The Matrix is one of my favorite movies of all times. Though there are many memorable scenes, there is one part in particular that has always stuck out in my mind. When Neo went to go visit the Oracle, he had a brief exchange with a little boy who was magically bending a spoon with his mind. Fascinated by the phenomenon that was taking place before him, Neo sat down next to the boy in awe. The child then imparted the following advice to Neo:
“Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself…”
I knew the first insistence I heard the little boy say “there is no spoon” that the statement was incredibly powerful. Yet, as much as I tried, I could not unlock the riddle and truly understand how profound that exchange was. Each time I watched the Matrix, I could not figure what the boy was telling Neo and what lesson he was imparting to “the one”.
Yesterday, as I was sharing a conversation with a friend, it finally hit me! Of course there is no spoon! The spoon, you see, is a parable of the predicaments we put ourselves through and the endless ways we twist ourselves into knots trying to figure out what to do. My econ professor at Hopkins described this process of recrimination best when he said “don’t get caught up in paralysis by analysis”.
Doubt is the kryptonite of success; instead of throwing caution to the wind and chasing our dreams, we let fear and what ifs keep us moored to unhappiness. The spoon is overthinking instead of acting, inspecting instead of doing and hesitating instead of jumping in. The spoon is fear of failure, the anxiety of the unknown and the worry about tomorrow while losing out in present moments.
It was not always like this; when we were children, we acted without calculating for every outcome. We did not hedge our bets, we lived in the moment and dealt with the consequences as they arrived. Growing up meant leaving the ways of a child behind and entering into adulthood. Gone are whims and in come evaluations of pros and cons before acting. Inhibition set in and before we know it, we lose the innocence of our youth. In a blink of an eye, we went from carefree to conditioned as years of education program us to be pegs in society’s’ circle.
There is a reason why the child was able to bend the spoon and had to be the one who taught the adult how to reach within to unlock his potential. The child was not shaped and influenced by society, he retained his free spirit and saw the world for what it could be instead of being programmed to see the world for what it is. The greatest test Neo faced and his most ferocious battles were not with Agent Smith nor with the sentinels that kept chasing Nebakanezer, to the contrary Neo’s biggest enemy was himself and the doubt he harbored in his heart about himself.
Such is the story of humanity; we come into this world unconstrained by ideologies and free of preconceived notions. We expressed our emotions freely; one second we cry and just as quickly move on to happiness. As we came of age, we were convinced to hold back our feelings and to put on pretenses in order to mask our true selves. Along the way, we learned to be someone else; the spontaneity of life got squeezed out and replaced with protocols.
In time children become cogs as we value fitting and devalue being ourselves. The vast scope of this world is replaced with binary thinking; before we realize it, we get plugged into the matrix. Unable to think for ourselves, we need pundits to think for us. Unable to feel inspired, we turn to politicians to inspire us. Unable to live life fully, we turn to cult of personalities to live life for us. Unable to feel connected, we turn to virtual reality to connect us to others. We know these things are not natural and we find little joy in them yet we live through them regardless, we’ve been too habituated to life as it is to ask what could be. These are the spoons that imprison us; instead of bending the world to chase our passions, we bend ourselves to make the spoons our universe.
“….there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
It is not until we walk away from indoctrination and return to our true center that we rediscover ourselves and liberate ourselves from the spoons that trap us. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. This is one of my favorite verses in the bible, now that I realize that there is no spoon, I have the wisdom to understand the depth of this quote. The minute we walk away from all the doubt, anger, biases and fear that this world taught us to embrace is when we will enter the gates of heaven for heaven has always been within us. #ThereIsNoSpoon Click To Tweet
“The universe is wider than our views of it.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
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