Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Organized Belief (or, How I Took the Red Pill and Learned to Love It)

"Why, oh why, didn't I take the blue pill?"

This is the question posed by a character in The Matrix. He gripes that instead of taking the easy way out in life, he swallowed the red pill. No, he wasn't alluding to democrats and republicans: the red pill opens your brain to the "real world" while the blue one lets you remain plugged into the matrix.

I can relate.

There are times I wish I hadn't taken the red pill. Outside of the movies, the red pill becomes a metaphor for engaging belief in transcendent truth, orthodoxy, ethical living. I took mine growing up in the church. This laid groundwork for a life of believing. The structure of organized belief that is a church enabled me to live as a person of faith.

Like the fellow in The Matrix, I sometimes question why I didn't choose an easier way.

Another fellow by the name of Leonard Cohen, not a film character but a mystic poet very much part of the real world, has some intriguing things to say about belief:
I'm aware that I'm embraced by the absolute... I feel that the technology for experiencing the absolute has been lost, but all the great religions have this experience, this information, this data, this technology....

I've always wondered why religions emphasize this idea of "belief." Why should you believe in these matters? But experiencing these matters is available to all of us -experiencing the absolute is available. To be tyrannical or to be in some way oppressive about belief... I think it's not fair to ask people to believe things they don't experience.
In other words, he's saying that people can pop blue pills if that's what makes sense to them. You can't force the red pill down people's throats.

Continuing with the intersection of spirituality and sci-fi, here's a snip from an interview with an author whose work was concerned with mystic experience as much as the technology that avails us of it. Philip K Dick had a lot of bizarre ideas, but his heart was in the right place.
When questioned about his own religious beliefs, Dick said he could best be classified as a "religious anarchist."

"I'm totally against organized religion," he states. "I believe you have a direct relation with the divine or you have no relation with the divine. It has nothing to do with faith or dogmatic creeds. The initiative comes from the divine side. There is nothing you can do. All you can do is live an honest life, be brutally honest with yourself, and hope to become an object of interest with the divine beings."

That last bit about "divine beings" is out there, but I appreciate the thrust of what he says, that it's down to us to take responsibility for what we believe. To surrender such a vital aspect of being to outside agency is imposing a filter. Being part of organized belief is fine, but on terms that engage us directly; anything less is to compromise the reason we are alive.

That's the take of a red pill popper, anyhow.

I leave you with lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song, "The Window", as fine a meditation on belief as I've found:

Why do you stand by the window
Abandoned to beauty and pride
The thorn of the night in your bosom
The spear of the age in your side
Lost in the rages of fragrance
Lost in the rags of remorse
Lost in the waves of a sickness
That loosens the high silver nerves
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love
Oh tangle of matter and ghost
Oh darling of angels, demons and saints
And the whole broken-hearted host
Gentle this soul
And come forth from the cloud of anoint
And kiss the cheek of the moon
The New Jerusalem glowing
Why tarry all night in the ruin
And leave no word of discomfort
And leave no observer to mourn
But climb on your tears and be silent
Like a rose on its ladder of thorns
Oh chosen love, Oh frozen love...
Then lay your rose on the fire
The fire give up to the sun
The sun give over to splendour
In the arms of the high holy one
For the holy one dreams of a letter
Dreams of a letter's death
Oh bless the continuous stutter
Of word being made into flesh


RE Ausetkmt said...

did america recently take the Blue Pill ? or at least Harry Reid ?

wngl said...

He does seem to live in an alternate reality, RE. Blame it on the pills.

Me-Me King said...

I love it that you used Cohen, what an awesome example!

David Tamayo said...

It is amazing how ignored the word "belief" is compared to just how powerful a word it is. Great post. I have posted a few times regarding belief also. Please stop by and check them out. http://securityforidiots.blogspot.com/ I would really love to hear what you think. Take care my friend. ;o)

wngl said...

Me-Me, L Cohen's poetry has long held me in its power. I find it incredibly uplifting. I'm glad that you appreciate him, too!

David, I really like you're site and will be a regular visitor/dropper. From what I can tell, we are of the same mind about Avatar, one of the most visually spectacular films in recent memory.