A few nights ago I rewatched The Matrix for the first time in many years.
I was struck by how much it influenced my formative years: it planted seeds in my mind that flourished and changed the landscape of my beliefs. When Morpheus said, “You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there - like a splinter in your mind.” I felt as if he were speaking directly to me. Morpheus then shows us that the world humanity inhabits was created as an intentional prison. For me, it wasn’t a big stretch to see my reality in that grey light, but looking back on the last twenty or so years, I am left questioning the wisdom and utility of this viewpoint. One might say that I shouldn’t put so much stock in a movie, but I would argue that powerful stories like The Matrix shape how we know the world whether we want them to or not. They tell us what we believe about the nature of reality and possess the ability to influence those beliefs - for better or worse.
The idea of the world being a prison is ancient, going back far beyond Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and hundreds of years after Plato, the Gnostics continued the tradition with their intertwining of Pagan and Christian ideas (symbolically rich fantastical stories congruent with the plot of the Matrix). The movie is very consistent with Gnostic texts, in that, the only worthy goal in life is to escape the prison and subvert the sinister illusion created by our evil captors. Thus, the only worthy and altruistic deeds are to escape and help others escape. However, it is nearly impossible to escape without help from someone who has already escaped. Therefore, you have to find a Morpheus or a Socrates, or rather they have to find you, and decide you are worthy. In the meantime, nothing you know about the world is true, even the laws of nature, and thus the entire foundation of reality begins to shake, crack, and crumble. Your family isn’t really your family; they were chosen at random, or, by a disinterested bureaucrat from a higher realm. One is ultimately unshackled from the responsibility to family, community, nature, and God because all illusion must be abandoned in order to find the “truth.”
Initially the Gnostics were part of the early Christian church. One has to remember that many in the early church were raised as Pagans, and in those days people didn’t think of religion as we define it today. It wasn’t a separate thing that one attempted to believe, but the basis of reality. It was fully integrated into life. One saw the gods at work in everything. Moreover, thoughts did not originate in the human mind, but were understood to be the gods speaking to us, and the gods did not necessarily have man’s interests in mind. Another misconception is that people in those days only believed in their own gods. This is patently false. Deities were tethered to places and particular groups of people, thus if one went to a new place, there were new gods to deal with. Even the early Christians believed in the existence of Zeus, Hera, Athena (or whoever the local deity was). They also believed that their God created all the other gods, and that their God was omnipotent and inherently good, while the lower gods were thought to have rebelled. They were thought to be evil because they received worship meant for the Creator. When Christianity came on the scene, people didn’t just disregard everything they knew before - they couldn’t. Instead, they integrated the new information with rest - as we do now. The idea of the world being evil from the beginning wasn’t something that was easy to let go of for reasons that are obvious today. The Gnostics held on to this idea, which led to them being labeled as some of the first heretics. This was the source of the first schism in the church.
The Jews, and later, the Christians believed that God is inherently good. This is what demarcates them from other religions. God was, in fact, the primordial definition of good and imbued the world with this goodness. As the story goes, God made a walled garden within the world and placed man in it. Man’s purpose in life was to expand the garden and give names to everything. As I understand it (in broad terms) this means to bring order to chaos. Not “order” in the sense of cleaning your room or putting organizing your files, but “order” in the sense of knowing and participating in the patterns of reality set out by God. The chaos wasn’t evil, it was unknown, raw potential. Thus, they believed all of creation is good because God is good. Later, the world was corrupted due to the choices made by man and other infamous entities, and this led to the incarnation of God as man in the being of Christ. Christ was meant to be a path to the restoration of all creation. The attempt of living in alignment with Christ was a step towards the restoration of the garden, which was man’s responsibility. In contrast to the Pagans/Gnostics, the acceptance of this responsibility and participation in the redemption of the world was man’s destiny.
