Obviously, men see themselves in Neo. But…why do women? The casting of Keanu Reeves and his signature doe-eyed look? The need to save him? His almost saccharine and yet hopeful redemption?
These theories are based on my own (grossly) general observation — a product of conversation, not science.
I find it interesting that as kickass, lithe, intelligent, intuitive, flexible, adaptable and clearly powerful as Trinity is, people identify with Neo in the sense that he is W.I.P. — a work in progress.
Up until about three months ago, I might have said the same of me. Recently, meditating over The Matrix with one lone scented candle, I came to a startling realization:
We want to believe we’re special and capable of believing in ourselves
— but before we can be The One, we must be The Zero.
A “cypher”, according to the movie’s mythology, is a code, a way of writing something in secret but, also, it is the nothing. A zero.
Perhaps I am — and we all are — initially closer to That Guy Everyone Loves to Hate: Cypher.
Harsh? Maybe. Much as we’re loathe to admit it, I think there’s no time to waste — brutally honest is what our climate calls for, right now, wouldn’t you say?
But rather than referring to the extreme betrayal, I’m speaking of Cypher’s extremely understandable need to…simply be re-inserted into the Matrix.
To return to something safe.
To seek structure and knowability.
To shrink back down instead of confronting the great unknowability of our own lives, our own path, our proposed impact. To seek refuge from the circus-like circuitry running our world right now.
His specific and weighted emphasis on the line, “I don’t want to remember nothing,” particularly resonated with me in the aftermath of making a similar decision myself. A decision — of my own making, by the way — to “re-enter the Matrix”.
Last year I decided to put entrepreneurship – and my self-determined existence – on hold and go back to grad school.
Only the problem was that I remembered everything, and leaving was even easier than being reinserted.
In the wake of leaving the Matrix (ie; quitting the grad school plan) after having been re-inserted was a large vacuum, a deep, dark abyss, a void whose oppressing silence and pitch blackness was hitting home one thing to me.
My attempt at reinsertion into “the Matrix” — the world of hoops and rewards and assignments and deadlines and pandering and ass-kissing and worth-proving and pedestal-climbing through the start of a graduate degree left me reeling.
I pulled out but I couldn’t help but feel like a mirror shattered into large, jagged shards, at a precise point of fracture.
I was rushed and angry and depressed all the time. I had become so accustomed to steering my own ship, running my own business, navigating like a goddamn human, I started to take it for granted.
I voluntarily shot my own freedom in the kneecaps by giving my time over to something that, if I’m being brutally honest, again, I’d say was really to provide me some sense of a “break”.
A structure. A knowability. A curriculum.
As I contemplated this massive void in front of me, that self-same silence screaming in inverted colours, “What’s next?”, I had to be brutally honest with myself once more: I was operating on the mental projection of an image of a woman who no longer existed.
I had changed. Even if I had at one point wanted to be reinserted into the Matrix, I had already cracked the code. Too late. I knew too much. Red pill-blue pill.
It was like, somewhere, transversing from the Matrix time zone back to The Land of Self-Determination I’ve grown into, I left someone behind.
Like jetlag, it felt like a large, gaping hole of time or self-definition or all the scripts I’ve ever been telling myself — more than simply lagging behind — never to actually return.
The Issue with the Entrepreneurial Myth
Of the innumerable incisive and brilliant things George Monbiot has ever said, of particular note to me are his words on the “Career Advice” section of his website (if you’ve never read this, I urge you to click through).
He derides the common attitude so many young people or those heading back to a phase of graduate studies or entry-level jobs face, describing it thus:
You can apply this little nugget of nougat to whatever remotely resembles anything in which you are told to run around and prove yourself for the sake of running someone else’s rat race.
At the same time, if you’re starting out — whether for the first time or your hundredth time — I want to say this: unless you’re doing MLM or you’re a real-estate agent, you are going to change.
This product you’re selling right now, it’s not going to be the only point of your contribution. This thing that you’re studying right now might not even be relevant when you leave.
You are going to change. It is going to add up.
And, hey, it’s going to be dark for a while to come. And by that I mean, you can’t really see what’s coming. You’re going to have to feel around. When you make it to the next marker, you’re going to have to reach out in the darkness again.
People say that entrepreneurs are adrenaline junkies who get their high off of the thrill of not knowing what comes next. But…the truth is…if you’re doing life the right way, that should be the case — no matter what.
