Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Matrix, Thomas Merton, and Cosmic Christ

Sunday, June 07, 2009
I stumbled upon that movie The Matrix, while channel surfing after my three-hour night's sleep. I've seen it several times of course, but it's one of the few films I can watch again and again. Each time I do see it, I sense yet another facet of the incredible spiritual and philosophical metaphor of the story. Essentially the film depicts the planet earth in the late 22nd century, where Holocaust has come to describe the enslavement of humans by machines, who have invaded Earth to harvest human beings as energy sources. The machines keep humans, naked and sleeping, in gel-filled pods, which connects to them through tubes and hoses.

The vast majority of humans, however, remain  oblivious to the ugly truth, living instead within a virtual simulation of the late 20th century which the machines have created to oppress the people and keep them unaware. A few humans have become 'unplugged' and work toward liberating their race. They call themselves Zionists, and they await the prophesied coming of a chosen one ~ a man who can move through and transcend the matrix. Neo has always sensed something strange about the world he sees. He seeks to know the mysterious thing called the matrix. He finds out. He reacts with incredulity and disbelief when told he is the chosen one.

As I watched Neo's very traumatic awakening into the ugliness of the true world from the false reality of the matrix, and deliverance from his pod to the Zionist hovercraft,  I could not help thinking of the similarity to birth and death, as we know it. I pondered birth and death (both of which I have witnessed, by the way) and then, suddenly these seemed ~ on a cosmic plane ~ like the same transformation of a Self. You may disagree, because of your perception of birth as a gain, and death as a loss.

But, I'm not thinking of from the crude material perspective. I'm considering it from the cosmic, spiritual perspective.  Ponder, for a moment. Physical birth ~ arriving into this worldly existence by passing through tiny a visceral canal. And then death ~ I imagine it as travelling from this worldly existence by passing through a spiritual or cosmic canal. This only occurred to me when watching the visual of Neo's awakening. Did Neo's awakening mean his birth, or his death? Both, I believe.

At a later point in the film, Trinity (one of the Zionists) says to Neo, “the Matrix cannot tell you who you are.” Aha! That's a differentiation to make, isn't it? Do we feel satisfied sufficiently with the fact of our material existence? Don't we also need meaning to illuminate the painting of our existence? I pondered this question two years ago, in a post I wrote about The Matrix. However, just today, during this recent viewing, something resonated within me. Something that I felt when I read the following, which I received via email in today's daily meditation, written by Richard Rohr.

The historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, moved beyond any confinement in space and time and became Light Itself, which we now know from astrophysics is omnipresent in the universe and its speed is the ultimate measure of all things. ... One could even say that in Christ, God and Light have become the same. And nobody on this earth can control the light. It goes where it goes— instantaneously. 

So, the Matrix, being the contrived, material world, cannot tell us 'who we are.' Then, perhaps we find out through the light of God? Does the flat, obscure and meaningless painting of our existence become transformed through Christ? Yes, because our true meaning of Self lies in the fact that God created each of us, for a purpose. In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton writes that faith provides a vehicle through which we can fully possess God, who fills us with His infinite Light. "God Himself becomes the Light of the darkened soul ... And at this inexplicable moment the deepest night becomes day ..." Merton also writes, "I must learn to 'leave myself' in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God." Death and birth point to the same transformative process, don't they?

[Photos taken by me, May 2009]


Tess said...

This is a stunning post, pulling together these wonderful insights.

I, too, am a lover of The Matrix. It seems to me one of those sudden brilliant flashes of insight on film that have something really important to say.

In a similar way, I enjoy both the Buffy and Angel series, have them on DVD and watch from time to time.

Although there's a load of rubbish around, I'm so glad we live in an age of film (and TV), where technology, philosophy and spirituality just occasionally come together.