knew weren’t necessarily great for the world, because the jobs would do well by me and, well, what else can we do in this world? The years turned and then the decades. The life where you are dead inside gradually grew until you wondered where the stress and hopelessness came from. I even became a Buddhist years later because I could still feel the flaw that ran through the heart of our world, the pebble in the shoe, but I still did nothing until I had no choice but to do something because my life collapsed around me.

I wonder though about these choices or the lack of engagement to make that choice. What I realize is that there is always a choice. There is a choice every day of our lives. Sometimes that choice is keep doing this so I can eat and have shelter” but I have the privilege of more choices now. Is there a choice to be made other than those that I have for the next 20 years? What would that look like? How do we break out of the Matrix now, especially in the world of 2019 with Google, Amazon, Facebook, active surveillance states and social media that monitor, shape, and control us every moment of our days through our little slabs of glass that we carry with us wherever we go to remind us how to conform, behave, strive, and succeed?

Something to think about as we consider following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. Is it better to live our small lives or to do something more?

April 17, 2019