The Red or the Blue…Pill

There are many things that seem wonderful, even miraculous, but only after the fact. “Genius” may be one of those things. After all, who doesn’t want to be super smart? Or super talented? Or super…well…anything? What people overlook, however, is that terms like “genius” and “extraordinary” and “miraculous” are simply other labels for “abnormal.” Lots of people say they would like to be a genius. Not many people strive to be abnormal.

This is not just about semantics. To be different is to take great risks. People are social animals and there are few punishments more difficult to bear than ostracism. Most people are familiar with “peer pressure” when it comes to children, but can anyone doubt the pressure for adults to belong to the right group–go to the right club, support the right party, have the right friends, nab the right job? Live the right lifestyle?

The spiritual world is no different. The Biblical Moses felt like “a stranger in a strange land.” Lao Tzu wrote his Taoist “Tao Teh Ching” as an afterthought to the ferryman transporting him away from all known society to who knows where. The Buddha left the palace where he was being groomed as a prince and almost starved to death. Muhammed’s ministry begins with his “Hegira“–fleeing the murderous mobs in Mecca to sanctuary in Medina. As for Jesus, well, we all know the grand rewards he received for being extraordinary.

In the movie, “The Matrix,” Neo (clearly destined to be the “One”) has the choice between taking the blue or red pill. The blue pill allows one to live in The Matrix–a computer generated reality where all needs and even fantasies are met, while at the same time draining the psychic energy of comatose humans. The red pill breaks the individual from those illusions–to live a life of gruel desperately avoiding horrific machines intent on obliterating humanity in a most dark and dreary world. Is it any wonder one character betrays his real life comrades in order to enjoy the illusory prosperity of the blue pill–just so long as he can “have” thick, juicy steaks and that hot redhead, and not have a conscious memory of being a Judas avatar?

The story could end there with the question: how many of us would truly make a different choice? However, there is another point that should not be overlooked. As the Hindus say: “That which you are seeking is causing you to seek.” In other words, despite our attempts–often extraordinary attempts–to suppress our spirits, there seems to be “something” that prods us to continue to seek. St. John of the Cross called this prodding “The Dark Night of the Soul.” Soren Kierkegaard used the phrase “Of Fear and Trembling.”

Van Gogh called it “art.” He simply could not imagine a life without expressing his unique genius through his media. But wouldn’t he have been happier if he could, say, take the blue pill? Maybe…but, then again, if he had taken the blue pill, he would not have been Van Gogh.

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  1. As you’ve doubtless heard, “The Matrix” is regarded by those in the spiritual community as a metaphor for the path to enlightenment. It all fits. Choosing to be abnormal, to seek a truth greater than power, big bucks, status, or the comforts of community, at some point requires conscious choice: the red pill. What happens next sucks: it’s hard. But the goal is not to achieve Nirvana, eternal bliss, mystic union, or whatever, but to become fully aware that everything is one, to exist outside the illusion of otherness: to live a life of abiding, non-binary awareness

    The ability to fly would be nice, but is usually not an option.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes, “The Matrix” is seen in the spiritual community as such a metaphor–and is probably intended to be such a metaphor (though the more cynical will argue it is intended to take advantage of the spiritual community’s gullibility in order to grab power, big bucks, status, etc). I am curious: what do you think would be the value of becoming “fully aware that everything is one”? After all, there should be some great reward, given that taking the red pill, to use your elegant term, “sucks.” For that matter, taking the blue pill would likely even give us the ability to fly in The Matrix. If whatever is significant is only significant in the mind–“If the mind dies in The Matrix, the body dies in reality”–why care whether what is in the mind is objectively an illusion?

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