Enough time has passed since we first saw The Matrix in theaters that we can all publicly admit that after seeing it for the first time we promptly went home and stood in front of the mirror trying to bend over backward, flailing our arms around, in hopes of avoiding bullets in slow motion.
Good Lord The Matrix is one of the coolest movies ever made. I say that with the full understanding that The Matrix sequels never existed, just like how no one admits when they farted in the middle of a crowded room.
But for all the visual movie glitz and glamor that forever defines the impact left from The Matrix, the steel backbone that drove it into worship worthy status is the deep philosophical and existential questions it raised. It’s a veritable labyrinth of “what ifs,” coupled with an all powerful message that made geeks everywhere rise up and want to claim their rightful place as heroes of the world.
There’s one particularly powerful scene in the movie that I want to focus on. Neo, who has only recently been awakened from the Matrix, goes to see The Oracle, a visionary program that is capable of telling if Neo is “The One” or not.
While sitting in the waiting room, he watches a child, another possible choice for “the one”, bend a spoon with just his thoughts, and then he does it himself:
Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
The scene is vital in Neo’s understanding of the world inside the Matrix, and is the catalyst for what allows him to eventually see the world in that cool raining green jibberish vision.
For Neo, the lesson eventually empowered him to Superhero status, but for us everyday still asleep Matrix people, there’s a more important lesson to be learned from the bending spoon, and it has a lot more to do with people’s desires to be the Neo of their world.
It’s safe to say that we can all agree that the world lives in a perpetual state of delusion. Day in and day out every single person fights to find their place, identity, and status within this crazy world. Inside our heads that nagging little voice incessantly reminds us that “doing this is important, getting that next moment of pleasure matters, we must fight to acquire, possess, and conquer everything within our grasps.”
This is a tough world to live in, and unfortunately we are all completely unequipped to deal with it properly.
This is where the spoon comes in. While the message in the Matrix was that Neo, the metaphor for the savior of mankind, must learn to realize the world around him is empty, the lesson for us everyday folk is that not only is the spoon empty, but so are we.
Identity is one of the hardest issues a person must learn to deal with. We love to assign labels to ourselves, whether it stems from our religious beliefs, our social standings, our affiliations with our tastes and preferences with our entertainment, etc. We love to put ourselves in a box, and hold onto that box with as much gusto as a hungry man holds onto the last scraps of garbage in the trash outside a fancy restaurant.
Fortunately, we are none of these things. All of your own personal self-associations are just as delusional as any person’s need to grab, possess, and desire. Unfortunately, when those two things come to a head, it’s going to be a bumpy ride as they pass through.
But, I offer you this practical solution: rather than hold onto your own rigid concepts of self, which could easily take the form of a stainless steel spoon, allow yourself to be molded by the other person in front of you. Imagine that person being the Neo of their own universe, where they desperately need to be the hero, desperate to believe with the power of their own thought and will they could bend metal, and you, a lowly spoon, can give that person the satisfaction of believing they have superpowers.
So the next time your Boss comes marching into your office, and spews garbled nonsense that does nothing but confuse you, then you will bend for him. If you’re in the store, and the customer service person is being extremely rude, then you will bend for him. When you go home and your spouse is extremely upset and can not be consoled, then you will bend for them.
The point is that as much as there is no spoon, there is no you. You can bend by your own will, as much as you can bend by the will of others. It doesn’t stop you from being a spoon, whether it’s the one you want to be, or the one you are. At the end of the day, this is about allowing the world to get what it needs from you, so that you can move on with your life. Because at the end of the day, you’re really just an empty spoon anyway.