Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Often times I become focused on an idea or event and end up totally engrossed in the subject for a period of time. It is in the middle of the obsession that I begin finding the connections. All last winter I was engrossed in Moby Dick. It became my lens, and still is. The reason for adopting Moby Dick as my guide to "The Dark Time"—my daughter calls the night the dark time, very poetic—is because it encapsulates the feeling that we are undergoing here at the beginning of the 21st century: meaningless isolation.

Our grand technologies have divided us from our community, from life, from true experience. My wife was recently in New York and had gone to some museums naturally. It blew her mind when she saw that people would not experience the paintings with their own eyes. They experienced the painting through their camera, or their phone. This is an image they could get at home on their home screen. Why bother?

Earlier this year Lawrence Weschler made a post at the Mcsweeney's website noting this mediated distance from life: (Read it! It's fascinating.)


I see this phenomenon when I go to rock shows. Young folks are too busy texting about the experience instead of experiencing the experience. It is an ominous sight too. Blue glowing faces in the dark with their eyes and head down and their thumbs moving furiously. They look like possessed zombies tapped into some addictive source.

Maybe we need another definition.

simulacrum |ˌsimyəˈlākrəm; -ˈlak-|

noun ( pl. -lacra |-ˈlākrə; -ˈlakrə|or -lacrums)

an image or representation of someone or something.

an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin, from simulare (see simulate ).

And with that, we arrive at the most important movie of the last twenty years, or that has been my wont to say for some time now. As corny as The Matrix was, its value as a vehicle for understanding the truth is impressive. I want to start slow. How about this?

It is not a coincidence that Neo's name also spells "one" for he is "the one", the chosen one, the hero. That is something the artists intended. They wanted that meaning embedded in their character to give it depth. Now what do you make of this? (Click it; It should get bigger.)

While Neo was being interrogated by Agent Smith, we can see the paper work in front of him from Neo's point of view. It is Neo's Captial City ID, and the expiration date is September 11 2001.

What do we call this? Coincidence? Convergence? Conspiracy? Nothing? Just silliness? Were the artists who created this film detecting something in the collective unconscious about what was coming, or was there a conspiracy and they were in on it? The film came out in 1999 if you recall.

What do any of those terms mean? Perhaps that could be helpful:

coincidence |kōˈinsədəns; -ˌdens|


1 a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection : it's no coincidence that this new burst of innovation has occurred in the free nations | they met by coincidence.

2 correspondence in nature or in time of occurrence : the coincidence of interest between the mining companies and certain politicians.

3 Physics the presence of ionizing particles or other objects in two or more detectors simultaneously, or of two or more signals simultaneously in a circuit.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.(in the sense [occupation of the same space] ): from medieval Latin coincidentia, from coincidere 'coincide, agree' (see coincide ). Sense 3 dates from the 1930s.

convergence |kənˈvərjəns| (also convergency |-jənsē|)


the process or state of converging : the convergence of lines in the distance.

Biology the tendency of unrelated animals and plants to evolve superficially similar characteristics under similar environmental conditions.

(also convergence zone) a location where airflows or ocean currents meet, characteristically marked by upwelling (of air) or downwelling (of water).

synchronicity |ˌsi ng krəˈnisitē|


1 the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection : such synchronicity is quite staggering.

2 another term for synchrony (sense 1).

ORIGIN 1950s: coined (in sense 1) by C. G. Jung.

collective unconscious


(in Jungian psychology) the part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual's unconscious.

I think The Matrix is so important because it lays bare a metaphor for life. We must wake up to reality! "There is no spoon."

(Bill Hicks)

In my introduction, I stated the importance of fiction, which I will relate to dream. One's dreams can be very instructive. Often they communicate a truth subconsciously in an encoded manner that one's conscious self is unwilling to face. Movies and fiction also create a space—a virtual space or matrix—to examine the truth of a situation or the state of one's life.

