Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Misery



One of the most memorable pieces of dialogue in The Matrix comes from Agent Smith.

Discussing the history of The Matrix with Neo, Agent Smith says: "Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from."

I've seen the movie a good few times now, and that speech always gets me thinking. Is mankind's default setting misery?

Like all other creatures on Earth, are we simply designed to ensure that our basic biological needs are catered for, at the expense of fun and enjoyment?

Some evidence certainly backs that theory up: there are countless tales of lottery winners who blew their vast fortunes in the space of a few years, returning to the poverty that they were more acclimatised to, as if their natural inclination was to strive for better, not have it thrust upon them.

Personally, I don't think that humans define themselves through their misery, but that mankind has a strange habit of seeing the silver lining on even the darkest clouds.

In Britain, this was shown in the post-war years, when people spoke fondly of the 'Blitz mentality' and of the fun they had in air raid shelters, ignoring the fact that London was being flattened by the Lufftwaffe. Subsequent television series such as Dad's Army also painted a rosy image of the 'fun Britain had during the war'.

Having said that, one of the key aspects of living in modern society is that we spend most of our waking hours doing things that we don't want to do.

There may be some people who proclaim to love their job so much that every hour at the coalface is an hour in Heaven, but for most, work is what they have to do to pay the bills.

Very few of us would actively choose to work if we could get away with it. And it is the knowledge of a forthcoming day off, holiday or weekend activity that encourages us to continue working, rather than dropping out of society and becoming a castaway on a desert island.

And so, I don't believe that human beings define themselves through misery and suffering, but through the knowledge that better times are ahead.

2 comments:

Sho said...

that's a thinker!!
GET THAT BOOK STARTED!

Walrilla said...

That's a good, deep, thought-provoking post. I believe mankind is built to strive. Being given everything makes one unappreciative of anything. Striving for and achieving goals fills one with a sense of accomplishment and well-being. Yeah, I know, that sounds like a heap of new-age crap, but this Texas boy likes doing things on his own, without stuff being handed to him.