How to Escape the Matrix

This morning, I had four arguments before leaving my bed. All of them happened in my head, and none of them ever became reality.

The points I came up with? Useless. The anger I felt in imaginarily presenting them? Unnecessary. Even if my discussions would have happened eventually, they’d have taken paths much different from the ones I envisioned. Therefore, the worry and stress I felt about their potential unfolding were also pointless.

So, what did I have to show for? Nothing but a rush of hormones upon getting up. Too much energy in the morning makes the mind fuzzy when, especially early in the day, the mind needs to be still. Clear. Focused. We function best when we start from stillness. We formulate a sharp plan of action, then set out to see it through – but if our brain is already overloaded before our day begins, we won’t stand a chance.

In The Matrix, the heroes use phones to enter and leave the simulated reality their minds are held captive in. Sound familiar? In the movie, when it’s time to escape from the machine’s algorithms hunting down the rebels, there’s always a phone ringing somewhere – and someone better pick up before it’s too late. You’ll see Trinity sprinting towards a telephone cell, Neo diving for a land line, or someone scrambling for a cell phone.

Our version of the world is the Matrix’ mirror image: We must put our phones down to escape. The human brain is easily overloaded as is. Walk through a big city, and feel your senses crumble. That rarely happens in nature, so most of our overwhelm must be man-made – and it is.

Once you fall down the digital rabbit hole, you’ll find infinite conspiracy theories vying for your attention. “Veganism is bad! Capitalism is bad! The earth is flat! Covid doesn’t exist!” What they all share is a sense of urgency: “Don’t believe their lies! Wake up! Escape from the Matrix!” Ironically, they are the epitome of the countless kinds of magnets pulling you in.

The real Matrix is the endlessly winding labyrinth of biases and circuitry in our mind. It is our brains we struggle to escape from, for our brains are the filter through which our very existence happens. Every perception, every impulse, every experience runs through this three-pound computer, and it is only when we are the ones hitting “Enter” on the command lines that we are truly in control.

Can you still choose to not click on clickbait? Can you still choose to be kind? Can you still choose to stop arguing in your head? These are the true break-free questions, and not even the smartest phone can answer them. The answers will only reveal themselves in how you live.

Will you choose to work on your brain? Will you choose to fight your biases? Will you choose to try resisting impulse after impulse, picking calm over chaos whenever you can? All of these choices are optional, and yet, this is the sole way to find peace and happiness in this ever-changing world: Your life must be your escape from the Matrix.

Chances are, that life won’t be littered with stunts, explosions, and slow-motion special effects. You can only actualize it day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year – but if you manage to do this, if you become the slow, never perfect but always seasoned master of your mind, it will be your greatest breakout yet.