Matrix and philosophy! What really is reality?
Have you ever wondered what’s happening in our minds as we wander through the world around us? How do we know that we are really awake now, and not merely dreaming? Can you tell whether our thoughts are being manipulated, or whether our perceptions are accurate?
These philosophical questions are vividly explored in the film The Matrix which consists of a web of mind-bending illusions, which makes us question whether everything that we take for granted is real.
The Matrix disguises many profound questions in an intriguingly appealing, yet intensely puzzling way. Without even realizing it, millions of people have been subtly educated by this film. Today we are going to take a more in-depth look into the true meaning of reality.
George Berkeley, an Anglo-Irish philosopher, stated that we all have a dangerously over inflated sense of reality. Whilst appearance is a form of reality, reality only exists as a consequence of our subjective experiences. For example my reality of standing in front of you delivering this speech, is vastly different to the experience each of you has listening to me.
Cornal West, an African American philosopher, once wrote that black people do not see themselves through their own eyes, but rather through a matrix of ideas given and taught to them by white people, and hence they cannot accurately experience their own reality.
When car accidents happen, the police will ask for witnesses to describe what they saw. They’ll want to have as many witness statements as possible, so that they can build up enough evidence to give them a broader, more realistic version of events. In a car accident, there will be many different perspectives on what happened. The driver will have one view, the passenger another. Each onlooker that witnessed the accident will also have a different perspective, depending on where they were, how much danger they were in, etc etc,
It’s the same principle with everything – each situation, event, conversation, means something different to all those involved, and also to those not involved. We give different meanings, according to our belief systems, and how we are affected by the event.
We all have our own realities. Anais Nin said “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”.
Another concept of reality is the Allegory Of The Cave. This is an ancient Greek story where a group of infants are bound together and made to stand facing a wall and projected on to this wall were shadows from the fire behind them. They did not know they were prisoners, as they knew no better. To them this was reality. When they were released and saw common everyday objects like a tree, they did not believe it was real. They believed in the reality they knew and were accustomed to, like the shadows on the wall.
(Play clip: The matrix- What’s real?)
And now for other definitions of reality or the lack thereof: One definition is actually existing as a thing and not imagined. Albert Einstein and the matrix suggest that reality is merely an illusion. So is anything in this world really real?
In this context we know for a fact that literally millions of people are in denial at different times in their lives. Yet others are schizoid or schizophrenic or psychotic. (Show Zapero Cartoon) Many are under the influence of medical drugs, exotic drugs or alcohol. Making this reality equation more confusing. Nature’s way of dealing with severe fevers is to cause delirium in people who are older than 5 years and convulsions in the younger. Has nature good reason for manipulating reality?
For example from one dose of LSD, a boy lost the ability to tell the difference between what was real and what was induced hallucination. He said he was transported into a never-never world, a deep dark place where everybody was an insect. He said everyone had antennae coming out of their heads and they all were dripping and masticating on their mouths. Snakeheads were bobbing around every corner. And as his visual distortions continued, he started going insane. It was about three hours of grisly horror for him. He said he was so distracted by the ghastliness of it all that he didn’t have time to notice how scared he was. He thought this metamorphosed world was reality.
(Play clip: The matrix is everywhere, you can see it in this very room or when you look out the window or turn on the… that has been pulled over our head to hide the truth)
The Buddhist teaching is that: Reality is not what it seems to be, nor is it otherwise. Thus we can never really be sure if this world that we live in is real or an illusion distorting the truth. Maybe we should just adopt Socratic wisdom and be content with knowing that we do not really know and ignorance is indeed bliss.
Whilst my speech was never intended to leave you absolutely confused, you may choose not to ask me any questions. Looking at the expression on all your faces, will you please forgive me for this cunning smile that I wear! After all is either my smile real or your expression an illusion?