Friday, 7 November 2008

Armistice Day In The Matrix

The Matrix Revolutions always confused me.

Now don't get me wrong, like you I was disappointed, but not for the reasons most people were.

A lot of people bitched about the invasion of Zion, saying it was too 'Playstationy'. Some others pointed to a disjointed narrative, stale characters, whatever.

Not me. I didn't mind any of that. What I did mind is that I just didn't 'get' it. I didn't understand the ending.

Now before we go on, just to warn you that none of this is going to make any sense to you unless you have watched at least the first Matrix film.

Normally I'd go to pains to make it more accessible, but frankly, if this is you I'm doing you a favour by forcing you to watch it. It's brilliant. You only need to watch the first one to get what I'm saying - I'll explain the rest.

I've even embedded video feeds of all the relevant bits through the use of techno-witchery.

Anyway - the ending of the Matrix Revolutions. My problem with it was that I didn't understand it.

Agent Smith, the creepy baddie from the first film, has discovered how to replicate himself. He spreads like a virus across the whole matrix, taking it over from within. He stands poised to possess everyone in the entire matrix, and thus take it over.

Neo, blinded by Agent Smith, comes to the end of his journey and walks into the heart of the machine city as the machines finally crack the last of Zion's defences.

He goes to the core of the machines, and meets the AI at the centre of it all.

He proposes a truce.

He says that the program known as Smith has infected the Matrix. Soon Smith will spread throughout the Machine City and destroy it too. When it is destroyed, the AI will fall. The AI is unable to stop Smith because he has infected the Matrix so completely that it cannot remove him without destroying the Matrix, and itself with it.

Neo says - I will defeat Smith. Hook me in to the Matrix.

Cables extend from the walls of the Machine City. They hook into Neo. He enters the Matrix. Back in Zion the machines pause in their onslaught.

Neo walks down a city street in the driving rain. Thousands of Smiths line the sidewalks, but do not attack. They are cheering on the main, original Agent Smith who talks to Neo about his impending death.

They fight. It gets pretty silly.

Ultimately, Neo is beaten and lies broken in a crater created when Smith smashed him into the ground. Smith gloats, mocks Neo at length. Then he drives his hand into Neo's chest, possessing him.

Smith looks at Smith. Smith has won.

Then the new Smith begins to twitch. Light shines from behind his shades, when through them. Then they shatter, then he screams and explodes in a burning light. Back in reality Neo is shining like an angel.

The light extends like a chain reaction through all the Smiths, killing them all and purging the Matrix of his presence

Back in reality the AI lowers Neo to the floor. Is he alive? Is he dead? We don't know. The AI's voice speaks one last time: “It is done.”

Now call me a stinky, blue-skinned muppet, but I didn't really see the deeper meaning here. To me it was just a very convoluted, visually spectacular but ultimately disappointing end to the Matrix Trilogy.

I'll tell you why.

The first film is just scorching. It's a brilliant metaphor for something that runs extremely deep in all of us – and it's a kick ass action movie.

But the reason I was looking forward to the sequels wasn't because I liked the martial arts. It was because The Matrix displayed a depth of insight into the human condition that I'd simply never seen in a big-budget film before.

I want to know how it ended. Just as a metaphor for existence, the first Matrix film plumbed so deep I had high expectations for the third film.

The second film was a kind of philosophical 'set up' piece. The final film was to be the knock out blow.

But I didn't get it.


Yesterday I was really pissed off. Not about the Matrix, just in general.

A lot of things were grating on me. It wasn't really anything big, but the chill I'd been building up seemed far away. I was fragile and volatile. On edge.

The funny thing was almost how little it had to do with outside circumstance. I'd not been in an argument, and although I'd had a scary couple of days last week for personal reasons (see next monthly casefile) there was nothing really wrong.

But yeah, I was sitting in my room working on my computer, getting really pissed off at nothing.

Like when a page took too long to load I'd get this compulsive urge to punch out the screen.

We've all been there. It was like whatever anger/rage/hate/pain/suffering/whatever that lurks in the recesses of my subconscious mind had decided that it was getting bored and it wanted to kick off.

Sitting cooped up in this room wasn't helping. I needed to walk it off. I get a text from a friend who wants to meet up. It's a good excuse. I put on my new jacket. I like it. I feel cool.

