The Risen Matrix: A Philosophical Exam
Although the new film lacks the philosophical ideas of its predecessor, there are a few ideas that are striking at home.
The original matrix was as bold as it was profound. He revolutionized science fiction movies, action movies and, finally, all of cinema. His concept of people living in a simulation was a philosophical assortment filled with Jewish ideas and references. After more than 20 years, could a sequel live up to it?
No. Not in the plot, concept, or even the silly popcorn action. Although it lacks the philosophical ideas of its predecessor, there are a few ideas that strike home. Particularly with regard to the choice of waking up and committing to reality (the red pill) or going back to sleep (the blue pill). As of now, there are major spoilers. You have been warned.
What is this matrix? Fact or fiction.
Neo, now referred to by his first name, Thomas Anderson, is found in contemporary life. He’s not sure if the events of the previous films were a psychotic illusion (which inspired a video game he created) or were in fact reality. To help him manage his mental state, he sees a psychologist (played by Neil Patrick Harris) who is simply called the analyst. Once Thomas has freed himself from this new Matrix, he learns that the Analyst is the new master architect of it all. Because the analyst has such an intimate knowledge of Thomas’ nature, he is much more formidable since he can attack Neo emotionally and psychologically, in addition to the physical.
During their first confrontation, the Analyst specifies that his Matrix is different because, “It’s all about fiction. The only world that matters is the one [in your head]. And you people believe the craziest [stuff]. Why? What validates and makes real your fictions? Feelings.”
What could be more relevant in 2021? As much of the Internet is a research tool, so much has it flooded us with sources, articles and anecdotal evidence that it has made it nearly impossible to come to an objective conclusion. So what are many of us doing? Select the sources that reinforce our prejudices and feelings and lock yourself in an echo chamber. We refuse to follow or friend those with whom we disagree or find offensive, creating our own simulated reality which we endorse. Even information networks respond to our political and social perspectives, transforming the facts to fit the mold of the perspective.
Judaism demands a relentless search for the truth. Using rigorous Talmudic thinking, Jewish learning challenges any preconceptions we might have. The Talmud is a vibrant and sprawling recording of endless arguments, guided by great thinkers like Hillel and Shammai, training the mind to think critically and examine ideas from all angles – and with the aim of discovering the truth.
Jewish learning challenges any preconceptions we might have.
In fact, Jacob gets his new name “Israel” when he fights with an angel of God. The symbolism being that the children of Israel only reach their potential when they struggle against divine difficulties. In short, Judaism is not about feeling comfortable, locked in your favorite set of delusions. It is a matter of growth and understanding that only comes by engaging in uncomfortable questions.
Two is greater than Neo
As revolutionary as the early Matrix films were, they fell into the common trope of the hero’s journey – that of the singular messianic figure. The hero wasn’t just called “the one,” his name was Neo, an anagram for One.
In a certain way, Matrix resurrections breaks the mold in this regard. In the analyst’s designs and simulations he found that when Thomas and Trinity got together it led to unstoppable power. This time, salvation does not come from one, but from two.
Love is a powerful union. Judaism views the process of marriage itself as the key to unlocking the true potential of each partner. In the Garden of Eden, God recognizes that it is not good for Adam to be alone. When God creates Eve, she is referred to as a ezer kenegdo, the helper who faces Adam as an equal and challenges him. It is through the complementarity of the couple that they are able to see their partner’s faults and, from a place of love, help them overcome challenges that they would otherwise be blind to see.
In Jewish thought, the soul can reach higher heights when paired with its soul mate.
In a way, this sequel feels a bit like taking the blue pill. This time, it means the comforts of nostalgia, to which the movie industry finds itself enslaved. But when you decide to engage in the stimulating nature of Jewish wisdom and debate that requires critical thinking, it’s like taking the red pill.
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