“The Matrix” poses an interesting dilemma in the red/blue pill choice: Choose a fabricated reality that seems comfortable and safe, or choose to exit from the induced state and into true reality, which is dark and stark and full of extremely uncomfortable challenges.
When I first watched the movie, I thought, I don’t know if I could handle the truth. If the dream feels completely real, what is wrong with staying in that world? Isn’t achieving the feeling of happiness and security what it all comes down to anyways?
That was over a decade ago, and in that time, I’ve learned quite a bit about the virtues of being true to oneself and living a life honoring that truth.
Being transparent was never difficult for me, but I had an unfair advantage. I grew up in a very sheltered home, and was fortunate to have had a loving upbringing where my brothers and I were well provided for and praised lavishly. I didn’t have today’s cable TV, the internet, or even a social life to confuse my sense of self-worth. All I knew how to do was be myself, to think and act naturally, comfortably, confidently and without apologies.
The problem was, after my family split apart following my brother’s death, and I had to wander into the great, wide world beyond Ronson Drive, I would learn that when people were nice, they didn’t always mean it, and my naivete and openness were either targeted by the predators of the world, or shunned by the unauthentic.
It took me a good decade of all kinds of heartaches from people I thought were friends, from “outlaws” I thought were family, and even from family that I thought were on my side. I was forced to take the red pill, a sublingual that slowly but intensely absorbed into my system, and I saw all kinds of ugly.
The bad part was that the ugliness started to make me doubt myself. Had I been doing it wrong all this time? Why couldn’t I care to spackle myself up to fit in? I was too skinny, too smiley, too energetic, too friendly; I spoke too freely about my past, too matter-of-factly about my faults, too enthusiastically about helping. I couldn’t plan ahead or pack my schedule or join the PTA or keep my house clean or cook well. I didn’t dress up, wear makeup, get my hair or nails did, care about shoes. What the eff was wrong with me?
Turns out, nothing, except for my lack of understanding at the time that 1) I was not with the right company, and therefore 2) my gifts and strengths were not being honored, not even by myself.
I eventually learned how flat a perspective people’s judgments could be. Some people would tell me that I was too sensitive; turns out, these people had upbringings where sharing, showing, or talking about feelings were discouraged. Others have said things like, “You’re pretty. You should dress up more.” What?! This is as logical as telling someone that they’re ugly, so they should just quit trying.
But I bought into the propaganda, and after my third child, I found myself a bit delighted that, for the first time, I could not lose the extra 15 lbs. I was not heavyset by any means, yet it was noticeable extra weight on me, and people would encourage it, practically high-fiving me on it, even though it made my knees ache and had me short of breath going up a few steps; the extra few pounds on me was not my natural and healthy weight. But I finally felt accepted, maybe even loved. So this was what peer pressure felt like. And this unhealthy glee made me realize that I wanted to fit in, even against my own well-being. A bit of self-loathing started creeping in at this point.
I started hating my nature of feeling so much, thinking so much, caring so damn much about people, principles, the “unbling.” I did not fit in – I never quite did. I felt like “Powder”: I saw things with such vividness and beauty and awe, and it took me a while to learn that many didn’t understand what I had inside, and distrusted, disliked, and in turn, disrespected me for it. Real life was harsh and such a contrast to my authentic self, where people were as kind as they said and acted to my face, and it was particularly difficult to emotionally adjust to this clarified reality once the red pill took over, and there was no turning back.
I was so angry at the constant meanness and deceit that I started fantasizing about the “good ol’ days,” when I was blissfully ignorant and soft. Why didn’t I take the blue pill, like all the rest? They seemed unbothered by their own layers of fakery, sparkling in the New Cool of the day: piety, yoga spirituality, green and organics, “perfect” parenting, the feigning good will to mankind through positive quotes (some stolen and posted as if their own) on Facebook, and other audience-based indicators of their “integrity.” How the frick could one tell who was authentic anymore?
One might argue that it doesn’t really matter, like Angelina Jolie’s potentially adopting of a myriad of kids to bury her unapologetic home-wrecker reputation – who cares – socially disadvantaged children around the world get a posh new life, and that’s all that matters, right?
Yes, and no. Yes, these people who buy organics and boast positive quotes as a means to be praised, but then turn around and treat people with saccharin smiles and insincere words do help the small farmers and evoke chipper nods in the process, but in not confronting the truth and embracing who they want to be, not just who they want people to see, they limit the circumference of any positive rippling effect. Not only that, but this insincerity waters down the potential potency and beauty of this new movement towards things worthy of adopting and universalizing.
When I got over my own shock and the gamut of emotions that came with such a rude awakening, I thought back to “The Matrix.” In it, only a few people had come out into the real world. There was so much to be done, and only a handful were in the wakened state that was required to make a change. Imagine if everyone awoke out of the Matrix and worked together.
Imagine, now, if we all took the red pill of authenticity; even if the reality was ugly – so what? Being authentic doesn’t make the reality uglier; it gives us, engineers of our lives, an accurate blueprint to begin the difficult, but worthy, task of healing, changing, building up. And it is in this place of authenticity, of honesty and accuracy, where everything we do becomes tangible, and where our greatest, brightest dreams become truth.