I talked last time about the masses vs. the enlightened, which in our culture today we tend to look at through the Matrix philosophy of those who take the blue pill vs. those who take the red pill. So, despite my disdain for Keanu Reaves’ acting skills and the shear cheesiness of many of the movie’s lines (and taking the first movie as a whole disregarding the second 2), The Matrix, is a great model for discussing just about anything philosophy oriented.
Anyway, so everyone knows that if you take the blue pill, you remain content in your dreamworld state – or in a state of ‘ignorance is bliss’ – that state everyone functions in on a day to day basis without questioning why they do what they do. Life is a sequential event… I get up in the morning, go to work/school, do what is required of me, come home and watch tv or hang out with friends, and go back to bed. I may be aggressive in wanting to get ahead, or not. But my concern is that which I interact with, because that is my reality. That is all I know.
The parallel to a religious context would be that every Sunday I go to mass, sing, kneel, recite prayers, and take communion. By themselves, these rituals mean virtually nothing to me, yet I take comfort in knowing that I can go to any Catholic service pretty much anywhere, and mass will be pretty much the same. Maybe, if I’m extremely lucky, I’ll get a priest that can deliver a sermon that makes something relevant to my every day life, but I don’t hold my breath. So because I don’t especially get anything out of mass, I begin to question why I go. Sure, it’s nice occasionally, but it’s become so tribal in its repeated rituals.
And as a rational being, if I have to think too hard about some of the Christian concepts – you know Jesus rose from the dead to save us, the Virgin Mary gave birth, the bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ at each Mass, etc – the mythology seems pretty standard for an Old religion dating back 2000 years or so. Still, they don’t really make me question those ‘miraculous’ acts of faith, so I take what I want, leave the rest and continue on with my life. And thus emerges the picture of how we view western religion in general – whether that be Christianity or Judaism…
But occasionally, something happens which makes us question those very rituals we’ve blindly followed and we are confronted with a choice – shall we take the blue pill and choose to ignore any inconsistencies with our own paradigm which works pretty well, or shall we take the red pill and explore these inconsistencies knowing that it could lead us into a world we aren’t familiar with… one that questions the very foundations of our current perspective. Once we learn of that new paradigm, we can no longer hold the older belief as our truth.
Not everyone can deal with this kind of thinking. Many people are perfectly content believing something to be as they’ve always known it to be, and reject this newer attempt at truth because it’s too painful to accept – they’ve been living their entire life based on this lie and only now they come to discover that the world is not what they thought it was. In the context of Cypher, they’d rather enjoy their steak blissfully in the Matrix rather than confront the new perspective they have.
Others are more ready to accept the red pill and refuse to accept what they now know is a false perception of reality. This line of thinking is very similar to the scientific method which holds a relativist belief that while maybe, just maybe, there is one unified theory of everything, we don’t know it yet, nor is it probable that we can know it because we exist inside the system. We are part of the whole rather than observers from above with a God-like perspective. Being part of the whole, we can only see what’s around us and theorize how things are. However, because we are part of the system, our actions effect the system, even if controlled and monitored to only effect the system minimally, we still are interacting with our experiments and may not be getting a true perspective of what is actually happening.
That being said, we can still experiment and theorize that it appears that this is so, so until something or someone is able to disprove it, it is a ‘good enough’ working model. We may have to reject it at some point. We may only be half right. And maybe, just maybe, we are right. In science, however, you can never prove something right. You can only attempt to disprove it… and it only takes one exception to the current working model to disprove at least part of it.
But taking a relativist stance on something as predominant as faith is very difficult for many people. They fight in the name of the Absolute Truth they know, calling the disbelievers the enemy. After all, our God gave us his gospel and we have the correct interpretation of it, so therefore we are right. And when you have a number of these groups, you inevitably end up at conflict.