Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Matrix: 4/5

"There is no spoon."  Keanu Reeves really should have said that about a dozen times in The Matrix.  How great would it have been if, after Agent Smith empties a clip in Neo, Neo opens his eyes, looks Agent Smith in the eye, and quoth, "There is no spoon."  Crowning moment of awesome!!

I first saw The Matrix almost ten years ago.  I had been told how it was awesome, mind-bending, spectacular, and all the other meaningless adjectives we use.  "Dude.  It is sooooo crazy.  It.  Will.  Change.  Your.  Life."  Unfortunately for my expectations, I had just finished reading a bit of Descartes for school; the idea that we might be living in The Matrix was something I had just gotten through processing.  (I applaud the Wachowskis for introducing a generation of young men to the philosophical dilemma of reality without making it a boring exercise in linguistics.)  When I watched it today, I wasn't looking for mind-bending awesomeness; I was actually watching to hone up for potentially forthcoming philosophical debates.*

*Wittgenstein cured me of the desire to understand and explore ontology one fine Saturday afternoon, but I seem to be the only dab of paint who has given up on trying to see the painting.  Still, everyone else seems to care about it, seems not to be conversant in Cartesian philosophy, and seems to be conversant in the philosophy of The Matrix.  When in Rome and all that.

And in the process of philosophical edification, I got caught up in the story.  How will Neo figure out whether he is The One?  And what will that mean?  How will Neo save Morpheus?  How will Agent Smith be thwarted?  By what miracle will the bad guys get what's coming?  That, my friends, is good storytelling.

And this time, it gave me pause, asking a more interesting philosophical question than that of ontology: What is my place in the Universe?  Am I Thomas Anderson---someone special for whom the rules don't really apply---or am I the homeless guy at the subway station---just another (expendable) brick in the wall?  To go one step further: Who decides?

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