Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

The Matrix was a film trilogy that captivated many (including me!) a few years back, by tapping into the deepest questions we have as humans: Why are we here? Is there more than just this life? What is the Truth of our origins? Where can I find it?

Unfortunately, as the series moved forward, it became a tangled cacophony of too many philosophies and theologies. In the end, it was just another brand of gnosticism wrapped in shiny 20th century special effects (oh but what sweet special effects!)

Despite the philosophical fogginess in these films, there were some incredible "teaching" moments. One of my favorites happens in the initial conversation between Neo (the Chosen One who slowly discovers his purpose) and Morpheus (the sage character who leads Neo out of the darkness of deception).

Morpheus: ... Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind - driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?

Neo: The Matrix?

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? (Neo nods his head.)

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. (In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)

Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (A red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more. (Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water)


Glimmers of the Truth on the silver screen?

No doubt.

Isn't there, for all of us, an inherent sense of something being "off" in the world, in our own hearts, in our relationships. Something we can't seem to name exactly... but we know it's there...

"But you feel it. You felt it your entire life."

We should ask ourselves "Is this how it's always been? Should we ever expect Something More?"

"Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison...."

Original Sin. The break in our origins as persons made to give but given in to grasp at the gifts and promises God wants to give us. But our culture is constantly tossing the wool over our eyes, filtering values, watering down truth, trying to erase our memories of that Original Grace, that Garden, that peace and love that runs deeper than lust. In the words of Pope John Paul II, it's the "heritage of our hearts" and it has real "salvific power."

In other words, it can save us. It can liberate us from the prison of sin. But it's not in a pill we can take, or a program we can attend, or even in a self-help section at the bookstore. It pours out freely from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

But it is the self that must seek the help, must look up, look out of the stony place in the heart and beg for the chisel and the hammer that can break us and set us free.

So we do have to make a choice. And therein lies our greatest power, our deepest identity. We are free to choose. And here is the other favorite scene of mine, taken from the final installment of the Matrix Trilogy; there is an epic battle at the film's conclusion where Neo must face Agent Smith and defeat him. Neo is beaten down, nearly destroyed and seemingly the odds are against him. Smith stands over him in what looks like the moment that will end all things.

Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose... You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?

Neo: Because I choose to.


What will we choose today in the many encounters we'll experience? Will we reach out of the prison of the self, the lens of lust and grasping and egocentricity that we've been told is the only reality? Or will we dig deeper into that heritage of our hearts, that Original Innocence God created us in? Will we choose to reach up and out and into the Other? Into the New Grace that streams down from the Cross?

He has the power to take us out of ourselves.... finally. Do we believe?

"Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more."

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