The Philosophy Behind The Matrix (p2)
January 8, 2022
⚠️ In the dawn of The Matrix 4, I became inspired again about the philosophy behind the movies. Yes, there will be a few spoilers ahead so continue at your own risk with part 2 of this article. (If you’ve missed it – read part 1 here).
5. The Afterlife and the Meaning of Life
If you are one of those that believes in rebirth then maybe you believe we are here on a mission. Once we complete this mission, we go back “to the source” and come back (preferably) better with a similar but a “level up” mission (or we just went to the next level). At least I find this reasonable. There are many ways to see this perspective in The Matrix. It can be the “going out of The Matrix”, or the metaphoric (or not so much) “rebirth of Neo as The One” when he dies from Agent Smith’s bullets and he wakes up after Trinity’s kiss, or each reset of The Matrix and each new version of The One, etc.
There is no need to dig deeper into the whole biblical theme going on. There are many resources out there explaining the whole Bible references in The Matrix, how Neo is Jesus, what Trinity means, numerology and what the numbers 0 and 1 mean, etc. But it is there and the Wachowskis have laid it out in the open quite clearly in the original trilogy (as a question or maybe as a quite clear reference, similar to The Alice in Wonderland one).
6. Balance and Duality
What is our existence and why are we here? Again this question but from a perspective of the balance that every system needs, even if we call “life” a system.
Neo is an anomaly created by the version of The Matrix where humans had a choice. Calculations could not predict it but in every Matrix the anomaly appears. Then the Architect uses this anomaly to his advantage in order to reset The Matrix and seemingly give purpose to The One (and mythology around him) who will save humanity (restarting Zion). So, everyone, even computer anomalies, needs purpose in order to be motivated and live a fulfilling life? But because this anomaly has the power to change The Matrix code, thus disrupting the balance of The Matrix, he needs to have an end goal, a timeline or more like an expiration date, so that he does not become too powerful. Agent Smith on the other hand is the only AI outside of The Matrix (maybe other than The Architect himself) who threatens the balance of the “world” yet again, thus, Neo, the counterpart, has to step in and “balance the equation out” (as explained by the Architect, that this is his actual reason to exist). But Agent Smith is an anomaly as well, Neo and him are balancing each other out, thus they die together and they are freed together in The Matrix 4.
Neo and Trinity are too powerful together and they are a threat, but nearby each other, they create a lot of power that can balance the problem with too many people unplugging thus not enough power for the machines.
The Oracle and The Architect balance each other out, since The Oracle understands human psyche and has emotions and hope (at least, seemingly to us, the viewers) and The Architect is all about calculation and numbers.
“Science vs Spirituality
Emotions vs Logic
Chaos vs Order
Free Will vs Destiny”
The Take (video in p. 3 in part 1 of this article)
Balance, balance, balance. It’s everywhere around us. Does this mean that the reason for the existence of something is the reason for another thing’s existence? You know what I am saying?…
7. Every Solution Creates New/Other Problems
I am personally invested in the idea of problem-solving, having studied mathematics, doing entrepreneurship, working in the IT industry with troubleshooting as a part of my daily life. And especially entrepreneurship itself is generating new ideas, creating new businesses, and new solutions to problems in the world. But I started thinking, emotionlessly as much as possible, about if honestly we are solving problems or just creating a bunch of new ones or just changing our reality, but not really solving anything. Maybe this is progress or is it? Think about Facebook for example, or on more general terms – data, social media and on the other hand – privacy. Can you imagine being the founder of a company such as Facebook, when no one else has created something at this scale? If you are this person, maybe you think that you are driven by a cause of some sort, like – connecting people, making them share more between each other (personal and business news, goals, cool pictures and moments, etc). And then you create this enormous problem – lack of privacy, mental health issues, unhappiness along with this happiness that you originally started with. When you think about it, how can you predict these outcomes when this is the first company/person to make it happen, when there was no analog for it till now?
The answer is that maybe now you can (because of data) but before – could you? And now can we really? Or in the future we will gather so much more data that the data we have now may lead us in a very wrong direction… Here we are circling back to point 3 about the calculation, evolution, etc. but also to points 1 and 2 about the hope and the reality.
In The Matrix 4 they talk about the time “in between” the original trilogy and the new movie. Yes, our heroes stopped the war between machines and humans, but a war between the machines started (because too many people were unplugging from The Matrix thus leaving machines with not enough energy, thus creating the war between machines which destroyed Zion, meaning people were killed and suffered). The circle of life, you may think, and yes (we will cover it in the last point).
