Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix? May09

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Why Choose Reality When We Could Live in the Matrix?

Screenshot from The Matrix.
Which would you take—the red pill or the blue pill? The question isn’t as easy to answer as you might think. The red pill represents the full picture of reality—truth and all it entails. Your eyes are opened, but in that freedom you will find struggle, even overwhelming hardship. The blue pill, on the other hand, allows you to live happily unaware. You’ll be able to live the way you always have, remaining blind to harsh reality. As Cypher notes in The Matrix, “Ignorance is bliss.”

The red and blue pill metaphor has become entrenched in our culture as a reality check. After all, I never wondered if Neo made the right decision to gulp down the red pill and battle against alien machines; I just cheered him on as he did. And I became angry with Cypher when he took the blue pill and jeopardized the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar. But I have to admit, the choice is tempting; the reality of the Matrix is ugly and dangerous, and that steak that Cypher is eating as he contemplates his decision looks really delicious. I like to think that I would never pick the blue pill like he did, but I’m not sure the choice is that simple, especially when the truth can be unpleasant.

Why would you swap comfort for cold fact?

Real life is a little more complicated than red and blue pills. Although I want to be like Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus—not only perceiving reality but fighting against the very things that enslave them—I often live the way Cypher wants to, blissfully enjoying my ignorance. I distinctly remember in seventh grade, I tried reentering my school building from the courtyard during lunch break, which was against the rules, and a teacher told me to stop. I pretended I didn’t hear her until she confronted me as I was about to enter my destination. No matter how much I faked it, I couldn’t ignore the reality: an angry teacher, now furious that I disregarded her, had caught me. I wanted to ignore her, but I couldn’t. What kind of person would I have become if I could have ignored every rule, every reality I encountered? As it is, I try and fail to escape reality—even as an adult.

Now, I face larger repercussions for swallowing the blue pill, but I still notice the same pattern I saw as a child: ignoring reality only seems to work for a short time and then my actions blow up in my face. At work, I’m given an assignment to review a document and make improvements to it. I’ll revise a few items, but don’t make major changes to it. I’ll convince myself that the document is fine as it is, because overhauling it would be too much work. But then I face an unpleasant outcome when I receive comments back from my supervisor requesting that I offer better suggestions. I’m back at square one, or even one step behind because I’ve come across poorly to my boss.

With blue pill thinking, something eventually breaks. Cypher realizes this too late when Tank, whom he attacked earlier, kills him with the very weapon he’d discarded. My choices—even ones as passive as selecting a convenient path over a tough but rewarding one—have repercussions. I pay the consequences of convenience, creating my own version of the Matrix, except that out of a choice to act in blindness, I’m the one who’s made my prison.

Ignoring reality only seems to work for a short time and then my actions blow up in my face.

But while I can convince myself that taking the red pill is the right action to take, as Morpheus suggests, “there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”  Making the choice to do the wise thing requires following through and facing my own Agent Smiths—a daunting task. It can also mean a choice between everything you think you know and love, and an unknown truth. Why would you swap comfort for cold fact?

“Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more,” Morpheus warns Neo as he reaches for the red pill.

I don’t want to live in the dark, because I can’t impact things I don’t see. Even if I know reality means fighting a daunting battle, perhaps even a losing one, I still want to try. Even though I may not like the answers to my questions, I still want to know them, because I want my life to have more meaning than simple existence. Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s just my version of the Matrix—a lie not worth living.

Charles Sadnick

Charles Sadnick

Guest Writer at Area of Effect
Converted from the moment he first heard Han Solo reply, “I know,” Charles resisted his nerdy urges until Hayao Miyazaki, Spike Spiegel, and Evangelion Unit-01 forced him to confront the truth of his inner geekery. Baptized into otakudom, Charles masks himself in the not-so-secret identity of TWWK as he blogs endlessly about anime and faith.

He can also be found, however, feeding his other nerd habits, including A Song of Ice and Fire. Charles also remains hopelessly stuck in the 90's, maybe best demonstrated by his unexplainable passion for The Phantom Menace.

A historian and director at a government agency by day, Charles joins in the work of college and digital ministry is his off-time, while growing each day in the round-the-clock charge of being a husband and father.
Charles Sadnick