The Matrix

§ the Matrix — The virtual world of superficial pursuits and meaningless possessions that we use as a smokescreen to obscure the true nature of the world. (See also cocoon.) We think the Matrix is real, but it isn't. It is a delusion generated in our minds which prevents us from experiencing life directly.

In the movie The Matrix, we learn that life as we know it is a virtual reality projection. Our real bodies are stored in vats in a giant warehouse somewhere, while everything we think is real is generated by a computer program and fed directly into our nervous system. A few people have learned to break out of the Matrix and see life as it really is, which is a lot darker and more desperate than the delusion leads us to believe.

I am not saying that the objects and activities around us aren't real, only that the meaning we assign to them isn't. For the most part, we don't need these things. They just get in the way of living.

We all need to eat, sleep and have meaningful relationships with others. We don't need most of the other stuff we surround ourselves with: objects, hobbies, rituals, entertainment. Certain modern conveniences, like supermarkets, indoor plumbing and central heating, make our lives easier. Most other things just make life more complicated and separate us from what is really important.

The Matrix prevents us from seeing most of the pain and suffering all around us. Inside the Matrix, we can waste our time and money on worthless pursuits without being conscious of how much better those resources could be used elsewhere.

For example, visiting a casino in Las Vegas is a "Matrix" experience. Look at all those wasted resources: people blowing huge amounts of time and money on activities that have little meaning and that, in the end, aren't very satisfying. Why do people prefer to give their precious resources to a casino rather than to a worthy charity or meaningful project? They do so because they are locked in the Matrix and can't see beyond it.

It is much more satisfying, in the long run, to see behind the Matrix and understand the wheels that are turning behind the scenes. What is going on inside those slot machines? The spinning reels, in fact, are controlled by a computer, and the spinning itself is just a time-delay device. What is going on inside slot machine players? They are also controlled by a computer, although a much more complicated one.

Most people are happy seeing the surface of things. They don't want to know what's happening under the surface. The surface is the Matrix—the artificial reality. Behind it is the scaffolding, clockwork and secret passageways that really make things work.

If you are young, poor and hungry, you can probably see behind the Matrix better than others. You are dealing with life at a more basic and honest level, even if it isn't pleasant. The more resources you have, the more stuff you tend to collect around you—useless objects and activities—and it interferes with your ability to see below the surface and directly experience the world.

To break out of the Matrix, you have to be willing to lose the stuff—not just the physical stuff but the activities and obsessions that you know darn well are useless.

What would you be doing right now if you knew you were going to die a year from today? Whatever you choose to do, those activities are probably real and worthwhile. The rest is probably Matrix material that should be discarded, even if you plan to live.

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