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Wake Up Human beings have always had a difficult time establishing the definition of reality. In The Allegory of the Cave by Plato, prisoners chained to a rock observe shadows on the wall for so long that they believe they are real. Descartes, the philosopher, wrote that he could not be sure that life was not just a stream of unconscious dreams. The film, The Matrix, does not attempt to answer this basic human question directly. Yet, since its release, philosophers have attempted to use the film as a springboard to extract a definition of reality. Through the motifs of dreams and waking from these dreams, The Matrix displays an amorphous reality for human beings.
Human symbolic language distorts reality in a persons consciousness, just as the Matrix clouds the minds of humans through their dreams. Yet, The Matrix shows that awaking from these controls, whether it is language programming or the Matrix dreams, humans can exhibit control over an amorphous reality. People can only access reality through abstract concepts, and therefore reality is ambiguous and malleable because acquired definitions place reality in a persons mind. Dreaming in The Matrix reshapes the reality of the characters.
When Trinity contacts Neo the first time, he is asleep, with headphones on his ears when the computer types Wake up, Neo. Neo responds and immediately looks at the computer screen. Trinity has somehow gotten into his dreams and shaped them so that his dreams connect with his reality. The boundary between dreaming and waking blurs and Neo cannot determine what is real. Philosopher Colin Mc Gin observes, the dream state is indistinguishable from the waking state from the point of view of the dreamer.
Because Neo has no suspicion that what he senses is not from his conscious mind, he wakes when Trinity tells him to, and he follows the White Rabbit as she instructs. The dreams that Neo experiences at the beginning of the Matrix manipulate his reality because he acts on the information that he gains in those dreams. While dreaming, one is more accepting of the reality presented, and therefore the dreams dismantle the logical controls in the brain. During the dream state, normal sensory input is blocked, reasoning and logic are weakened, self-reflection is dampened or destroyed, emotion and instinct are [over] stimulated, and forms of willed control and decision-making diluted and easily overwhelmed, (Clark). REM sleep, the dreaming state of the sleep cycle, is a mode for which a humans subconscious processes his or her reality (The Franklin Institute Online) and Neos obedience to Trinity's commands in his dreams expresses this. The dreams force Neo to give new form to the reality that he has come to accept.
Morpheus likens living in the Matrix to being in a perpetual state of dreaming. Machines have programmed humans to continually dream of their real world. They have taken the sensations of the physical world and inserted them into the minds of humans. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world- built to keep us under control, he explicates. The mental haze the machines have created is analogous to human language. Language is mechanic, just as the machines are mechanical.
According to Joel Charon, during childhood, a category of reality is labeled; we are taught how we are supposed to act in relation to that category of reality. With the use of words, we are able to act appropriately (171). A child acquires his or her sense of reality through language programming or socialization. Just as Neo, and the others born into the Matrix, is unaware that machines have programmed him, so is a child unaware that the words and symbols he or she acquires shape him or her as well. Since the Matrix is an illusion created by machines, then consciousness of reality is a narrow vision created by language. Mark Johnson asserts that reality has its basis on a conceptual system built on metaphorical language and language can have a confining effect on mans reality, as each word extracts a set image programmed into the person (Johnson and Lakoff 56 - 60; 163).
Humans are interacting and communicating within a Matrix of their own because reality is not directly tangible and accessed only through concepts in the mind. The film uses a motif of awakening to emphasize the fact that reality is only the definition that one acquires. When Neo awakes from his encounters with Morpheus and the Agents, he assumes he has just experienced a dream within a dream, and takes none of it as real. Morpheus prods, What if you were unable to wake from that dream?
How would you know the difference between the dream world, and real world? Neo can only know he is inside of the Matrix when he accepts that there is something more outside of it. Dreams are neurologically interpreted by the human brain as reality but, of course we eventually wake up, and when we do, we realize that our experience was all in our mind, (Mc Gin). Reality is dependant on a mans ability to place himself outside of his minds controls. Since the active mind is required to interpret physical existence, a human can never be certain of absolute truths. Reality has no denotation outside of mental reasoning, and conscious humans can only access and understand the physical world through explanations already placed in human consciousness.
In The Matrix, awakening from dreams while in the Matrix or in the real world does not ensure the subject has full access to reality, but it does denote a stronger sense of control. Neo awakes three times at the beginning of The Matrix, only to realize he is simply in another state of consciousness that simulates the reality from which he just awoke. However, with each awakening, he has access to a better understanding of the real world. Offering an explanation, Andrew Mason says, The Matrix is really just a set of questions, a mechanism for prodding an ignorant or dulled mind into questioning as many things as possible (Schuchardt 16). The Kid in the Oracles sitting room tells Neo to try to realize there is no spoon only then will you see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is yourself. Neos recognition represents what men are coming to grasp now: that pure objectivity is an illusion, and that the mind creates the real world with metaphors (Johnson and Lakoff 210 - 222).
Upon awareness that their conceptions control and manipulate them, human beings can awaken to mold and shape their concepts so that they may change their perception of the real world. The film, The Matrix is simply a springboard for which philosophers and the masses can venture to establish a definition of the real world. The usage of dreams in The Matrix show physical existence does not denote reality, as lucid dreams can simulate the physical world so acutely that humans, like Neo, have a difficult time determining where the boundary between waking and dreaming is. Humans have created a language based on symbolic metaphors to set up a reality that exists only in the metaphysical state of the conscious mind. This control is similar to the mental prison that the machines have created as the Matrix in the conscious minds of the human race. Awaking from the dream world of the Matrix allows Neo to manipulate his dream, or the Matrix, to his will.
The Matrix shows that the ambiguous and fluid nature of reality is present because humans can only access reality through abstract concepts that are already in place in a persons consciousness. Works Cited Charon, Joel M. Human Beings Are Symbol Users. The Meaning of Sociology. 7 th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002 Clark, Andy. The Twisted Matrix: Dream, Simulation, or Hybrid?
What Is The Matrix? 19 Dec. 2003. 12 Nov. 2005. < web cmp / new phil clark. html> The Franklin Institute Online. REM Sleep Enhances Emotional-Memory Study. The Human Brain: Sleep and Stress. 13 Nov. 2005. < web > Grau, Christopher. Dream Skepticism.
What Is the Matrix? 20 Nov. 2002. 15 Nov. 2005. < web cmp / new phil fr mawson. html> Johnson, Mark, and George Lakoff. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. The Matrix. Dir.
Andy Wachowski, and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fish bourne, Carrie-Ann Moss, and Hugo Weaving. DVD. Warner Bros. , 1999. Mc Gin, Colin.
The Matrix Of Dreams. What Is The Matrix? 20 Nov. 2002. 13 Nov. 2005. < web cmp / new phil fr mawson. html> Partridge, John. Plato's Cave and The Matrix. What Is The Matrix? 20 Mar. 2003. 12 Nov. 2005. < web cmp / new phil fr mawson. html> Schuchardt, Read Mercer.
What Is The Matrix? Taking the Red Pill. Ed. Glenn Yeffeth. Dallas, TX: Ben bella Books, 2003. 5 - 21.
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