Accountability: What We All Want But Won't Ask For - Clear and Open

Zen And The Matrix Part 4: Agent Smith As Ego

Last week in part 3, of the series on The Matrix, we discussed how Neo learns he must let go of his sense of control in order to find the truth. We’ve touched on the idea of the mind prison, wherein we trap ourselves by believing our thoughts are us.

Inside this prison, we’re compelled to manage ourselves and our lives to create that moment-to-moment happiness, which is unending work. This is analogous to Neo having his “normal” life in the matrix. Agent Smith beautifully summarizes the conundrum in the earlier interrogation scene:

Agent Smith: It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company, you have a social security number, you pay your taxes, and you help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias Neo and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not. I’m going to be as forthcoming as I can be, Mr. Anderson. You’re here because we need your help. We know that you’ve been contacted by a certain individual, a man who calls himself Morpheus. Now whatever you think you know about this man is irrelevant. He is considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive.

Smith, representing the ego (see previous article on Cypher), sees Morpheus, the liberator, as dangerous. One of the lives has a known and predictable future, because from the ego’s perspective, the path of truth is insane, dangerous, and irresponsible. Smith’s choice-speech is the equal and opposite of Morpheus’ choice-speech, but notice how rigid and controlling it is:

Smith concludes “You’re going to help us, Neo, whether you like it or not,” versus Morpheus’ free offering of a choice.

I admit I cry when Neo takes the red pill. It’s a symbol of courage, determination, valuing of truth above all else, and the surrender to reality. It is the most important kind of choice we as humans can make, and it’s one we make multiple times each day.

Every time we indulge the judgments of our mind, we take the blue pill. Every time we indulge in our reactivity and act out, become lost in our fears about the future, or mired in the events of the past, we take the blue pill. The blue pill is where you can “believe whatever you want” (as if to say “whatever makes you happy”) irrespective of reality, whereas the red pill is the path to the true essence of reality, without any promise of happiness: “the truth, nothing more.”

It’s worthy to note Morpheus’ warning that there is “no turning back” with the red pill. On the path of awareness you pass through many gates. Sometimes you can go back to old forms of comfort, and sometimes your experiences change you forever, and the gate locks behind you.

Lastly, let’s address the mysterious, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is” line. When you consider the Matrix as a virtual reality program to delude fields of enslaved humans generating power for machines, this is obviously untrue—that’s what it is. Morpheus certainly could have told him that.

On the other hand, to really get it, you have to experience it. This is true about anything. I can tell you what a soursop or durian fruit tastes like, but if you’ve never had one, you don’t really know, right?

If we view the film as a metaphor for awakening, Morpheus speaks about the nature of spirit. Because our finite minds cannot grasp the infinite, the essential nature of reality is not capturable by words. In some Christian and Jewish traditions, it’s considered bad form to speak the name of God. The esoteric origin of this practice is the idea that whatever you say about God is not It.

It’s not about following the rules, it’s about being in awe of the indescribable. The same way the beauty of a sunset diminishes when you try to describe it, so does our sense of spirit. How can you describe the infinite, when every word we have is finite? No one can tell you what it is. You must experience it for yourself.

Each time you choose to take the red pill, you’ll be that much closer.

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