Both of these views of the origin of our world seem ludicrous to the modern mind because we rely on science to answer all of our questions about reality without actually understanding the science. Instead “they” understand it for us, and we believe. This leaves us in unaware of the limits of science and technique and without a cohesive view of reality. We have given science the status of a god and the faith that goes along with that status, but there are places where science cannot go, and it is dangerous and stupid to assume that if science cannot speak about a subject, it is either irrelevant or nonexistent. Neither the Judeo-Christian or the Gnostic/Pagan worldview is epistemologically provable. However, I argue that every human being alive right now is behaving as if either of them is true, and how one lives in relation to these ideals has the capacity to create ripples that span the globe and shape one’s life, as well as countless others. The idea of escape is seductive. It is very much alive in our current struggles with addiction, our obsession with technology, and even the modern Christian church’s doctrine of rapture to heaven as the world burns. It is all convoluted.
Is the world a prison or a garden overrun with weeds*? How one answers this question will shape their aspirations and determine how they deal with the inevitable suffering life will bring. I have tried the fruit of both trees, and I can tell you: the bitter fruit of responsibility imposed by the Judeo-Christian’s sits better in my stomach. It has begun to reconnect the pieces of my fragmented existence, it has shown me that the tyrant has invaded my heart and mind and must be evicted. It has shown me that my actions have power and meaning. Still, I have been wrong so many times and about so many things that I would not presume to tell anyone how to live or the what the “Truth” is. There is always a place we are compelled go that is beyond what we have the ability to know, and no one can go there for us. Courage and faith are necessities no matter what you believe. Maybe the important thing to realize is that you have to choose, and in the words of Neil Peart, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
* There is a third choice. Namely that good and evil are human constructs, but in my opinion that idea doesn’t bear up under scrutiny, explaining is beyond the scope of this essay, and it’s a boring, hubristic, and tedious idea.
Death possesses a particular life of its own - does it not? A glimpse into the bowels of what once was. Life and death refer to existence and no longer extant: but how can one quantify existence when it functions on a continuum? A sentiment and philosophy acknowledged in the band name N.E.R.D. (No-one Ever Really Dies), unless…
William S. Burroughs makes astute observation and provides deeper (spiritual) commentary on a not dissimilar concept on page seven of his book, The Western Lands, when he postulates scientific substantiations of souls and their cosmological essence and life span: Can any soul survive the searing fireball of an atomic blast? If human and animal souls are seen as electromagnetic force fields, such fields could be totally disrupted by a nuclear explosion. The mummy’s nightmare: disintegration of souls…
As long as electromagnetic force fields (Souls) composed of interconnective energistic matter (fleshless human entities) are our corporeal destinies (if mushroom cloud causing annihilations remain unpressed) then Pharrel Williams and the rest of the N.E.R.D. clan, countless musicians, artists, and other cosmically attuned creatures of the Universe, and, lastly, the sagacious Joni Mitchell, who eloquently expresses her Universal understanding in the song, Woodstock, at the Woodstock festival:
...We are stardust / We are golden / And we've got to get ourselves / Back to the garden / Billion year old carbon / Caught in the devil's bargain / We are golden / And we've got to get ourselves / Back to the garden…
There exists an irrefutable responsibility upon the mislabeled and scapegoat identified “lost” : individuals blessed and cursed with grace and consciousness bound to infinity’s universal, sentient composed, stardust - an invincible ubiquity beyond our limited access to the physical realm. And this was exactly Toshio’s conundrum, reality: and its proceeding stages of ambiguous recompense. What Toshio began to realize was (gifted by way of metamorphic transition from experiential waking to purgatorial ephemera) these were his his final days of corporeal engagement: now he, like Dante, must backfill the blind spots of his emotionally inconsiderate and selfish past: Toshio was relegated to self-examination - how does one determine, with grace, the punishment equal the crime severity of their consequential past? One could suppose he is to tease out, through the allegorical recapitulations of actors by other names the degree and dosage of other’s resentments and interpersonal misfirings - all slowly comes to view once relocated from petri dish to viewfinder.
