TBT: The Matrix

Keanu Reeves has confirmed that there will be a Matrix 4. The Matrix is not only a film series: it’s also a mythology for our times. It has inspired countless philosophy books and discussions, and one of the films even featured a cameo by philosopher Cornell West. While I don’t subscribe to the view that reality is computerized, I do find the metaphors in the Matrix useful and inspiring–and in recent months, a fellow Epicurean has created a few Epicurean memes that drew inspiration from the Matrix.

Also, these metaphors could not have existed in antiquity. We find reference to Krishna pulling the strings of sentient beings via the three gunas (or tendencies within nature) in the Bhagavad Gita, and the metaphor of the cosmos as an upside-down reflection of the cosmic tree. While these metaphors approach many of the ways in which The Matrix questions reality, we couldn’t have found the metaphor of people and things being computer programs. We couldn’t have found the 1’s and 0’s of the binary language. Ancient people did not have knowledge of genetics, which is the science that established that sentient beings are, in a way, programmed by nature to carry out certain behaviors and develop physically in a certain way. The Matrix uses futuristic and contemporary metaphors, and explores Buddhist and existentialist themes, positing a mythology for millennials.

In the past, I’ve praised The Wachowskis (who produced the Matrix) for their series Sense8, calling it “a hedonist saga”. The Wachowskis cemented their place in pop culture with The Matrix, but they are also responsible for V is for Vendetta–remember those masks that activists wore during the Occupy Wall Street movement? The same ones that the hacktivists from Anonymous have made their own? They–and other cultural memes like “remember, remember the 5th of November“–were made popular among modern audiences by the Wachowskis in V is for Vendetta.

Other films by them include Cloud Atlas–which is a mess of a movie, and as hard to understand as The Matrix–and Jupiter Ascending. JA was less successful (if we trust the reviews), but I thoroughly enjoyed the other-worldly visuals in both of these movies. The Wachowskis’ movies are always a treat to me. They explore complex ideas of parallel lives in different worlds, massive revolts against entrenched powers, history as cyclical, the ways in which people inhabit their bodies, and identity. They explore the universal human nature and experience: how people in very different times, milieus, and cultures have similar reactions, pains, solidarities, and passions.

Enjoy the iconic scene where Morpheus (which is also the name of the god of dreams) gives Neo (the hero) the proverbial choice between the red pill or the blue pill. Do we deal with reality, no matter how ugly, or do we choose to dream?

4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (BD) [Blu-ray]

The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (Popular Culture and Philosophy)

Like a Splinter in Your Mind: The Philosophy Behind the Matrix Trilogy

Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and the Religion in the Matrix (Smart Pop series)

About hiramcrespo

Hiram Crespo is the author of 'Tending the Epicurean Garden' (Humanist Press, 2014) and 'How to Live a Good Life' (Penguin Random House, 2020), and founder of societyofepicurus.com. He's also written for The Humanist, Eidolon, Occupy, The New Humanism, The Secular Web, Europa Laica, AteístasPR, and many other outlets.
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