Orthodoxy in Dialogue is pleased to offer the first article in our new Faith & the Arts series.
“…love is always free, and without freedom there is no love.”
Kallistos Ware, “The Human Person as an Icon of the Trinity,” Sorbornost 8:2, 1986
In 1999 the world was introduced to The Matrix. The premise of the movie suggests that we are living in a simulated computer program and the year is really 2199. The world lost the war against the AIs, and they are using humans as Energizer batteries so they can use the energy from our bodies to power themselves. Humans are slaves and are no longer born, but grown in pods.
However, there’s a group of humans who were able to escape the matrix by discerning what is real and what is not. These humans banded together to free humanity. In order for this group to truly succeed, they need to find the One who will “deliver” them from the matrix. Morpheus, their current leader, feels that Thomas Anderson is the One. By day he is Thomas Anderson, programmer, but at night he’s the hacker known as Neo. (Get it? Neo is an anagram for the word “one.”)
With me so far? In the articles I’ve read about The Matrix, spirituality is the predominant motif. However, I see Neo as an everyman who is struggling with his personhood. At the beginning of The Matrix, he is lying on the couch, seemingly bored. He perks up when a message begins typing on his screen. Through a series of events he meets Morpheus, who tells him the truth: humanity is enslaved by the AIs. Morpheus asks Neo to join them.
Before Neo decides, Morpheus tells him, “…I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.” So he swallows the red pill (freedom) rather than the blue pill (slavery) and gets sucked down a rabbit hole. He then ends up (reborn?) in a pod with tubes attached to his body. He pulls the tubes out, falls out of his gooey liquid, and gets sucked down into a slide and right into water.
He is rescued by the Nebuchadnezzar and begins his training about how to navigate through the matrix. Apparently, the process is very easy. A program is uploaded into your brain and voilà, instant expert.
Neo realizes that he never knew anything—either about himself or the world around him. He begins to establish bonds. He likes Morpheus, Trinity, and the others, and they reciprocate in kind (except for Cypher, who turns out to be a Judas). Neo realizes that life is complex. Without a community he is no one. He might as well add an “m” between the “e” and the “o” and become Nemo. Being a part of a community makes him a unique person. As Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia says, “There is no true person except where there are at least two persons in a reciprocal relationship” (“An Icon of Human Freedom,” Pemptousia, October 2016). Neo is no longer a no one. He is now a person within a community of other unique persons.
The matrix misleads the humans into believing that life is good and fulfilling, and more is better. The matrix parallels our own world: more is better and it’s about me! We succumb to earthly temptations. We focus on the physical instead of our hearts. We prefer cliques to community.
The Matrix is showing us a path to personhood through community. As individuals we limit interactions with others. We see a path to what needs to be done but are too apathetic to become involved. Morpheus tells Neo, “…there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” We can take Morpheus’ statement further. If we follow the path of our hearts rather than our minds, we can walk the right path. Our heart is the tool that we need—for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:21).
So swallow the red pill and be a unique person within a community, because we, like “the Christian God [are] not a unit but a union, not just unity but community” (The Orthodox Way, Kallistos Ware).
Lia Lewis holds an MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She lives and works in New Jersey, writes fiction and non-fiction, and blogs at Orthodox Chick with a Blog. She attends Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Westfield.
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Thou hast ascended in glory, O Christ our God,
granting joy to Thy disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
that Thou art the Son of God,
the Redeemer of the world!
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