Monday, January 5, 2009

The Matrix of Reality

The Matrix is probably the most significant movie of my life. That sounds rather extreme and perhaps naive, but it is, for all I can tell, true (so far). But it's not because the exact theme and plot of the movie is particularly "spot on" for me. It's because the movie is so rich in various visualized metaphors.

I'm a big fan of Christ. But it's really difficult to learn about who he was and what he said and did without the centuries of spin that humans have been laying on his story. The Bible has him saying, (I forget which book) "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The gospel of Thomas (booted from the Bible by Nicene editors) has "the kingdom of heaven is all around you", or something to that effect. When I saw the Matrix, I suddenly "got" what that might mean. Heaven is right here, right now, if we could just see it. Its much like how Neo "wakes up" to reality in the movie. I was even more thrilled to see model mark of Morpheus's ship in the movie, "Mark XIV Number 14." But, of course, the movie is not a complete Christian metaphor. Guns and Kung Fu are not extremely biblical.

As I've learned more about Zen Buddhism, I see many parallels between what Christ is reported to have taught and what ZB teaches. Particularly the bit about "the kingdom of heaven is all around you" lining up with the idea that we all have Buddha Nature available to us here and now if we can just learn to 'see' it. The Matrix may even have more fitting metaphors for ZB, like the choice of delusion, or seeing reality as it is (red pill or blue). And, of course, Kung Fu is credited to Bodhidarma.

But.... all of the above preamble was to get to the hallway scene near the end of the movie (shown above). This is where Neo finally 'gets it' and can see the matrix as it is. A great soup of data, 1's and 0's, all linked together and performing per programming. As I said earlier, the metaphor is not neccesarily consistent with Buddhism throughout the movie, but this one scene, I think, does a nice job of expressing the interconnectedness of 'reality as it is.'

I was reading "To Meet the Real Dragon" last night. On page 42 Nishijima sensei writes,

"Human kind and nature are but two faces of one thing. That one thing is reality. That one thing is the real situation of our lives; it is the great universe itself."

As I read this, the above scene from the Matrix sprang to mind. Reality is one thing. One thing. Not a way of looking at a bunch of separate things, but all one. It suddenly is making a bit of sense. Just like with the hallway shown above, where the walls, the people, the floor, the ceiling the wires, the air is all one thing. The bits of the one thing are swirled and aligned so they appear to be separate, but to stomp the floor is to stomp the walls. It's all connected.

This led me to think of the big bang.

In the first micro/nano/femto/octo seconds, the theory goes, all matter was in some superheated primordial uniform state. Everything, all reality, all the is-ness, was pretty much consistent in structure (appearance) in the 10 directions. The mind has to think of borders with this image of the banging universe, like a balloon expanding, but there were no borders. To have borders is to presume inside and outside, and there is no outside for all of the universe. But in those early moments it was all the same, and very hot. As time has moved on, it has gotten lumpier, with apparent borders on atoms and molecules and objects. We tend to see it as differentiated lumps of stuff. A collection of separate things.

But, as Nishijima says, and the Matrix demonstrates, it is really all one thing.


Paul said...

That's always interested me too - that we can know things about the universe right after the big bang, but not about the pre-bang singularity.

Jordan said...

Lauren great post!

I would add to your it is really all one thing. That it is simultaneously countless things.

Or at least that is how I see it at the moment.

Persevere brightly!


Barry said...

Thanks, Lauren - especially for the "kingdom of heaven is all around you." Do you know the chapter and verse from which this line comes?

Lauren said...


Ya know, I get input on cosmology from the oddest places. A TV show I watch, Bones, put forward through one of the characters that there was no time before the big bang because there was no "medium" (my paraphrase) in which time could exist. It stretches my brain severely, but makes some sense.


Lauren said...


Yes. I think so too. It is the "10,000 things." The "aha" for me was that I have never really given it much thought as a whole, a complete "organism" with many organelles (to stretch a concept from my high school biology).

Persevering Brightly as ordered, sa!


Lauren said...


Thanks for the research challenge. I didn't remember Thomas exactly right. The verse is 3. My translation has

"Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the kingdom is in heaven,' then the birds of heaven will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside you and it is outside you..."


Uku said...

Great post! The Matrix Trilogy is awesome, one of my favs too.

Like Dogen wrote
"To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things of the universe."

Thanks again!

With palms together,