And You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?

The Matrix is without a doubt one of my most favorite movies ever, not only for the kick-ass action sequences but also for its interesting philosophical questions. As someone who believes that the world we live in is largely a world of illusion through which we navigate to something deeper and more profound, I was definitely moved by the movie when it first came out.

It happened to be on TV two nights ago and although it was on some channel that edits the shit out of movies until the fun parts are all gone, I still had to watch. I can’t not watch The Matrix; if I see it showing I am drawn involuntarily like some dumb ass moth going right into a candle flame. There are a couple of movies like that for me: Terminator 2 is one, which I saw 3 days in a row when it premiered, and so is The Fifth Element, my favorite parts being any scene where Chris Tucker is screaming his ass off like a bitch.)

Anyhow, it was fitting that I would see The Matrix again because recently my mind has been on the nature of the world we live in, and the world we create out of it. Life is full of choices (blue pill? red pill?) and their consequences. And it’s rare that a choice is purely good or bad; it’s not often a question of good vs evil or right vs wrong, but left vs right. Neither road is necessarily the wrong road; both roads have delights and pains and quandaries and more often than not you can’t see which specific ones you will face; you just make a choice and hope that ultimately you’ve made the one that’s gonna make you the least miserable. Sometimes you can look back and know definitively that you took the right path. Other choices have gray areas: life might not have been better or worse, just…different.

I’ve had occasion recently to look back on certain points in my life and reflect on choices I made in my wild and stupid youth, and the choices I might have made had I known how things would turn out.  With regards to where I am right now, I am happy. That doesn’t mean, though, that there are no regrets and nothing I would do differently; the older I get, the more I move away not only from my physical 20-or 25-year old self but also from the emotional and mental manifestations of that girl.  If I could go back, I would live more in tune with the real me, making choices that reflect the unchanging core of who I really am. Because even back then, there were glimpses of ME that I chose to ignore in favor of the person people wanted me to be, or at least who I thought they did.

Of course, we can never go back, and the irony of saying I would have been more in touch with myself is that, in most cases, that process only happens with the passage of time and the gain of experience; rare is the 20-year old who makes absolutely no mistakes warranting some Monday morning quarterbacking.  One glorious thing I’ve found, though: that when we make inauthentic choices or do things “improperly,” life has a way of bringing the opportunity back around so that you can try again to get it right, and if you become more introspective and develop any sense of self, you eventually start to understand what you need to do to get it right.  Time and age and observation of both my own life and that of others has shown me that in most cases, we’re really not learning entirely new lessons in life. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, we’re just repeating the same shit over and over and over, and we don’t stop repeating it until we get it right. As they say, if you keep doing the same thing, you will continue to get the same result. For those of us doing right by ourselves – and that’s key, not by others, but by ourselves – the result is a charmed life, but for many of us, the results of some of our actions are frustration and unhappiness, which then begs the question: why do we refuse the change we claim to seek when opportunities to grab it come repeatedly? If you hate drama, why continue to engage with people who revel in it? If you are unhappy, why not find the source and take the steps to excise it from your life? We are like people who’ve discovered we’re allergic to shrimp, only to keep returning to Red Lobster for the all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet every day. Stupid.

I do think that life, or God, or the Universe, wants us to get it right, not to fail. But it’s up to us not only to learn, but to live what we say we’ve learned; in fact we really can’t say we’ve truly learned until we’re living that knowledge.  It’s one thing to know to wait for the green light, but if you’re persistent in running the reds, well, shit is gonna happen. The tough part is that living our truth most often does mean a life change or at least an attitude adjustment.  It can mean dropping relationships that we’ve come to recognize as toxic, or learning new skills to embrace a goal we’ve always held dear, or adopting a new mindset that allows us to release anger or stress or drama. It doesn’t have to mean picking up and moving to Bali a la Eat, Pray, Love, but if you seek a change of job, of environment, of mindset, you have to introduce something different to bring it.  Only change begets change. None of these things is easy; old habits die hard, but when we hold on to old habits that are not working for us, we hold on to all the unhappiness that accompanies them.

So the only question is, do you want to stay in the life that is The Matrix and be a you that’s not fully you?

Or wake up to embrace whatever sets you free?

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