I walk out the door of my flat – five steps from my door a guy brushes past me. In my mind I smash his face into the pavement.

I walked down the street, my face like thunder. The rage was in full swing now, and I was wrestling to keep it in check, wielding my presence like a fire extinguisher. It didn't seem to be working.

I get to the crossing and a car drives past. It's wheel hits a puddle and three drops splash my left shin through my jean. In my head I take the metal-tipped umbrella from a passer by, close it and throw it like a javelin into the back of the driver's head.

I'm walking and my anger is boiling. Going outside was a bad idea.

I can barely hear Eckhart's voice over the sound of my mind, filled with fury at a thousand imagined slights. I feel the keening joy of hate, that sweet taste of righteous fire.

The sweet and filthy ecstacy of driving your fist over and over into the face of the person you hate and they scream and cower and weep.

I'm angry. Really angry. It's getting out of control. Ok, ok, slow down. Stop.

I stop walking and lean up against a railing. The rage is still kicking off. I can't see my friend like this I'll break her in half, or at the very least be a total dick. Probably the latter.

I take the mp3 player out of my jacket pocket. I check the volume. It's only halfway up and it's already pretty loud. I jack it up to full and Eckhart's meek still voice booms in my head like a megaphone. My ears hurt. I turn it down slightly – not much, just a little. Just this side of pain.

There's something about listening to Eckhart Tolle on full volume when you're either raging or in despair. It is really interesting.

It's like there's a point of volume where it's too loud for your mind to talk over it. Your mind can't ignore it anymore. And just the simple fact of having that level of presence booming in your head. It's potent stuff.

The other major effect is that you're not engaging with Tolle's ideas in an abstract way. It's all too fucking real, which is on the one side a bad thing, but on the other an opportunity.

Opportunity it may be, but it's still not working. Still fucking angry.

Ok. Ok. I've got a little distance on the rage now.

I notice something. When you're angry and you try to 'look at the anger', often there's a subtle undertone of hatred to your looking. You're so full of anger that you hate the anger and you want it to go.

This is extremely difficult to get around. It's not just a case of just knowing that it happens. It's deeply imbedded, way below a level where you can consciously turn it off.

But Tolle's voice booming in my head is cracking the space open, like a wedge driven between me and the hatred.

For all the volume and all the power of his presence, it's still not a big gap. The rage is still powerful. It's still there, seething and boiling and lashing out.

After about 15 minutes I realise Tolle's not just going to dissolve this shit for me. I'm calmer than I was but the anger is still twisting and tearing.

But there it is - I can see it now, there's a separation between me and the rage.

I focus on the serenity. I try to remind myself that the serenity isn't just part of me, it is me. The rage doesn't care. It keeps flickering and sucking me back in. Tolle's voice keeps pulling me out.

I'm not going to be able to beat this shit. I'm not going to be able to beat the conflict. It's too strong, too strong by miles.

Then suddenly, in the space of a heartbeat, Armistice.

An Armistice is an agreement between two warring parties to stop fighting. In Britain we remember the Armistice at the end of World War One every November 11th. We wear poppies as a sign of respect for our fallen servicemen.

An armistice is not like a peace treaty - it is what is called a 'Modus Vivendi' – fancy Latin speak for when you agree to disagree.

You do not go into all the knotty issues as to why you want to win or why you want to surrender. You just agree to stop fighting.

I called an Armistice with the rage.

It is a strange thing to make peace with conflict.

Not to make resolve the conflict – but to make peace with it.

And not a specific conflict either.

But to make peace with conflict itself.

Making peace with conflict.

Tolle calls this 'allowing the pain to be'. It's really interesting though, it's like actively making peace, swearing a truce, allowing the rage to rage. Allowing the despair to despair. Allowing the hate to hate. Letting the pain hurt.

But not just that, it's deeper. What Tolle talks of when he says a 'deep allowing'. It's not just silencing your mind. It's something different, it's almost impossible to describe.

When you say 'let the pain be' there's a truth in that which is far more real – far more real – than anything you can wrap your head around. It is so counterintuitive and massively contrary to every way we've ever interacted with pain before. Than we've been taught to interact with it by every aspect of our lives and cultures.

But despite that, it is real. It's not just 'another idea' that you 'try out'.

