“You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” — Morpheus (‘The Matrix’, 1999)
The blue pill represents blissful ignorance and illusion. The red pill represents freedom and knowledge. Our matrix is a little different from the movie. In the movie, artificial intelligence (AI) has enslaved humanity and plugged everyone into a simulation or matrix, giving them the impression that they are free and experiencing reality.
In our current reality, the matrix isn’t controlled by some evil AI (although some argue this is a very real possibility). This matrix is controlled by us, or more specifically our minds. It is so much a part of our everyday existence (and has been for millennia) that we almost never pause to question it. That’s the whole point. We identify with our minds, our intelligence. Of course we do, what other option is there? Nothing sums up our current state of affairs than Descartes proposition: cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am).
We think of ourselves as a very advanced civilization. It’s not absurd to think so — just look at how far we have advanced technology, and how quickly we continue to progress. The Renaissance probably triggered all this, and we have been accelerating ever since. The mind has driven all this progress. But it’s not all great when you look at some of the things that have come in its wake — social inequality, poverty, environmental destruction, pollution, climate change, wars, increased stress, depression, anxiety, just to name a few. Turn to the news and it’s even more depressing.
For every step forward, we take a couple steps backwards. Consider the macro level. Why does it feel like our progress has to come at the expense of our planet and all life on it (including humanity)? Why aren’t we able to co-exist in harmony and balance with all? Why is there this entitled sense that we are better, smarter than all life on this planet and have a right to dominate, plunder and exploit it by taking all we can get? And then some.
Now consider the micro level — your individual life. You want to do well, and in our society that usually means improving your financial condition. Work hard to get into the best schools. Work hard to get that job. Work hard for that promotion or raise. Work hard to get that business off the ground. Work hard to build your equity. Rich dad says buy more real estate. Warren Buffet says buy more stocks. Work hard to achieve. Work hard to be successful. Work hard to accelerate your growth. Work hard to excel. Be more productive. All that so you can enjoy the fruits of this labor — a bigger house, a better car, nicer clothes, nicer things, more likes on social media, nicer friends(?), more respect(?), more freedom(?), more happiness(?), more fulfillment(?). We all deserve beautiful and fulfilling lives. But why does it feel like such a life can only be achieved via incessant competition to get ahead, beating the “other guy” and laying a claim to scarce resources? Is this all life was meant to be?
These macro and micro questions have been nagging me the past few years. And I know I’m not the only one.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” — Jim Carrey
So what is the answer?
I finally decided to take the red pill and find out.
Like Neo, the red pill will take you on wild ride unlike one you’ve ever experienced in this reality. But this is where the likeness to the movie ends. While Neo comes to realize his mastery by battling AI programs, you will discover yours by coming face to face with the dark, inner, hidden recceses of your mind and subconscious.
Each person has their own darkness and struggles, but here’s the stuff that came up for me, and I’m sure a lot of people will be able to relate. Unbeknownst to me, I carried this ‘muck’ in my subconscious, and didn’t even realize most of my whole life was built around these shaky thoughts and beliefs. In some cases, I was probably aware of these beliefs but too ashamed to admit to myself.
Need to be accepted
The root feeling is one of unworthiness, and the only way to feel worthy is acceptance from others. Need to be perceived as intelligent. Need to be good to others. Need for validation from authority figures (bosses, parents, teachers, etc.). Need for respect from others. All of this was a cry for acceptance. This drove me to be unauthentic. I was always insecure that I would be ‘caught out’ and the real me would never be good enough.
Need to compare and measure up
Need to constantly compare to feel better or worse. Who’s better off? Who’s funnier? Who’s smarter? Who’s fitter? Who has a bigger title? Who’s taller? Who’s business is doing better? Who won? This drove me to better at school, at work at all costs, sometimes to the point of burn-out. This also drove a lot of jealousy, anger and frustration.
Need to judge
Judge others I don’t agree with. Judge others that aren’t doing things that are “right”. Judge situations. Judge behaviors. And the person that faced the most judgement and contempt was myself! I was hardest on myself. It didn’t matter what. This led to a lot of resentment, fear, anger and frustration.
Need to feel superior
This ties in with some of the ones above. But at it’s root, it’s a deep insecurity and the only way out of it is to compare or compete and come out ahead.
Feelings of lack
This feeling that there isn’t enough out there for everyone. This drove greed and desire to just try and accumulate wealth and stuff for myself.
There’s probably more that I’m forgetting now, but you get the idea. I must admit, I was pretty shocked.
I’ve done reasonably well at school, and career. But everything I was creating was out of my mind, a dark place of deep insecurity. This is what the mind does. It’s wired to compete, to seek approval, to lay it’s claim. At the micro level we’re all creating from this place of fear and insecurity. It’s no wonder that the macro starts looking like it does. If each person is out for themselves, acting out their own insecurities, you’re going to get corporations, governments and systems that are based on greed, fear, insecurity, imbalance and disharmony. The matrix.
And the mind will never be satisfied. It will want more, which is why no amount of money or celebrity is truly fulfilling.
So how do we answer and solve all the macro issues at the top of this page? One thing is for sure — we can’t solve these issues at the same level of consciousness that created these problems.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein
The next level of human progress and evolution will require a radical new way of being. A new human that’s not enslaved to the matrix. More of my thoughts on this to come soon.
But like Neo, you must first realize you’re in the matrix. So like Morpheus, I offer you the choice. What will will it be — the blue pill or red?