Matrix: Reloaded Explained
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Selected reader comments

Matrix: Revolutions Explained
The essay
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Perceiving Will

09 Nov, 2008 | Brian

Some alternate titles for this article: Carving Lamb With a Samurai Sword, or How I Learned to Shut Up at the King's Table.

I wrote in a previous article about putting yourself into the service of something bigger than yourself. This is really about setting aside your will, which is often focused on getting and keeping. The getting part is the desire for acquiring things and experiences, and the keeping part is the desire to preserve what you've already got. Those impulses seem sensible enough in a capitalist sense - we're just looking out for ourselves and our families. From the point of view of personal well-being, though, these ideas turn out not to be so wonderful. When I don't get what I want, I become resentful. When events (real or imagined) threaten what I have, I become fearful. I end up living most of my life drowning in fear and resentment, and blaming everyone else for it, instead of accomplishing anything useful.

A better way to go is to quiet all those thoughts of getting and keeping, and to replace them with other ideas. Whose ideas? Well, the awkward reality is that nearly anyone else's ideas for how we should behave are better than our own. I find it easier to generalize this into the Wisdom of My Forefathers. Everyone has a cultural ancestry, and it is filled with centuries of excellent advice on the way you should conduct yourself, on what kind of person you should be. It is in a very real way an external will. It is a will that is separate enough, and impersonal enough, that it can't get mixed up in the feelings I have for the individuals around me.

Whatever will you decide to submit yourself to, you've got to arrange your mind so that you can perceive where it wants you to go. There's a double trick to it. First, it is necessary to become still. Second, only after there is stillness, to spot the clues you encounter that will be signs for you to follow.

Stillness is meditation. Although classical lotus-position mantra-intoning meditation works, this is not the only choice. Painting is meditation. So is walking, breathing, music, and chopping wood. The objective is to make silent the parts of you that want and the parts of you that fear. As long as you are worrying about paying the electric bill, you are not meditating. Playing sports can be meditation. Prayer can be meditation too, so long as the prayer is about communion and receptiveness and not about communicating to God your to-do list of magical wishes (e.g., make Johnny get better, help us win the semi-finals).

Seeing signs is observation. It is not feelings. You don't "get a feeling" that God wants you to do something. Anyone claiming to get such sensations has more likely eaten a particularly agreeable meal.

Seeing signs is an activity. It can be rigorously described. Step 1: observe the things and events that surround you. With a still mind, observation is keener. Step 2: ask "How does the Wisdom of My Forefathers tell me to respond to that thing or that event?" or perhaps "What does God want me to learn here?" Seek to apprehend this Other Will as it would act through you. It is absolutely crucial to ask these questions from a place of mental stillness, so that observation and interpretation are not colored by wanting, hoarding, resentment, or fear.

Do not be surprised if your King puts you to work.