Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Life Lessons I Learned From Science Fiction (Day Three)

Today's Lesson: Reality is a scam, and someone has a vested interest in you not finding that out.


"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now in this very room... you can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from The Truth...

...You are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind."

-The Matrix

My buddy Cliff at Rusty Idols has written written a piece about a recent court case in the US where a teenager has been formally punished for doing independent research on the harmfulness (or lack thereof) of marijuana.

Meanwhile, The US Supreme Court (you remember... the old guys who used to be in charge of things like protecting freedom of speech) has ruled that free speech is bad if you're in school and it's marijuana you're talking about.

Every human civilization has had officially approved-of ways for an individual to alter his or her own consciousness. The Ancient Romans had wine. The Egyptians had beer. Maoist China had huge chanting rallies. Consumerist Materialism has caffeine and commercials that encourage consumption. Pentacostalists have what's called "being slain in the Spirit." The nature of a person's consciousness changes over the course of a day, and most of us (whether we think of it in those terms or not) do something to artificially tamper with our state of mind.

The culturally-approved forms of self-medication generally support the larger goals of the culture in question. That's why marijuana is on the American verboten list: it screws with your urge to compete. Alcohol is out of the question in Saudi Arabia, because The Koran says so. Start speaking in tongues, rolling on the ground and shouting for Jesus in downtown Beijing, and you're likely to be arrested.

Every culture comes with its basic spoken and unspoken assumptions. Anyone who takes an unapproved drug (and thus begins conditioning themselves rather than letting the herd do the conditioning) is breaking the rules -- asserting their right to find answers to life's questions on their own, rather than letting The Boss/Chairman Mao/Pastor Dave provide the answers. Anything that hampers groupthink is a threat to The Group.

If you're okay with your culture handing you all the answers, go right ahead. If you think the Truth as presented to you on CNN and in the staff meeting is all there is, great. I almost envy you. Almost.

Some of us, though, would rather explore the final frontier of our minds in our own way. Clearly, we are Troublemakers and Outcasts and Disreputable People. You go right ahead and judge us... we're too busy looking for the keys that might get us all out of this prison.

While you're busy condemning us, don't forget that you and I are both alive today because of one Troublemaker named Vasiliy Arkhipov.

"You take the Blue Pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the Red Pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is The Truth. Nothing more."

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