Spoiler Alert forThe Matrix
The Matrix is one of my favourite films of all time. Set in a post-apocalyptic future in which humans have lost a war with ‘the machines,’ the story follows Neo (Keanu Reeves), a hacker who discovers the life he’s been living is a lie. It turns out his real body has been asleep in the real world, while his mind has been operating inside a computer simulation, the energy he produces being harvested by the machines.
He learns this from Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who wages guerilla warfare against the machines, when he breaks Neo out of his prison. Morpheus is very much the mentor figure of the film, teaching Neo how to navigate his new reality. But Morpheus isn’t one of those sunshine-and-rainbow type mentors. No, he’s more of a tell-it-without-sugarcoating kind.
Today’s quote comes from the scene where Morpheus explains Neo’s new reality to him, and I’ve always loved the way he describes the devastation that surrounds them.
Welcome to the desert of the real.
Like all good science fiction, the best part of The Matrix is that even though it’s set in an indeterminate future, it’s easy to relate it to today. And while Morpheus’ quote originally made it into the book because I liked the poetry of it, over time I’ve come to appreciate it even more due to its accuracy. If ever reality has felt like a desert, it’s been over the last few years – COVID, rampant climate change, war (just so much war), huge steps backwards in basic human rights, a crashing world economy, and not fucking much in terms of bright spots on the horizon.
Of course, that’s where Morpheus comes into play again. Because while he ‘tells it like it is,’ he also has hope. See, Morpheus believes in a prophecy which states The One will free humanity from its enslavement. What’s more, he believes Neo is The One. I’ve always felt bad for Neo, as Morpheus’ belief puts a helluva strain on him. But in the end, it’s what Neo needs to hear in order to become his true self, reach his full potential, and do what he can to make the world a better place.
The moment in the film where Neo embraces his role rather than denying it always makes me cheer inside. And while the following films in the series make it clear that his win at the end of The Matrix only ends one battle, not the entire war, it proves that Morpheus was right to hope.
It seems appropriate that a quote I ultimately connect to hope is quite bleak. I’m a bit like Morpheus, after all. I tend to speak my mind. I also do what I can to improve the world, but I recognize that there are people out there who are far better suited to do so, and concentrate more on supporting them from the background.
But I’m also angrier and more cynical than he is. Hope doesn’t come easy to me. So I took the bit where a hopeful character sounds most like me to remind myself to try to adopt an outlook more like his.
Not a bad result for a mentor. Especially a fictional one.
To see previous posts in my Quotes series, click here.