We are Dante; we are Virgil; we are Toshio: there is no escape. Another musical poet enters my mind to help illustrate the enormity of our cause, or struggle, or path to accepting the guilt: and that is Aimee Mann and her song, Wise Up.
It's not / What you thought / When you first began it / You got / What you want / Now you can hardly stand it though / By now you know / It's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / 'Til you wise up / You're sure / There's a cure / And you have finally found it / You think / One drink / Will shrink you 'til you're underground / And living down / But it's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / 'Til you wise up / Prepare a list of what you need / Before you sign away the deed / 'Cause it's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / It's not going to stop / 'Til you wise up / No, it's not going to stop / 'Til you wise up / No, it's not going to stop / So just, give up
As a reader (and listener) one can easily get caught in the song’s lugubrious misdirection. This is not a defeatist song. This song represents strength, hope, acceptance, and the rock bottom one requires to precipitate a personal change. Do not give up on life, give up fighting life. Fighting life is analogous to fighting grape jelly or Jell-o (and we all saw what happened to Bill Cosby). This is what Running to Death (RTD) represents: the recognition that life is an impossible absurdity and carving a path through its intransigent brambles to spite it best we can. Give up the fight and find a way to cut a sliver, the beginnings of a clearing, to spend your time (our most valuable asset) to do the things you are passionate about; the activities you love; the people you love; the places you love; the spirit you love. And I want to be very clear on the following point: sure, I am talking to you (if you choose to listen), but first and foremost I am talking to me. I am seeking a way, a path, to decency - a life I can feel proud of and content with - because we will blink, and be looking back on either a life well lived or a field of regret and resentment. And itisa choice. I once read that Abraham Lincoln said that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be: I have to make a conscious effort to choose to make up my mind daily, because the misery is were I cut my teeth; it is where I honed my mind, sharpened my soul, and unraveled my being. And I am lucky: it mostly came back together - no longer can I give it away.
Toshio Masaku was was dying. He knew this unbreakable conscious certainty. The tension created over the years by incomplete tasks, unmet responsibilities, and forgotten ideals temporarily fettered him to his dying body. He could see the bloody bodies of his assailants and in the distance, the Crystal Mountain. He pushed through the fog in his mind to the story his grandmother told about the jagged shining peak. There was deep cave or maybe an abyss and a ambitious young man who got more than he bargained for. He was not heard of for many years until he reappeared not having aged a day, with eyes full of light, saying strange things Toshio could not remember but could somehow feel. Toshio died.
Toshio had abandoned his body once before. He had been sailing...somewhere and had gotten drunk out boredom. There was a terrible storm, and he had drowned. Before he was resuscitated he had a brief, somewhat vague experience of standing or hovering over his own body- and then only darkness. This was an altogether different experience. He was looking down on his slumped form, and for a moment his vision had a clarity and crispness he had never experienced. The thought that he was seeing himself seemed very ominous, and he quickly understood what was happening to him. Then the world became an undulating expanse of sea anemones in a of myriad colors. What was now his body (which wasn’t really a body, but energy that had formerly been contained in his body) began slowly expanding in all directions. He experienced this as a gentle but insistent tugging from the center of his being. This continued until he had encompassed the whole Earth. He was surrounded and coming up against an ethereal yet very real object he intuited to be the Moon. It looked nothing like the Moon-unless you turned the Moon inside out and wrapped it around you like a blanket. From his perspective, his “body”, seemed to surround the earth while simultaneously being inside the Moon. There was an audible pop and suddenly he was looking at stars of blinding brilliance, throbbing with color as if alive. Toshio felt as if innumerable unblinking eyes were staring down at him and peering into every nook and cranny of his soul. As they stared, they moved in patterns that were beautiful yet painful to behold. He felt as if some part of him was being pealed away-like the removal of an old bandage or clothing worn for way too long. At the moment of separation, everything went dark and