California, USA — Tuesday, June 21st

Ignorance is bliss

The 1999 movie, The Matrix, is a science-fiction classic. It forces viewers to rethink reality, but for those acquainted with the Vedas, it is old hat: The world is an illusion? Duh!

The Matrix asserts that the world as we know it is an illusion: humans are unaware of the reality of their existence (that they are enslaved by intelligent machines) because their minds are plugged in to a computer-generated program called the Matrix. Although some, like the central character, Neo, search for the truth, they cannot escape this virtual reality without the help of a guide (Morpheus).

There is much to think about in this movie, but the restaurant scene where Cypher betrays Morpheus to Agent Smith is what got me:

We watch a serrated knife saw through a thick, juicy steak. The meat is so perfect — charred on the outside, oozing red juice from the inside — that it almost can't be real...

Agent Smith: Do we have a deal?

Cypher stabs a cube of steak with his fork and the camera follows his hand up to his face. He pauses, scrutinizing the meat skewered on his fork.

Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?

He bites into the steak, sighs, and rolls his eyes upwards as he savors the tender beef melting in his mouth.

Cypher: Ignorance is bliss.

Ignorance is bliss!

In the context of The Matrix, ignorance is bliss, because as Shobana Krishna Prabhu famously quipped, "The Matrix is about 'Reality the Ugly.'" So we can't really fault Cypher for choosing to forget the ugliness of his existence — to have his memory reprogrammed so that he is oblivious to the reality that his comatose body is no more than a biological battery for intelligent machines — because the illusion of the Matrix is so much better than reality, but Srila Guru Maharaj has given us "Reality the Beautiful," so what's our excuse for deliberately choosing to live in an uglier virtual reality?

Like the dreamers in the incubators of The Matrix, we have become so accustomed to the illusion, so addicted to the fantasy, so enamored with the make-believe world that we are living in that we are reluctant, unable, and unwilling to do what it takes to be free.

Morpheus: You have to understand: most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

The search for reality requires a guide (someone who has seen the truth), but accepting a guide is only the beginning. Unless we follow his directions — until we begin to practically apply his principles and philosophy to our daily lives — we won't go anywhere.

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door: you're the one that has to walk through it.

Mere acquaintance with the truth is not enough; it takes time and energy, commitment and dedication, and above all, perseverance, to free our minds, to liberate our consciousness.

Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize, just as I did: there's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.

This might explain why Morpheus reiterates Srila Guru Maharaj's maxim, "Surrender is not a lip transaction," throughout the movie.

Morpheus: Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

If your guide offered you the choice that was offered to Neo:

Morpheus: You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe; you take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

What would you do? Would you take the red pill or the blue pill?

Morpheus: Remember: all I'm offering is the truth — nothing more.

The truth (the red pill) can free us from this complex matrix of misconception, but only if we are prepared to fight the illusion — every single day. It is so much easier to remain oblivious (to take the blue pill) than to make the effort to revolutionize our consciousness.

Cypher: I know what you're thinking, because right now I'm thinking the same thing... Why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill? :)

Even when we are wrenched from the warm womb of illusion and shown the truth, many of us lack the conviction, the stamina, or the courage to see the revolution through to the end. And when our initial enthusiasm wears off, when we become frustrated with our lack of progress, we begin to regret our decision and long to return to our comfortable, comatose condition in the cocoon of confabulation, blissfully ignorant of the depressing reality of our miserable existence.

And that is why Cypher — even after getting a glimpse of the truth and struggling to get out of the Matrix for nine years — abandons the ideal that will ultimately set him free, in return for being reinserted into the Matrix with his memory of reality erased, and a new virtual identity.

Cypher: I don't want to remember nothing — nothing! Do you understand? And I want to be rich. Someone important. Like an actor.

Agent Smith: Whatever you want, Mr. Reagan.

Cypher is me. Cypher is you.

Ignorance is bliss.

Tags: Virtual Reality

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