Why don’t you want structure, they’ll ask you? Structure is a fallacy. Going there and coming back again makes you realize that the true myth of entrepreneurialism is that it’s a piece of clothing you can put on or take off.
As though it’s not actually who you are at your very core.
As though self-determination and self-reliance are somehow mutually exclusive from living a “normal” life versus a brave life.
Put simply: There is no spoon.
Asking the Right Questions — In the Right Way
Navigating your way back from the Matrix doesn’t only leave you with a gaping hole of WtAF (What the Actual Fuck??)
It also reveals to you all the awful portions of your mind that have been running the show thus far. Like sickened branches, you’re going to have to cleave these off and grow new ones.
After a period of intense disease, distraught and discomfort, I gathered myself up again — and chose to isolate myself from friends and loved ones. I needed to listen in on what was going on inside if I had any hope of answering that nagging question: “What’s next?”
Eventually, I’ve made it through to this touch point from which I’m beaming you this message. Less of an update, more like a fortune cookie but not as maddeningly vague, I hope.
Many times, we’re asking the wrong questions. And, what’s worse, we ask the wrong questions and in the wrong ways.
We want to ask about our futures and how we can make a difference.
How we can harness our talents.
How we can develop ourselves.
How we can capitalize on opportunities in order to contribute but also to refine who we are.
It’s like we’re approaching some cute guy or gal that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves into believing is, “way out of our league” (whatever the fuck that means) and instead, our usually witty selves are totally gobsmacked, so we spit out shit like this:
“Here”, being, ostensibly, this mental prison we’ve crafted out of these idiotic, self-hating, reductive, aggressive, shitty and unhelpful questions.
As I got really quiet and spent time with myself, I noticed this diatribe of garbage eventually tiring itself out like a two-year old running in circles after a sugar high. Once it collapsed on the floor, wide-eyed in exhaustion, I started to feel clearer.
The way “back” — out of the Matrix and into the desert of the real — is through the right questions, spoken in the right way.
I implore you to start asking the right questions. The questions that, after having spoken and articulated them, the living of your life will actually answer for you — through you.
Trust me, the answers…will surprise you. They may even shock you. But don’t stop. Don’t stop asking.
Do stop trying to automatically populate the silence with rehearsed statements. Get really quiet. And listen…truly listen to what comes. Sit with it, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
P.S. I’m really fucking uncomfortable right now.
Flip the Script
Talking to Tom Bilyeu, the always-intense former Navy SEAL and ultra-athlete David Goggins, said this of himself:
There is something within me that has always kept me searching. Hungry. Seeking. Curious. On the best of days, you might call this an example of Carol Dweck’s “Growth Mindset”.
On the darkest of nights, you might call it one of a craven thirst, a residue of millennials who feel a need prove a prophecy of being “special” and “high potential”, segregated as we were into gifted programs and funneled into specialized programs.
This restless need — not only to prove my worth, but perform it and surpass it — is, as you may have guessed it, a double edged sword and an exercise in futility. Utterly doomed to fail. Not because the demonstration of “potential” is an illusive fallacy.
I’m not that cynical. In fact, I’m not cynical at all.
But “potential” is bullshit if it’s held in one hand without the counterbalance of “but also, I am a pathetic, pathetic creature. How does it feel to be so spectacularly unremarkable?”
If this sounds a little masochistic, full of self-hate and sort of destructive, bear with me. It’s a wonderful tactic that I’m only just waking up to and the power of it, for me, lies in the recognition of paradox.
To know something about yourself and yet to, at the same time, be actively “becoming” that while understanding you will never achieve it. A limit, always approaching zero but never arriving at zero.
It’s not only the mentally rigorous exercise of having to hold two opposing worldviews in one brain, combating the temptation of slipping into one extreme or the other…it’s also about the fact that life itself is a paradox.
Belief — in oneself, in one’s higher calling and in the “path” you’ve chosen as your ultimate following of bliss — is both a choice and yet non-negotiable.
In other words, you must know it’s a choice — and yet you must take it for granted, as fact.
It is, really, to understand that these worldviews, at their core, are like the double-slit experiment, both apparent at once and yet not at all. Behaving as both a particle and a wave. Truth and illusion.
We are bold in our exploration, conquering ourselves and space — and yet we’re completely insignificant and destructible.
And to still go forth. Without giving two shits.