silent. For a long time there seemed to be nothing, but as he realized the strangeness of experiencing nothing, something happened. It was as if a seed became a tree in an instant. The life recently departed surrounded him now as a panoramic tableau of memories in a vast space. They were not his memories exactly, but more like other’s memories of his life. Many were long forgotten, and the sight of it altogether was a wonder. He found himself drawn to the picture of himself dying. It expanded as he attended to it and pulled him into itself until he was again in the place where he died, but from a different perspective. Someone else’s perspective. He also could see his own former body in front of him, still very much alive. Toshio was seeing through the eyes of his attacker, who just like him, was dead now. He could feel anxiety and anger that were not his own and sensed a dark presence in his periphery. He felt the man’s will waver and return, but was in no way in control of anything the man did. The man was rushing past another man lying dead on the ground towards...himself. Something sharp, fast, and intrusive planted itself in the chest of the man Toshio was inhabiting. He felt the blade enter between his ribs and puncture his left lung. Toshio remained within the man as the the still living version of himself stumbled over to finish the job. It did not take long, but it was excruciating, and feeling another man’s fear and agony shook him violently. When the man he inhabited (his attacker) finally expired, Toshio found himself in very similar situation in the body of his other assailant. This was the man who had surprised him and gave him the wound that eventually killed him. The experience of feeling this attackers malice from within as he stabbed Toshio while Toshio simultaneously turned and viciously stabbed back at the man he now inhabited was unbearable. The painful and confusing inverted memories continued until he had endured the wounds inflicted on each of his attackers. Always there was a dark figure just out of sight.
He proceeded backwards through his life experiencing all the good and ill he had inflicted on others. The sense of justice and intuitive knowledge that what was happening him was right was as real to Toshio as the chair I’m sitting in right now. He was a soldier and had killed many, but none with malice save one. While all the pain he had inflicted on others and now felt was excruciatingly accurate, he could see the justice in what was happening, and each experience left his heart a little lighter. This provided a bedrock of peace for him, but when he encountered the betrayer everything changed. This man had done something horrible and Toshio hated him, but now, Toshio could not remember what he had actually done. He knew he had killed the man in his sleep, but fought against the memory now, knowing this would be far worse than any prior pain. He attempted to hide, but the form of dark figure lurking in his periphery was very close now and exerted an unfaltering magnetic pull on his being. The pull became stronger and stronger until all that existed was an eternal violent ripping and burning that started in his heart and extended itself to every edge of his consciousness. He gave in to the presence and the experience. He lay in his enemies sleeping body watching himself do the shameful work in misery with intense hatred for existence. To him it seemed like all that had ever existed was white hot pain and loathing. There was nothing else, and so Toshio knew eternity and wished to forget it. He loathed his own existence, and at last, begging for mercy that he knew was impossible, something hard and jagged deep in his heart crumbled. The sorrow continued to overwhelmed him. He would have paid any price for the ability to shed a tear, but it was too late for tears. He repented anyway. He relinquished his claim on the wrong done to him, accepted the guilt of his murderous reprisal, and acknowledged that he had been the villain.
I am glad to say that Toshio passed through the rest of his memories with humble dignity. Also, I do not wish to give the impression that all Toshio experienced during this time was painful. He lived most of his life as a good and honorable man. He loved and was loved by many and did a great deal for the benefit of others, -much of it in secret as he did not enjoy attention. As he enjoyed the fruits of these secret gifts, a sense of satisfied bliss not attainable in the physical realm engulfed his spirit and bathed him in God’s unwavering love. These experiences were plentiful and acted as a balm for the pain he endured. After enduring his mother’s birth pains, he found himself back in the thought and memory of her womb. He felt another part of him that he supposed wasn’t actually him slide smoothly away and then there was light. He felt like a sword being pulled from its sheath. His thoughts and awareness became sharp and clear again.