Here was an important step for me on my hero's journey. In the spring of 2005 I took a mediaeval literature course that was built around King Arthur as its primary focal point. The natural question is, how big a dork am I? Yes I do admit to being a dork, but this is important stuff; some of the most important fiction written. The important tool that I acquired was that I learned was how to read things. And by how, I mean the levels of meaning.

Here is a for instance. The film Pan's Labyrinth was captivating to so many people despite its graphic violence because. . . Because, it forced them to talk about its meaning. What was interesting was to hear arguments about what happened. Was all the fantasy just how the little girl dealt with her abusive stepfather? Her coping mechanism? Was the fantasy the reality? Was the little girl really a metaphor for the Spanish people under a fascist rule. How many stories were told? One?

There was no right answer. And this is a difficulty living in a literalist society. Both perspectives in the argument were correct because either all the readings are correct or none of them are correct. Pan's Labyrinth contains many levels of understanding but essentially tells one story in many different ways or guises. James Joyce called this the "monomyth". Joseph Campbell called it The Hero's Journey.

E pluribus unum—From many one. This is Isis. Do you know where she lives?

In the above still from The Matrix, she is blasting off out of Neo's head. She is part of a state seal on his ID. Officially, she is Statue of Freedom.

So, from the King Arthur lit class, I learned that all meanings/readings are valid and true. The reason why Arthurian romances and Lost are so engaging is because the adventures on the literal level are so viscerally fun while the meanings from the metaphoric/symbolic level reveal the depths and mysteries of life. Science might be able to break life down into its constituent components, but only in fiction can one hold the entire macrocosm in one's hands contained in a microcosm.

Here is another important part of developing a "literature mind"—thinking symbolically. Character A has a life and has a literal story, but, she is also a symbol for her country and her times. She is all people (from many, one). Thus, her literal story also tells the story of her "State". State is such and interesting word for in it is contained both the microcosm, and the macrocosm. It represents one's individual condition as well as their place of residence essentially being the same thing.

She, character A is the microcosm, and her country is the macrocosm, but she is both. She is one person and all persons. This then yielding truth to the oft heard maxim: "As above, so below." Here is a great pictorial example of microcosm encoded in the macrocosm:
-I read a really great article in Parabola that I want to share soon. It has to do with why I like The Matrix and Lost so much—life as a prison. To prepare, I think you need to watch Escape from New York.

A house in a fiction can be representative of someone's psychology with the floors describing the character's Id, Ego, and Super-ego. I've heard this assertion about the Bates home in Pschyo. How about Dorothy's companions? Were they literal persons or could they be symbols for the things she needed to develop to become independent? Mind (wisdom), heart (compassion), courage (strength)? And we learned that she could have always have found these truths where? It took a violent event though, the cyclone, to get through to her that the things she sought were always there inside herself.

Bad dreams sometimes horrify us into waking up to our situation. Sometimes we need that wake up call. We can't find our truth any other way. Horror and sci-fi fictions are very psychologically revealing genres also with their dream like qualities encoding some truth about the protagonist. Are Hitchcock's birds literal birds, or a symbol for the mother's maternal rage? Freudian stuff. There is a woman, Melanie Daniels, who is coming between Mitch and his mother. This is the threshold of adventure, and the mother represents one of the "threshold guardians" blocking the way to those initiates not yet ready for what is beyond their current state.

This begs the question about the hero's journey as a metaphor for coming of age, or growing up. Are all the great stories merely descriptions for the challenges and metamorphoses we all must face? Is the eating of the apple in the garden a story about children becoming adults? The garden is childhood, and god-the-father is literally "father". The father is actually the other threshold guardian.

Does the artist intentionally create all of these levels of meaning encoded in the their work? If it is my work, most definitely yes! Everything is intentional. All jokes aside, I would say that much seeps in from the artist's subconscious possibly in connection with the collective unconscious. This is why we have two asteroid movies at the same time. This is why we have two ant movies at the same time. This is why we have two volcano movies at the same time. Of course we do live in a dualistic world, but perhaps that is for another time.

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