At the end of The Matrix, Keanu Reeve’s character Neo was getting pounded by the incessant attacks from the agents of the system, especially agent Smith. He was beaten down so badly, that he practically died.
But then, he was struck with a revelation. Something clicked. Neo stood back up with an insight and a knowing that he was not only more powerful than their bullshit, but any power they had, became quite useless and ineffective.
Upon Neo’s standing, the ‘Agents of the System” in an annoyed rage, fired their guns at him. And in a calm voice, Neo said “No”, putting his hand up, stopping the barrage of bullets in mid air. He plucked one out, looked at it, and dropped it as if it was insignificant. The rest of the bullets then fell to the floor.
Neo was playing their game and no matter how hard he and the resistance fought against the system, they would never actually win. This was the moment he realized that he didn’t have to live in a “reality” constructed by the system, designed to control him.
Once he figured this out, everything changed.
The “system” is a construct that we got used to following. We fall in line and literally stand in lines, waiting our turn. While it’s enigmatically oppressive, it’s seems comfortable and we like comfort, even if it comes in the form of depression.
As psychotherapist Jon Shore said, “Depression is like a warm, dark, wet blanket, almost like a womb of darkness. A safe, but painful space. The unknown can be frightening, so we feel comfortable in the deep darkness. At least we know that place.”
The Matrix movies have a dark, depressing hue to them. The director did a fantastic job of painting this picture of control and oppression. A fake freedom with just a hint of “happiness”. Not too much; just a hint. Or, maybe that’s comfort. Easy to mix up.
The system has been in place for so long, it practically runs itself. The sheep begin to police the sheep as self-proclaimed agents of the system and with that level of control, all the system has to do is steer the ship. When the seas get a little wavy, the system throws in a roadblock, a new hurdle, a new set of standards with timelines, deadlines, and more … lines. Get in line!
I love the smell of fake freedom in the morning.
Practically from birth, we’re conditioned to fall in line: Achieve for the judgement of others, “Good job Tommy!” “He’s such a well-behaved kid.” “He’s going places.”
Mmm, probably not.
He’s going to do well living for the perception and approval of others. He’ll play by the rules in the game of the system, working hard for a slice of achievement, while going into financial, mental, and physical debt, not to mention lost time, for that next piece of paper that says “congratulations”. And … nothing.
You don’t qualify. Wait your turn. You don’t have enough experience or the super-specific kind of experience we’re looking for. Sorry. Next please. Or, “here’s our offer, which is shit. Would you like to eat some?”
We hear things like, “He’s fighting the good fight.” Yeah, I’ve been in a lot of fights in my time and not one of them were “good”.
So, what then? Fight the system?
That will just lead to a life of fighting and misery. At one point in the movie, Joe Pantoliano’s character, Cypher decides, he’d rather be oblivious and agrees to conspire with Agent Smith to be put back into the Matrix, so that he can live in “bliss”. Yeah, fighting wears on a person.
In James Altucher’s book, Skip the Line, he says, “Don’t strive to be the best. Instead, be the only.”
Get out of line and journey into the unknown. Get comfortable with uncertainty and enjoy it for its freedom. Go do stuff, but not for anyone’s judgement. Fail without caring what others think. They’re just sheep anyway. You’re not a sheep.
We’re not so much afraid of failure, but instead we’ve been conditioned to fear the judgement of others and what they’ll think of our failures. Stop giving a f*ck.
Love yourself and live accordingly.
Be like Neo. Don’t give the system any power that it doesn’t really have.
Photo by Warner Brothers Pictures