It is at this point that the story becomes impossible to tell, or I at least I lack the capacity to tell it due to lack of words describing non-physical objects and entities. However, Toshio had much left to do, many obstacles to overcome, but he eventually found a sort of rest -for a while. If I can find the words and you want to hear it, I will tell you the rest of his story in the future. It is an extraordinary and perhaps impossible thing to accurately relate any non-physical experience, and it can be harmful to people’s minds if you get it wrong, but maybe I’ll try anyhow.
Covid-19 triggers microbiome-wokeness through theater’s hygiene -
A tactful emulation of security’s profiled theater. Green marketing’s histrionic amalgamation of “practical” And “recommended” both equallying - MORE!). I implore lobotomists to sanitize Our frontal lobes, a supplantation payout solution - a mitigative scroll. Time does not consider us. Time received its human vaccine
Many pandemicies ago. Be careful! Do not conflate vaccine And cure (a molecular intervention v. an acute Zeitgeist hygiene Adjustment). And no doubt are these unprecedented times - check your feed - scroll The day’s highlights(?) for corroborative information confirmation:the super sly media’s theater Suggests your algorithmic tale - where absolute freedom crossroad’s the need to sanitize Quotidian American havers, out of context insensitivities, and surrealism’s practical
Feelingfilter usage solution feigning remedy -Highly Practical!?!?. Covid’s unintended consequence exposed a need for a more complex vaccine:
Not an anecdotal systemic Band-Aid for power’s desire to sanitize Peoples’ thoughts, opinions, feelings, and words. The self-hating PC hygiene Conspirators have infected Americana’s cellular structure throughtrumpedup media theater. All the while denial’s denial foresaw the occurrence: evidenced in our 10 year scroll
Log - painting beautifully a present day picture - evidenced in archaic scrolls, Which outline a spirit driven descent into a hard-cock driven ethos (not a practical Mindset for mental health longevity). Oh America! Narcissism’s theater Effused in the palms’ of our pixelated hands. We need a hug and a vaccine - From our disconnected connections - an overcorrection boils the frog but hygiene Education and insight could assist the cause - don’t incinerate the door to sanitize
The knob. And sure, a good boil will sanitize, But treating symptoms with no aftercare lacks systemic foresight. Maybe scroll Through personality disorder treatment plans prior to a reactive enaction? For hygiene Theater masks the realities of denial’s fatalities: distracts practical Perceptions fromnovelneeds - a remedy, ie. a psychic change and virus vaccine. Lin-Manuel Miranda, please musicalize this tragedy in poignant theater!
Bring modernity into Shakespeare’s insight - the whole world a theater On The Stage of United States, and its intransigent modality to sanitize A corrupt veneer while the mentally ill suffer in plain sight. A vaccine Is no homelessness solution; nor is a faultline rumble in hopes it will scroll Off encampments into the ocean (Out of sight, out of mind!). To the haves, practical! But it’s hardly as humanitarian as Hollywood’s humanitarianism claims; their hygiene
Brands mental health theater as idols to worship through the images we scroll: Sanitize my eyes from this blinding toxicity. Or has convolution made practical Process problem solving inaccessible? Or is the vaccine another layer of theater?
Durability: a testament to water
(a friend informed me years ago that he had a huge breakthrough in his world when he stopped asking for answers he already knew)
In this place
We paint the walls
We paint the ceiling
We paint the trim
We paint the floor
We paint our eyes
We paint our toe nails
We paint our souls.
All of eternity lies within us. We were everything long before everything even became a thing. Nature is violent: space is violent - we are both. A beautiful amalgam of space time and violence. We are born durable with myriad answers residing in our being: beyond thought, beyond word, beyond neurological immediacy and accessibility. Take a breath: you know the right thing to do. Make a decision; it is yours. Stand by your heart and soul: and don't think - do it! And if it does not work out, learn and live the lesson. Bruce Lee says be water: I say be everything, because that is, in fact, exactly what we are.