This is a real process that has a real effect. You hit it or you don't.

As soon as I began extending peace to and through the conflict inside me – as soon as I started make peace with the rage – making peace with conflict itself, rage itself, hate itself – the separation happened.

It was as if rage had no answer to peace other than more rage, and if you're willing to accept that, the Armistice holds.

Pain raged inside me still, but it had the space to rage. Burning, jagged, lashing out with all it's stored energy, it stood exposed as something not me. Something almost alien.

Serenity rose.

And with nothing to feed the rage, the energy it was expending slowly began to run out.

It became weaker and as it did I became more serene – but not an empty serenity.

No, this is the serenity that is the same as 'being in the zone,' the serenity that Zen masters, athletes and weirdoes speak of.

I met my friend in the bar and I wasn't a dick at all. A few of her mates were there, and we had a fantastic time. Chill, full of fun and laughter, connections, all that jazz. and that is a small miracle when you think of the fury that was pounding through my head mere minutes earlier.

This is like the third time something like this has happened.

I wrote about it once before on this blog in the "Ignition" post – it's the same thing I felt here.

It was interesting though, it was like I came at it from a completely different angle. To make peace with pain. To make peace with hate. Now that means individual hatreds – but it also means hate itself, in it's essence.

And that's what I'm trying to get at here. That's the insight of this whole thing. It's not about making peace with your demons. It's about making peace with the entire demonic realm.

Make peace with evil itself. Call an armistice. A full, and unconditional Armistice with Hell.

And does that mean you become demonic?

No – the opposite is true. You already ARE demonic if you react with resistance to hate, fear, pain and despair.


Because all these things are forms of conflict. And if you instigate conflict with a form of conflict, you have become the very thing you are attacking.

So you make peace with the rage - in it's entirety. You make peace with the despair - all of it.

And what will the response be?

From rage, the response will be rage. From despair, the response will be despair.

But all you need to do is to keep making peace with the rage in it's fullness, the despair in it's fullness. It's

You are NOT trying to reduce the rage. Or reduce the despair, or the fear, or the pain, or whatever you're facing. If you try to reduce it you'll fail because you're getting into conflict with the pain.

But the great thing is that you don't need to. The pain will dissipate on it's own - yes, even that hardcore deep emotional hardship that you've been running from all your life - if you call that armistice and hold it.

Trying to change the pain, reduce the fear, fight the rage - this is the deep reflexive pattern that has been keeping humanity on it's knees since the dawn of recorded history.

You can see this very clearly in arguments and counterarguments, positions and counterpositions. You see it in conversations between people you know. You see it on a national scale across the globe. You see it in every scale in between.

To seek an end of conflict through victory is the way humans have been doing it since year Zero.

But to make peace with conflict itself? That is a revolution.

That is a different path, a different angle from anything that has gone before. It is a new way, a way out of the cycle of pain, an escape from the relentless prison that has all humanity trapped.

In fact, you could truly say that it is the only way out of pain, hell, suffering. Everything ever done on any spiritual path that has any benefit spiritually is essentially this: making peace with conflict itself.

And THAT is what the fucking ending of the Matrix 3 is about.

You cannot beat the machines. They have all the weapons.

You cannot just 'go along with them' either, forget your problems and drop back into the Matrix because it's not real and it will destroy you, and itself.

So what can you do?

You have to make peace. Make peace with the darkness. Make peace with the conflict.

Make peace with darkness itself. Make peace with conflict itself.

Once you do, the dysfunctional part of the Matrix will rise up and attack you – but you will be invulnerable to it, to everything it's got. Because your weapon is peace, you are the peacemaker.

This is the deep meaning of what Christ said when he said

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

He didn't say

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are morally superior.”

He didn't say

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for making peace is the right thing to do.”

He said

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."

Sons of GOD. That's not just saying someone 'did well' or that peacemakers are 'really, really good'.

No, he said they will be called sons of God. That's a very big, and a very specific thing to say.

Sons of God.

Motherfucking sons of God, motherfucker.

Is this shit swimming into focus for anyone else, or is it just me?


Remember though - all of these are just words. No matter how what words Christ uses, or Tolle uses, or I use or anyone uses to describe this thing, this deep reality, I am continually smacked in the face by the fact that all words conjure up an illusion that is, by definition, profoundly misleading.

