“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.” ~Morpheus, The Matrix
Several months ago I had a rather deep conversation with a client over the merits of The Matrix. It was not about our thoughts on the movie, or the franchise, but instead on the idea. “What if we are actually in the matrix”, he said to me. You see for him, life has never been much more than a series of controls. For him, it looks as if everyone is able to do these amazing things, but somehow, in some way, they are able to limit his abilities. They know everything about him. They try to manipulate him, coerce him through threats and intimidation. In fact, for him, his psychiatric diagnosis is nothing more than another form of control to limit his ability to be himself. For him, there is no Morpheus, Trinity, or Neo coming to unplug him.
The same can be said of many of us though. In so many ways, a lot of us find ourselves trapped in a matrix of sorts. Conservatives, Liberals, and Tea Party members would certainly agree that their opposing parties are a part of a series of controls. Each trying to gain more and more power over the other, and subsequently, over us all. Various ethnic groups, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, people with different religious beliefs, or no religious beliefs would all agree that in some small way they live in a world of controls. Controls that give those already in power…more power. While those beneath remain where they are until they can be erased and forgotten.
As children, we lived on a diet of red pills. Our minds were free and we were the most powerful beings on the planet. We ate popsicles and saved the sticks to create great works of art. Cotton balls were not used for packing, or removing nail polish…but instead served as the snow outside the house we built from cardboard and masking tape. Big wheels were race cars or jet fighters and a game of hopscotch could very well save the planet from the destructive force of a mutant dragonfly name Isaac.
We ate those red pills with our Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Frosted Flakes. We ate the pill because it was the secret prize inside the cereal box that you found when you opened a new box and dumped it all into a large mixing bowl to be the first to retrieve it. Some of us…well…some of us still have a secret stash of red pills hidden. We take them, and we use them to create worlds beyond this one. We use them to remind our brothers and sisters on this planet that we need not be trapped and manipulated by a series of controls. Worlds are created in print, on screen, and on TV to remind us how to be a kid again. Even if for only hour, or 45 minutes with commercials, we remember what it felt like when we woke up in the morning to take that little red pill.
When I left my client after that conversation I thought about the irony of the whole thing. This man is very intelligent and an absolutely amazing artist, yet because on the surface his thoughts seem disorganized and paranoid, we’ve labeled him as “sick”. I sat with him for over an hour that day and talked to him. I listened to him. I looked at his watercolor paintings and realized…he sees more than many of us do…or ever will. What I found ironic was the fact that there was a little red pill in his med pack. Through his thoughts, his words, and his art I could see that he wasn’t sick.
His mind was simply free.