My good friend, Steve Grace, has come to coin me “the constant analogizer.” He says I can’t hear an idea or concept without trying to relate it back to some story I heard or book I’ve read. It’s my way of connecting the dots in a complex world.
For me, there will never be a better analogy to life than those inspired by nerdy sci-fi stories like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Matrix.
Science Fiction has a lure that is based in the concept of “plausibility.” Although these far flung tales are surreal, there are patches of believability woven throughout. They allow us to leave the world we live in while sticking to “some” of the rules we hold true in life.
Parts of these perimeters that seem natural and possible manifest subliminally. We might never find ourselves at the end of the cosmos but when a story of love is told on Naboo (the home planet of Princess Amidala, the mother of Luke Skywalker) we have a very real understanding of their situation.
It took me well into my twenties to fully understand that the esoteric lessons of space wranglers and psychedelic cosmonauts were actually teaching me to exist in the world I presently live in. From these parables, one sticks out the most – The Matrix.
To give some perspective (to the movie that is), one particular human finds out that machines rule the world and, to make matters worse, he is half machine himself. The machines have been harvesting energy from humans through large industrial farms that enslave men and women in gooey fluid filled pods. While bound to the machine’s central power grid like a battery in a car, their thoughts meander in a fabricated facebook-like world called “The Matrix.” These human avatars live lives that are never actually lived. The only reason humans can survive in such a state is due to their hope for the future– their faith in “Neo.”
So who is Neo? Neo is that particular human who is kinda half machine. He doesn’t look or seemingly act different than any other person, except for the minor detail that he is ”the chosen one.”
If you are getting any Jesus or Siddhartha reference here, you are probably correct.
So, Neo is freed from his shackling womb and brought near the center of the Earth to a place called Zion. Here, humans are doing very human like things from dancing and fornicating to fighting and planning to fend off the machines.
But why haven’t these machines found this forbidden human enclave before? They might need it more than you think. If there is no Zion, there is no Neo. Or, better put, there is no chance for Neo to become the savior. In that senario the humans can no longer feed the machine’s power grid. To add to the complexity, the machines know their existence, too, relies on Neo.
Now bound to humans and machines at the same time, the story only gets more complicated with programmers, machines, and even humans spoiling Neo’s every move. However, the start of the last installment of the trilogy has Neo talking to two Matrix programmers that are in love. He learns that these programmers have made the most important program ever built, a human inspired daughter.
While Neo is trying to destroy all machines and the Matrix, he ends up finding programmers who long to be human. They covet the love and compassion that humans share with each other and the chance to watch their offspring grow.
It turns out, programmers are actually much more jealous than they are genocidal.
Now Neo is faced with a dilemma. To fulfill his destiny as “the chosen one,” is his goal still to completely eradicate all machines? Or is there a different path for him, the machines and the future of mankind?
Instead of ending the machines’ dominating control over humans he does something very different. He chooses to die for the human race as an offering to the machines. The only thing he wants in return is a promise that all humans receive the true knowledge and understanding of their place in the modern world.
Let’s fast forward to the end of the Matrix series. Neo is dead and the Matrix is still full of human avatars that now know of their own slavery to the machines. Surprisingly, the humans don’t really want to fight against it. In the end, humans accept their lot in life as the machines’ main power source. On the other side, programmers are passionately making the Matrix a better place with beneficial programs for all and the machines are using resources to restore health to the planet alongside the “free” humans they once fought to eliminate.
Some might say this is not an accurate telling of the Matrix trilogy but hopefully the rest of this post will ease your concerns.
Let’s emerge from of the world of Sci-Fi so I can tell you more about my “real-life” experience.
I was born to parents who valued the open spaces of America’s West with its windblown plains, deep caverns, and untamed peaks. I grew up believing in a world where urban areas looked “out” to the wilderness. A world where, in several hours of driving, biking, or walking in any direction, I would find the harsh elements that were unsympathetic to my tender skin and warm blood.
This reminds me of my favorite Lao Tzu quote, “Nature is not human hearted.” Feeling outside of my comfort zone is exactly what attracts to me to these wild places.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed these wild places shrinking. The wilderness that once seemed endless to me has become a series of fragile and fragmented places that need to be isolated and “saved.” Like a precious piece in a museum, nature– as it exists now– is passively observed as we dare not leave a trace.
So what the hell does this have to do with the Matrix?
The Matrix is an analogy of ourselves. In our world, the machines are us and the humans are nature. If Neo is half man/half nature, what would he look like in the real world?
Neo is Agriculture. “Agri“ being nature and “culture” being man. I don’t mean some kind of small CSA or cute biodynamic winery but rather the worldwide agricultural system. Neo embodies an entity bound together from the deep parts of remaining wilderness to the top of the world’s highest skyscrapers.
The humans in fluid pods from the movies are no different from the corn and soybeans found growing in straight lines across the breadbasket of America. The scantily clad dancing revolutionaries of Zion symbolize the roaming bison of the American West or the fermenting fruits of the Amazon rainforest. In the same way the machines in the Matrix are forever bound to humans, we will be forever bound to nature, and accordingly; our relationship with nature will have to change too.
So now we sit at the last battle of the trilogy. One last chance to work together or fight till the last soldier is standing. As our real world “Neo” (agriculture) bombards our climate through extreme changes and warming trends, we must show him our most prized program. We must embrace our need to work with nature instead of controlling it. It’s time to develop a version of nature that we love just like our own family in our backyards.
To summarize, here are the three lessons I learned from Matrix Trilogy.
First – Accept the path that has led us here, the good and the bad.
Our present reality would not exist without the relentless attempts at dominating nature. We’ve profited greatly from nature in countless ways from Petroleum to Patchouli. If we’d always been concerned about the negative environmental impact of our actions we couldn’t have made the great strides in human achievement that we have like flying to the moon or building the World Wide Web. The Matrix began as a mind control device that got out of hand but it also led to the most important link between humans and machines. We must look at agriculture the same way and realize that it’s the vehicle for saving humanity and nature at the same time.
Second – Understand that we are dependent on nature and it’s cycles more than ever.
We need nature to sustain us and also mend the ecological bridges we’ve burned. Although we can never go back to the pre-historic world we read about in grade school, we can choose to move forward with the knowledge gained from nature and it’s ability to overcome all obstacles (including the human race).
Last/Third – Think coopetition.
We need to tend a small piece of nature in the hope that we can someday create a world where nature will forgive our past, accept our present, and work for our future. In this analogy our backyard becomes the human inspired daughter of the programmers in love. By participating in urban farming and self-reliance we can stand together with nature on our quest to build a better world.
Stanley Kubrick made a movie very similar to the Matrix but his ending is much more depressing. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb ends with annihilation of 99.999% of the world’s population. Let’s write a different story for humanity. I want nature and human populations to grow together and dream up a bountiful future.
After I finish watching the next episode of Games of Thrones, I’ll be heading into my backyard to create a “program” with nature. It might not be as expansive as the Serengeti or Everglades but it will have a sense of authenticity of myself and my place in the cosmos.
Join me. Take the red pill and cultivate the farmer within.
Matthew Celesta is a lover of the surface of the plant. If his feet aren’t standing on living soils then he’s wearing skies high on the Rocky Mountains. Although he’s traveled the world, this Colorado native always finds himself back on the Front Range. Matthew loves being the VP of Production for Maxfield’s organic soil products and understands his job to be more morally sound than he. You may catch him on his day off eating a hot dog or a bag of fritos but, when on the job, he’s saving the world.