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What does the red pill really show you?
Neo's superhuman powers were only inside of The Matrix. The outside world offered a different reality.
- The "red pill" came into prominence as a way to break free of mental slavery in the 1999 movie, "The Matrix."
- In a new essay, Julian Walker points out Neo's powers only worked inside of the simulation—reality is a different story.
- The red vs blue pill question is a pop culture phenomenon, often used in questionable circumstances.
Pop culture always translates strangely, though it appears we've hit peak "Idiocracy." Earlier this month, Brad Parscale, Donald Trump's campaign manager, compared the incumbent's re-election campaign to the Death Star. Trump retweeted his face on Thanos's body. In both situations, the dark lords do not triumph. Given current polls these sentiments may be prophetic, though we have to wonder what the inciters are thinking.
Why the administration would use these particular images has been debated. Some believe they're "owning the libs" by forcing a conversation on their blatant ignorance of science fiction and comic book mythology. Thanos's creator, Jim Starlin, was not nearly as kind in his assessment, expressing consternation over a "pompous dang fool using my creation to stroke his infantile ego."
Starlin is not the only creator upset by the misappropriation of an archetype. On May 17, Elon Musk urged his nearly 35 million Twitter followers to "take the red pill." Ivanka Trump giddily replied, "Taken!," prompting Lily Wachowski, co-creator of "The Matrix," to express anger over the usage of a term she coined.
Once a symbol enters public consciousness there's no telling where it ends up. Nazi Germany infamously co-opted the Sanskrit term, svástika, meaning "auspicious" or "conducive to well-being," for its genocidal program. Likewise, "redpilling" first emerged in a toxic subreddit where men try to feel better about themselves by denouncing women, liberals, and everything else failing to live up to their basement-level standards.
In the warped imaginations of members of The Red Pill, the rabbit hole referenced by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in "The Matrix" is an alternative world in which women run everything while men are mere subordinates. While it appears Musk was referencing his plan to reopen Tesla's Fremont-based factory against California state orders, his tweet's lack of context makes the sentiment ambiguous. The same holds true for Ivanka Trump's buy-in, a wink at Musk in his quest to rally commerce, plant workers be damned.
That's Julian Walker's take on this phenomenon. In a Medium article that's been circulating—garnering a retweet from William Gibson and praise from Jason Silva—Walker recalls feeling validated by the red pill scene in the 1999 movie. Morpheus offers Neo (Keanu Reeves) an opportunity to break the bondage of mental servitude. Capped by the adrenaline-fueled screams of "Wake Up" by Rage Against the Machine, this theme inspired a wave of Gen Xers to combat the influence of Big Corporate Interests on Big Government.
As with many messages, the meaning was thwarted by none other than Big Corporate Interests, even if those interests are solar powered instead of crudely extracted. Strangely, as Walker points out, the red pill has been adopted by conspiracy theorists representing both alt-right circles and the leftist "wellness" community. Musk's equivocation speaks truth to power to keyboard warriors intent on combating the ills of vaccines, 5G, reptilian overlords, and coronavirus hoaxes. Ambiguity is always necessary when logical thinking and the clarity of proof are absent. It is the conspiracist's native tongue.
In his essay, Walker points out that Neo doesn't actually awaken to the prophesied new world. In fact, quite the opposite: "The reality that Neo wakes up to is actually super-vulnerable and weak."
Walker went further during our conversation last week. The red pill is a spiritual initiation common in mythological storytelling. Upon entering the Matrix, Neo comes into harmony and discovers an awareness of energy through the ancient discipline of martial arts. Inside of the simulation he develops the ability to flow like water, deflecting any dangers thrown at him. Walker continues,
"What usually gets left out and forgotten is that he only has that while he's in the simulation. When he's inside of the Matrix, he learns how to bend the rules of the Matrix. But the real world is horrible. When he's not inside of the Matrix, the reality he's been woken up to is really scary and dark."
Keanu Reeves stars in "The Matrix"
1999 Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Film.
In the Bhagavad Gita, the archer Arjuna experiences an existential crisis while on the battlefield. He's tasked to kill his friends and cousins in what he believes to be a useless war. Krishna tells him to man up. As the world's most famous bowman, Arjuna's duty is death. The godhead, revealing his terrible form to the stunned archer, says he creates and destroys life like a man puts on and removes clothing.
Designed to honor class and duty in Indian society, the message is clear enough: All men die, often while being churned through the mechanism of war. Arjuna draws his bow and becomes the hero—temporarily; he too dies before achieving the crown. Only his brother, Yudhisthira, reaches the door of Swarga Loka.
We cheer when Neo downloads Taekwondo, Kempo, and even Drunken Boxing, yet what Morpheus reveals is much more pedestrian—and much more powerful. As Walker writes, "The grim reality he wakes up to is sackcloth clothes on emaciated and frightened human bodies, in an industrial wasteland."
Neo is all-powerful inside of the Matrix, much like keyboard conspiracists in the safety of subreddits. As much time as some spend there, however, it's not reality. "The signifier of the red pill," Walker concludes, "has the content of whatever is projected upon it in terms of the person's perspective." When you wall yourself off from oppositional thought—as we used to call it, debate—the red pill becomes whatever you want it to be.
We won't shelter at home forever, though Big Tech makes it easy to shelter inside of your mind, at least until the archer comes for you. Interestingly, Arjuna didn't reach heaven because of his pride. He murdered his cousins and friends but could never overcome himself. He was, as Morpheus warned Neo, a slave in a system much bigger than he would ever be. There is no escape, only courage. Arjuna never reconciled that fact.
Neo recognized that knowledge gained inside of the Matrix has to be brought back to the real world—a world, today, marked by the hundred-thousandth American death due to the novel coronavirus. The red pill opened his eyes to destruction and decay in society. Neo vowed to open the eyes of his peers upon his return. Strangely, he didn't promise them more cars.
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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