No matter how well I describe this thing, all I'm doing is spinning a fairy tale that in some way 'corresponds' to a reality that I could never even begin to discuss. That you could never begin to understand. That no logic could ever define – but from which all true logic arises.

It's crucial that you do not get lost in the mental images I am painting with these squiggly shapes in cyberspace.

It's crucial that you do not get lost in the mental images all words, by their very nature – even these ones – conjure up.

There is a real reality that really exists under all this stuff, and it is really real, in real life.

It's when the pain rises that you'll find it easiest to experience the reality of this stuff, because that's when the reality of this is the most immediate and your motivation for getting out of it is the most intense.

But seriously – don't take my word for it. Get an mp3 player and some in-ear headphones. Jack it full of Eckhart Tolle and see this shit for yourself.

It'll blow your head clean off.


Anonymous said...

intense stuff, Ciaran. I'm going to follow this.
btw have you read "Get out of your Mind & into your life" by Steven C. Hayes? You will LOVE this book.

cheers, Michael

Anonymous said...

Is this relatable(sp?) to the painbody at all or no? How come the emotions get stronger and stronger but they are in longer spare. Is this what happens to you.

Anonymous said...

hey man. How is sleeping with Tolle on working out? I have tried but cant sleep when listening to it.

Ciaran said...

"Anonymous said...

intense stuff, Ciaran. I'm going to follow this.
btw have you read "Get out of your Mind & into your life" by Steven C. Hayes? You will LOVE this book.

cheers, Michael"

thanks, man. And no, haven't read it. I'll keep an eye out, it sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Is this relatable(sp?) to the painbody at all or no? How come the emotions get stronger and stronger but they are in longer spare. Is this what happens to you.

Yes, well spotted. This is indeed the phenomenon that Tolle refers to as the pain body.

It's interesting, he says that working with this dark essence is the most potent of all the spiritual practises. I have to say he's right, it's interesting.

Um.. you write "How come the emotions get stronger and stronger but they are in longer spare."

I'm not sure what you mean by that. Is it a typo?

Clarify and I'll respond as best I can.

Anonymous said...

hey man. How is sleeping with Tolle on working out? I have tried but cant sleep when listening to it.

Yeah, going fine. If it's tough to sleep with it - and it can be, because although some people find it boring there is an intense wakefullness and alertness to his work - just turn it down.

Turn it down so low that it's like whispers on the edge of your hearing, and you should be able to crash out. It still has a potent 'Zenning' effect even when it's turned right down.

Hardcore said...

Why do you blog about this?

Ciaran said...

Because I think it's worthwhile.

bpdonovan said...

hey, i think self inquiry is the answer to all of this.

If you were really look at the question "who am i" as in what is the I that I refer too when I speak I", does this make sense? I think you'll reach a point where you may lay down tolle and find it more usefull to spend the time on inquiry rather than a teaching. Infact the less teaching the better. You dont have to do anything, no meditating or praying or anything. Just fix ur attention on that question whenever it occurs to you. You could even do it when you listen to tolle perhaps?

In my experience this questioning is what i have always been after, because if you think about it, the root of all thought. is I.

If you havent already check out a guy called John Sherman. Hes had an amazing life, but more importantly he cuts the crap about Ramana Maharshi's teaching.. Check him out bro.


old soul said...

Dude, great post. I am dealing with issues of discontent right now. This is a great reminder that I need to be real about my discontent and just be 'aware' of it or as you say, 'make' peace with it. Totally dig that.

However, a point of contention. God does not make peace with evil. He smites it. He burns it down with sulfur. He roots it out. In our case though, it's impossible to do on our own. That's why the Holy Book sez "no one is good, no, not one". The most we can do I guess is just to be aware of the bad running wild inside is a provocateur, encouraging us to use manifest its power through our actions, tempting us to be enveloped in its darkness. The best we can do is to just let it be, treat it like a defanged animal, and pet it, perhaps. The Spirit will do its work and root it all out.

Erika said...


I am so with you. Love Matrix 3 and everything it stands for. I might write a blog piece with another riff on this.

Some of my happiest days now are my "Fuck you, God" days. I'm completely pissed off and laughing with God at the same time.

Self-acceptance. Other-acceptance. Peace.

kisses honey,
- Erika