This is what I like about the show Black Mirror for example, that in the beginning of every episode I am normally thinking “what a great idea, this technology would be super useful to us when we have it” and then it unravels and you see the dark side and the consequences that we didn’t see coming in the beginning. Thus The Matrix makes us skeptical, think about what we sign up for before we do so, especially in the time it was originally created – just before the 2000s and the fear that the computers will crash, the threat of true AI and that we started to become too dependent on technology.
I wonder now when Trinity and Neo are off The Matrix (which to us feels great, but…), since they were a good source of power for it in between the movies, will this create another war for energy? This leads us to point 9 here, but few things to cover in between. Yet, let me know what you think. Do you believe there will be a similar war and do you think there will be other movies?
8. Emotions - Powers and Weaknesses. Desire, Fear (Misery) as Motivators
I get angry when people say that The Matrix 4’s message is just that “love will save the world”. Because it is too simplistic to put it this way (I should know, I just wrote 10 pages about the deep philosophy behind the movies :D).
Yes, we as humans have emotions, feelings. They are our superpower, the thing that probably defines us as humans and not robots, machines. And maybe love is one of the strongest ones.
But the analyst gives us food for thought. According to him it is “desire and fear that drive us”. Desire to accomplish something more and fear not to lose what we already have. To me this reminded me of spirituality, the idea about living “in the now” and the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. If we are more conscious and thinking about what is “real”, then the only real thing arguably is “the now”. The future has not happened yet and the past is in the past and all we are left with is the present. Yes, we can experience these emotions in the now and we do. But the desire is focused on the future and the fear is focused yet again on the possibility of the future but in terms of what we have gained in the past. The trick is that our emotions may become imbalanced and this is where the problems arise. We may overindulge in them. Thus we may become easy to manipulate or make choices that are not the best ones. (Do you remember Achillis in the “Iliad”?) It is shown in Niobe’s fear not to mess up the peace that has been standing for so many years, thus not being supportive and the rebel she used to be. Her fear guides her decision making.
There are other things that motivate us, maybe. For example, NLP has some models talking about our external, internal motivators, our “towards” (when you look at a goal, where you run towards something) and “from” (where you run away from something like poverty, bad emotions or memories, etc.) motivators. According to my masseuse – we are all driven by fear and there is one fear only – from dying. According to my personal coach and a friend – we can analyse and “control” our feelings and this may make us more aware, more spiritual. Yet again, here we focus on the balance and that the lack of it creates tension, problems and overall nothing good.
Recently, I read the book “The Courage to Be Disliked” and really liked the theory of Alfred Adler, explored in the book, that “trauma does not exist” and we “choose to be unhappy or sad in the now” having all types of excuses to do so (from our past). But the past no longer exists, just the memory of it and what we decided to carry with us in the current moment. Or at least this is what I got from the book and could be partially my interpretation.
Here is a video I enjoyed a lot and it covers some of the topics covered in this article/essay:
Here is another video that gives an interesting example: there was an essay about homelessness few years back (couldn’t find the right one to link here, sorry). They say that the writer of the essay claims that western societies have the resources to end homelessness but won’t because that will make the fear of homelessness disappear from us, regular folks. Thus people will be more frivolous with quitting their jobs, basically – breaking free and harder to manipulate.
9. Everything Repeats Itself (a.k.a. Eternal Return)
I remember yet again my favourite literature teacher telling us about Zarathustra (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra”) and that the Eternal Return was one of the main topics of a few of Nietzsche’s works. Basically, what I remember was that he claims that everything repeats itself, nothing changes, life is just a repeating cycle and thus nothing matters. “A weak attempt at proof has been noted in Nietzsche’s notebooks, and it is not clear to what extent, if at all, Nietzsche believed in the truth of it” Wikipedia writes. I mention it because when I saw The Matrix it reminded me about this concept (there is no theory about the movie that I read anywhere on this topic, just my association with the concept and The Matrix itself and it seemed quite fitting to me).
“Eternal return (German: Ewige Wiederkunft; also known as eternal recurrence) is a concept that the universe and all existence and energy has been recurring, and will continue to recur, in a self-similar form an infinite number of times across infinite time or space. In 1871, Louis Auguste Blanqui, assuming a Newtonian cosmology where time and space are infinite, claimed to have demonstrated eternal recurrence as a mathematical certainty…According to Stoic physics, the universe is periodically destroyed in an immense conflagration (ekpyrosis), and then experiences a rebirth (palingenesis). These cycles continue for eternity, and the same events are exactly repeated in every cycle.”
Sounds familiar? :)
The Matrix does not give us answers. The Matrix urges us to doubt and ask questions. To not believe our senses. To be sceptical. To … think.
EXTRA: Reading list
A little extra – the books the actors needed to read to film the original trilogy: