So I'm not going to go into how the world we live in is like a "Matrix" in its own right, although that could be fun some time, like pointing out the mechanical corporate forces that would like us to just be consumers going about our daily routine and not looking beyond the mainstream media (msm) news schlock. Well, we can actually pretty darn good at this can't we, especially here around the holidays.
What I really just want to point out is the fact that this notion of being lost and splintered in American culture should be almost a universal feeling to the vast majority of people... with growing questions and indignation, from the insanity and stagnation of our political and educational systems, the overall decline in the civility of people, lack of public respect, to the the trading of human reason and rational thought for blind faith and sound bites from the msm, etc., etc. So many are just trying to keep up and pay their bills and put food on the table, without time to think as citizens... about where we are going as a country. Compound this decline with the massive problems that we have as a global society such as climate change, resource depletion, pollution, overpopulation... it's easy to work oneself into a nauseous state... the splinter becomes a log. Most of us will genuinely long for a better society and world... this longing will usually create some genuine stress for us. Stress is pain... stress is suffering. Suffering has many forms. Where does one find true relief... or even true joy for that matter?
Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Morpheus: [to Neo who is choosing the red pill] Remember... all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.
After years of looking at these questions, I think that one of the only real places to look for these answers is within yourself. How does one go about this? One way that is tried and true throughout history is through mindfulness practice, which can be an amazingly personal journey. Enter the Buddhist teachings of the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
I was raised as a Catholic christian and until recent years, practiced fairly regularly... despite the richness of the catholic church's prayer and social teachings, there were never any real clear paths to dealing with the inner aspects of the pains and suffering of everyday life. Saying a few Our Father's and Hail Mary's never really cut it. I'm being a bit sarcastic, but despite being exposed to a pretty rich and varied contemplative prayer history in the church, and having done quite a bit of research in that area over the years, I still came back longing for a more refined practice. The Eightfold Path I find has provided that... a path that can provide the mind access to the truth about life and the way things really are, and a way to deal constructively with the stresses and complexities of modern life.
One of the best studies I've found on the Eightfold Path has been written by Bhikkhu Bodhi: The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering. It's not a short work... it's a beautiful, thorough work.
Splinter scene from The Matrix:
Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
Neo: You could say that.
Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is?
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
IMDB, quotes from The Matrix, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133093/quotes