The western world doesn’t think much of luck. The American ubermensch makes his own luck. He inspires lust in women and jealousy in men. He is something along the lines of Chuck Norris.
The phenomena of that man has endured beyond fad-status. It started with a combination of image and cultural ideals that came together at just the right moment. Remember the original Spiderman movie like 10 years ago? That spawned about 100 different superhero movies which are continuing to score money at the box office, despite constantly fighting off the inherent tendency of the genre to degenerate into plot-heavy, emotionally deficient schlock. In my opinion.
“The Matrix,” though, preceded all of it – it was a movie that was timed so perfectly that its reverberations have steadily lingered in the nearly 13 years since its release. The name of this blog references Morpheus, the ancient Greek god of dreams, who also happens to be the name of a character in the film (and without a doubt the most memorable). Lawrence Fishburne’s character is black, wears a black trenchcoat and black sunglasses that somehow remain stationary on the bridge of his nose. He is “…the most dangerous man alive,” says a secret-government-agent-operative early in the film. Yet he’s also a computer hacker, a thief, a martial-arts master, and has near the knowledge of Buddha himself. It’s a delectable mix of Western independence and Eastern wisdom; Jock-like athleticism and Geek-like acumen; White and Black; black and white.
After I first saw it and “got” it, I remember suddenly imagining the world as if it were the matrix – a sheet pulled over my eyes with moving pictures corresponding to brain stimuli. It was incredibly freeing to think that maybe, just maybe, this was all true and that all reality was a cultural invention. It shocked me, and it also shocked the world. These were old ideas (e.g. Plato’s allegory of the cave), but through the miracle of art they were pushed into the collective consciousness of the developed world. It distilled a crazy, totally subversive idea, unbeknownst to most, into an incredibly stylish and mind-bending two hours. And it was an action film, so everyone could thoroughly enjoy the experience of having their entire system of beliefs and values questioned.
I was at the tender age of 15, alienated and shy at school, hooked on computers since 6th grade, and hungry for change. The film would have had a profound effect on me no matter what. Its melding of eastern and western religious themes introduced me to Buddhism and gave me hope that enlightenment lay somewhere on the distant horizon.
Growing up in the media-drenched Western world makes you feel like you have to be constantly doing something to succeed. Success, while naturally subjective, becomes apparently clear cut: work hard, make a lot of money, achieve greatness, marry, have kids, grow old, die. Encouraging time to think and reflect, while tacked on to almost every college commencement address, is roundly discouraged by nearly everything else. The culture is in a rush to become rich and/or famous as quickly as possible, so much so that we are barely capable of taking a weeklong vacation without a cell phone. I believe the internet is a good thing – something everybody should have access to at all times – but it can just as easily be abused.
It wasn’t “The Matrix” alone that made me a lifelong thinker and a dreamer, but it certainly helped. However, the media, in a country that epitomizes capitalism, does exactly what it should – it capitalizes on anything as long as it’s profitable. It’s why the Simpsons is still airing even though half of its original fans detest what it has become. It’s why one Spiderman movie led to a hundred superhero films. It’s why they came out with two sequels to “The Matrix,” both of which suffered severe sequel syndrome*, and why Chuck Norris is still popular.
Which brings us back to square one – why the hell is Chuck Norris famous? He was in some fairly passable films and television series, but just happened to be a stone-faced, musclebound martial artist. A mix of western and eastern, just like Morpheus, except he is white and real-life. America needed a real superhero, someone who was so powerful that “[his] tears can cure cancer – except he’s never cried.” No one fit the bill quite like Chuck. So he went platinum, and being the “good” American he embraced and capitalized on his newly revamped image (just youtube Chuck Norris if you need proof). He didn’t have to do anything, continuing the startling trend of people becoming famous for doing absolutely nothing. In fairness, he did do a bit of film and television, but his rising to superstar-status was, to the best of my knowledge, caused by forces entirely outside himself. At the lower end of the spectrum of do-nothing-celebrities there lies the obvious (Hilton, Kardashian, etc.).
Talk about luck. In today’s world you don’t even have to do anything to become rich and famous, right?
It’s untrue, of course. You have to be willing to at the very least bare a part of yourself to the public. But other than that, it seems there really is something called fate, luck, kismet, karma, et cetera, and that our forefathers were dead wrong in saying that hard work was the only way to succeed in life. All opinions aside – the Western world seems to be integrating an idea the Eastern world has espoused for millennia – that luck can play a pivotal role in our lives. To say that aloud will usually invite a comment about hard work being more important, and in truth it probably is. Our actions are the one thing that we seem to have some definite control over, and thus it is probably a good idea to choose what we do and what we say wisely. Other than that, though, why not spend some time in wonderland, and see just how deep the rabbit-hole goes? After all, time is money.
*Hypothetically, if you had just made millions from a standalone film with sequel potential, would you naturally make the sequel? And would it be for the audience, the money, or both? I highly doubt I would need another fifty million dollars, since I’ve never felt the need to buy much more than the necessities. But I’m also not in that position, nor, most likely, will I ever be. I don’t think America is ready for a celebrity who gives 90% of their profits to charity, but I’d gladly take that chance.