Please watch this classic scene from the Matrix before you read this post.
For those of you who have not seen the Matrix Trilogy, I highly recommend it. Not only does it offer the adrenaline rush of a special-effects thriller, but it’s rich in philosophical ideas. I love the symbolism of the blue pill versus red pill dilemma. It’s an elegant metaphor for an idea I’ve been contemplating this past school year.
This theory rests on the assumption that human experiences are all relative. Put simply, whatever satisfies me, may or may not satisfy another individual. I may find meaning in reading literature written by JD Salinger, whereas someone else may dismiss his works as plagued by a childish idealism. Specifically to Blue Pill Theory, different experiences satisfy different people.
Along with all the traditional, shallow academic stresses of this past junior year, came an even greater burden for me. I was plagued by a restless feeling that all my academic efforts were for nothing, for what is the intrinsic value in memorizing textbook chapters verbatim, and completing homework assignments as a robotic factory would manufacture product? I would ask myself, “Why am I doing this?,” only to be met with the dark, muted silence, echoing from a vacuum of worth. At the same time, I felt pretentious. Who am I to question the value of an education system that’s been in place for nearly a century? Of course it’s important to earn good grades and to work hard, one’s own future depends on it.
That of course, is the simple answer. It’s an answer that the blue pill disciples would give. Stepping back and looking at myself, I wondered why I was even bothered by these questions of purpose and meaning. What about all of those hard working students across the nation who are able to pass through school without stressing about its intrinsic worth? Why could I not simply dismiss my doubts as silly ideological musings? Why, in my own subjective reality, must I seek greater meaning, must I seek this perhaps nonexistent metaphysical realm?
Perhaps this is unreasonable of me, but recently I’ve begun to envy those whom I consider to exist in the “Garden of Eden.” I use the term to symbolize a life not plagued by doubts of worth and pursuits of meaning. Referring to my idea of Transliminism, these are the people who are able to carry out an amoeban existence, and who experience neither awareness nor descent. They can live in blissful ignorance, manifested in a variety of ways, but chiefly in their lacking an intuition that begs for metaphysical satisfaction. Perhaps they do not feel obligated to improve the world around them. The various social mores and environmental crises of the day do not disconcert them. Furthermore, the recreational activities of pop culture, such as binge drinking and status seeking, may be enough to satisfy their minds. Sacrificing time and effort, perhaps even dignity, to robotically manufacture high academic scores, might arouse no discomfort.
One could say that such individuals do not actually live in the Garden of Eden, but live in a horrible Matrix. However, if Matrix-participants do not know of a greater reality, why does it matter? Even if it is a Matrix, to them it might truly a Garden of Eden. Reality may very well be a subjective thing. Humans, despite being the same species, may not all reach similar conclusions about the need to pursue metaphysical meaning.
These notions make me see the world in a different, much more cynical light. Cody O’Brien put forth this video game allegory; some people are born into the world having to play the game of life on the “hard” difficulty, while others are born having to play the game on the “easy” mode. There probably exists a spectrum of difficulty, but the concept remains the same. Based on both nature and nurture, certain people are disposed to approach life with an optimism and bliss that others do not possess. Some people are more vulnerable to clinical depression, and others have experienced unfortunate tragedy. Biting into the forbidden fruit, in this case, is not a choice, but simply fate. The half-full versus half-empty is not a test of choice, but of circumstance.
Now, I call this “Blue Pill Theory” because of the theoretical blue pill that once taken, can revert one’s thinking back to a blissful, matrix-induced state. I admit this sounds a lot like using drugs or alcohol to escape one’s problems. The idea is similar, but the blue pill would be a total reversion. It would wipe the slate clean, leaving no trace of former angst. It would be like living another life. Ask yourself, would you take the blue pill? There are days where I honestly would take the blue pill. There are also days where I scoff at such a ridiculous choice.
I must say, my natural disposition recoils from believing in this dark theory of mine, because this Blue Pill Theory discredits the pursuit of meaning. If Blue Pill Theory were true, and certain people are naturally inclined to “easier” lives, that means my pursuit of “meaning,” whatever the heck that is, is a pathetic, natural response in pushing me to survive. If Blue Pill Theory were true, that would mean I simply got the short end of the stick, and now I’m forced to struggle in return for no reward. What is the difference between meaning I achieve, and meaning achieved by Eden members? Isn’t it all subjective meaning? Why is my meaning so much harder to earn?
But my intuition tells me that at the end of the road, I will be glad that I struggled so. Maybe humans do reach some universal conclusion about the purpose of life. Maybe the Garden of Eden is merely a euphemism for what is actually a Matrix. Or maybe my intuition is just leading me on to trust in a nonexistent metaphysical realm simply because, for survival’s sake, I must.