Saturday, March 26, 2011

The amusement park

One of the advantages of not being able to afford the entrance fee for the amusement park, is that you are forced to sit outside in the parking lot. Without the prepackaged activities of the park to entertain and distract you, you are left to your own mind. It's just you and the parking lot and whatever you can make of that. You can walk around and see what you can see. You can walk around the amusement park and view it from outside. You can observe the coming and going of the customers to the park. You can observe the employees of the parking coming to work, going in the employee entrance, and occasionally coming outside for smoking breaks. You can notice delivery trucks pulling up and unloading soda and popcorn and whatever else they sell in the park.

Over time, you will come to observe the entire coming and going of all those involved in this enterprise of the amusement park. The nature of the park will then be seen as having two distinct parts. The first part is the illusory part... which is what you consume when you enter the park and succumb to the prepackaged entertainment and distractions that have been created for your consumption. The other part is the behind-the-scenes part... the part you have observed from the parking lot. If the first part (the illusion) is the fantasy part, then this second part (the non-fantasy part) is the mechanism in the real world that gives rise to the illusion.

If you never actually enter the park and experience the fantasy, then you will never be able to figure out exactly how the behind-the-scenes mechanisms work. It will remain very mysterious why people show up and walk through doors labeled employee, or why soda and popcorn are delivered daily, or why trash is hauled away at the end of the day. You might start to theorize about what is probably going on in the amusement park, but you won't know for sure, because the experience of the illusion is not the same as the way in which the illusion is constructed.

On the other hand, if you never leave the amusement park, then not only don't you know how it is constructed, but very possibly you won't even know that it is constructed. You might behave as if the illusion is real. You could spend your whole life in the amusement park, and never know it.

Such a scenario is reminiscent of the movie The Matrix, where the distinction between constructed reality and actual reality is unknown to the captive inhabitants of an artificial world.

If only our own situation were so simplified. If we were literally trapped in a matrix, then at least we would be free of the blame. But we aren't trapped in a matrix... we walk into that matrix freely, and stay in it not because our minds are controlled, but because we choose to stay. We drive up the amusement park every day, park the car, get in line, pay the fee, and float off into whatever fantasy awaits us.

If there is one flaw in the otherwise pretty flawless logic of The Matrix, it is that the machines had to keep the humans trapped inside.

Is reality really that bad?

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