The Matrix released in 1999 depicts a dystopian future, degraded and miserable. In the film, reality, as perceived by most humans, is actually a simulated reality.
This alternate cybernetic world was created by conscious machines* to subjugate the human population. For humans unaware of their condition, their autonomy is an illusion.
We, too, are subjects deeply rooted in a matrix — an enculturating matrix — and understanding how it works is critical to our ability to manage the enterprise of our autonomy.
Of course, one way or another, we are always going to be embedded in the set of social, political, and cultural conditions in which we find ourselves.
However, what enables us to escape from the pressure to mindlessly conform to the dictates of our enculturation is the quality of our autonomous enterprise. Happily, Autonomy and Life is a cultural discipline designed to help us create a governing philosophy and manage the quality of our freedom.
The transformative force of our philosophy is premised on accepting the paradox of the Enlightenment as it manifested in America: We need to be bound to be free!
Yes, this premise seems, as I said, paradoxical, and it is as transparent to us as was the simulated reality in which Keanu found himself. Yet distinguishing it and accepting it is our means to the rewards of a life well lived, i.e., a life of our own design.
The efficacy of our philosophy hinges on a linguistic phenomenon. Whether we realize it or not, most of what we know is not a matter of observation. What we see is prejudicial; we tend to see what we want to see and our attention is selective and often determined by our mismanaged and psychologistic ego-function.
What we actually know is what we say we know. In other words, the linguistic distinctions we make are not just argumentative, nit-picking semantics. They are the basis of what we know. It is this difference that makes the intentional description characteristic of our philosophy so important to our control of our autonomy.
Question: So what it is that we need to know?
Answer: In this land where, as I said, we need to be bound to be free, we must distinguish the liberating practices of America’s philosophy of the life lived autonomously.
The promise in our philosophy is the promise of America’s philosophy. We can acquire the fulfillment, satisfaction and equanimity that accompanies creating a life of our own design, even as we deliberatively take-up the rules of a citizen-subject systemically embedded in the conditions and circumstances of the nation’s encompassing matrix.
Yes, living autonomously is a hard thing to do. As such, we focus our linguistic activities on organizing the philosophical oversight that enables us to gain control over our autonomous enterprise, and look to contain the manner of our subjectivity and citizenship within the boundaries of the matrix.
To paraphrase Aristotle, the hard work of autonomy is its own reward. The innate spontaneity of animals is reflexively antagonistic and aggressive or furtive. In the human heart and head, this determination is mean and stingy and the hate and resentment embedded therein is a heavy, dispiriting burden. Yet with practice and over time, our restrained, refined and regulated autonomy produces a new experience of spontaneity and gives rise to a lightness of experience that enlivens who we are and those around us.
* In the actual world of technology, 1999 is the distant past, and we are frequently warned that sentient machines with their own agenda are no longer just a sci-fi possibility.
Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit autonomyandlife.com for more information.