Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Theology Of The Matrix Trilogy- Part One

Okay, here's where my love for sci-fi and theology collide. I put this little commentary together a couple years ago. If you're a fan of the trilogy I think you'll dig it. (Spoilers ahead!)

The Matrix Trilogy is, in one of it's primary layers, a six-hour discourse on the subject of
pre-destination. The idea that choice does not begin with our conscious decision, but with events creating factors for making our decisions that are completely out of our control. The brothers suggest in the film that choice, if we have the ability to choose, is a mechanic that exists only within the confines of destiny.

We can only choose from the options available to us. And the options available to us exist because of factors that we did not bring about. For example:
If I choose to drink a glass of water, it is probably because I am thirsty. But let's go deeper into why I might have made that choice, and see if the choice begins with me, or with something I had no control over.

I'm thirsty because it's been awhile since I last had water. I may have been busy(something I could control), forgotten(something I can't), or not known where to get water(I cannot control what knowledge I have, because I don't know what knowledge will be useful to have at every given moment of my life.) So the possibility remaining that I DO have control over needs to be examined.

Can I choose NOT to be busy? My choice to stop doing what is keeping me busy will be based on the cost of stopping. Will I lose my job, lose a friend, become stressed and anxious at work piling up? If I were to force myself to accept the cost, it would be because I believe I can deal with the negative outcome. But why do believe that?

As you can see, we can continue to trace our choices backward in time until the moment we are formed in the womb and are first capable of "experiencing" anything. And our coming into being, our existence itself, is something none of us had any control over. You can choose to analyze your choices until you die, but even the very process of thinking you use to analyze yourself is determined by either genetics or previous events in your life that have caused your mind to operate in a certain way. In either case, both are again traced back to that which you have no control over.

So choice DOES exist, but not independent of destiny. What is destiny? The predetermined, irresistible or inevitable course of events. Predetermined by whom? The Merovingian would say "by those with power". The intelligent forces that govern what options we will have to choose from. So back into the trilogy...

The Matrix and those controlling it have the power to shape destinies, but even the shapers, if not possessed of absolute knowledge and power, are subject to the powers above them. In all three films, we see characters struggling with the nature of their world, and several key words continue to pop up: Why, Control, Purpose, Inevitable, Choice.

In the first film, Neo's employer tells him that he has "a choice". "Either you choose to be at your desk on time from this day forth, or you choose to find yourself another job."

Neo tells Morpheus that he doesn't like the idea that he's not in control of his life, and Morpheus knows exactly what he means.

The Oracle demonstrates choice as a mechanism within the confines of destiny determined by the control of others when she tells Neo about the vase just before he breaks it. She knew the outcome, and helped create options, but it was still Neo's choice to turn around and look for the vase, causing it to break.

The Latin phrase translated to "know thyself" foreshadows the Oracle's statement in the second film that we aren't here to make the choice, but to understand WHY we make the choice. According to the Oracle, choice is not something we have control over. Our only peace, as the Merovingian implies, is to understand WHY we make the choices we do. Our only real power comes from gaining a greater understanding of how the universe works, and learning more about those in charge of it.

Agent Smith explains to Morpheus that after Zion is destroyed, there is no reason or purpose for him to be in the Matrix, so he wants to fulfill that purpose so he can get out and be free. Smith is a slave to fulfilling his purpose.

Smith tells Neo in the train station that his death is inevitable, the first foreshadow to the end of the third film, where Neo fulfills HIS purpose.

When Neo enters Smith, some of his attributes, as Smith explains in the second film, are copied onto Smith, changing him, making him independent of the system. He no longer functions as an agent, and his purpose of destrying Zion is now gone because of that. He sees now that because of his similarities to Neo, he is redundant, and has no purpose, and so wants to remove Neo so that he will be one of a kind again, with a specific, unique purpose.

Smith actually DOES serve a purpose, however. He just doesn't know what it is. His purpose is to become dangerous to the Matrix, beyond the control of the machines. This will force the machines to make a peace treaty with Neo in the third film, since he is the only one capable of stopping Smith.

More next time!

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