STEPPING OUT OF THE MATRIX
Among the most profound ideas that have arisen around the world and across eras is that the world we experience is an illusion, akin to a dream. Enlightenment is a form of waking up. You find this idea in many religions and philosophies, 25 and it’s also a staple of science fiction, particularly since William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer . Gibson coined the term cyberspace and described it as a “matrix” that emerges when a billion computers are connected and people get enmeshed in “a consensual hallucination.”
The creators of the movie The Matrix developed Gibson’s idea into a gorgeous and frightening visual experience. In one of its most famous scenes, the protagonist, Neo, is given a choice. He can take a red pill, which will disconnect him from the matrix, dissolve the hallucination, and give him command of his actual, physical body (which is lying in a vat of goo). Or he can take a blue pill, forget he was ever given this choice, and his consciousness will return to the rather pleasant hallucination in which nearly all human beings spend their conscious existence. Neo swallows the red pill, and the matrix dissolves around him.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic for me, but Shweder’s writings were my red pill. I began to see that many moral matrices coexist within each nation. Each matrix provides a complete, unified, and emotionally compelling worldview, easily justified by observable evidence and nearly impregnable to attack by arguments from outsiders.