The God in the Machine: The Matrix and a Sci-Fi Jesus

Morpheus: “You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life…that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

Neo: “The Matrix”

Just as Morpheus somehow describes everything Neo has felt so far, the Wachowski brothers’ first installment of the Matrix trilogy offered a somewhat uncanny allegory for my own Christian experience. I thought it was just remarkably well extrapolated, though others have been more overt in their analyses, and the Wachowski brothers themselves — when not being coy about its various religious and philosophical ideas — have responded that “all of it” and “most of it was intentional”. The most obvious and widely recognised link is of course Neo, whose name means “New” and is an anagram of his title as the “One”; a messianic figure prophesied by the Oracle to come and save mankind. His dull day-job name “Mr Anderson” means “Son of Man”. And with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, he is told in his first scene by user Choi; “Hallelujah. You’re my saviour, man. My own personal Jesus Christ”.

But the more personal aspects shown in the film begin with the splinter in the mind, the inexplicable suspicion, as Morpheus describes, that something is wrong with the world. At first Neo almost bails on what Trinity calls “the question that drives us”. He gets in the car, but when it gets a bit weird to have a bugged bellybutton, he wants out. I remember faltering for a moment too — the concept of God seemed a bit too foreign, too strange and these people were being all weird and spiritual. I was curious — but also apprehensive of what would happen if I found out. Then Trinity stops him as he opens the door and stares out in the rain (Sydneysiders: this scene was filmed on the corner of Campbell and Elizabeth Street, under the Adam Street bridge);

Trinity: “…you have been down there Neo, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.”

Maybe I wasn’t sure where this new road led, but I did know the road I had been on was a dead end. And like Neo I stayed in the car.

Morpheus: “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Unplugging naked from an amniotic pod is a very sci-fi rebirth, and as Morpheus says, until it is experienced firsthand it is unimaginable; “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.””(John3:3 ESV). When plugged in, it was the only life ever known; “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit”(2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV). But the day of the red pill, everything changed. I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe that I could have reached adulthood — even grown up in church — and still discover another level that felt like real living. If this was living, if I suddenly felt alive, what had I been doing all those years before? I’d felt like something was a bit odd about the world but I could never have imagined an entire other level; “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). The colours and even people, looked different, and I felt so free, so new, joyful beyond explanation.

Morpheus shows Neo the meaning of the human pods by holding up a Duracell battery, a battery for machines; “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods” (Galatians 4:8 NIV). It is an image so understandably horrible and confronting that Neo throws up and passes out.

Morpheus: “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

Neo: “What truth?”

Morpheus: “That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.”

In a 1995 interview Steve Jobs explains: “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life”. The media will tell you how you’re supposed to be, the catalogues will tell you what you’re supposed to own, corporate culture will tell you how you’re supposed to work, Tumblr will give you philosophy, Instagram will show you how pretty a brunch should look, Pinterest will show and quote human ideals, Facebook will document what happiness looks like, fashion will tell you what men and women wear. Just go with it, dress like it, talk like it, work like it, eat like it, live like it, for the rest of your life. I wondered if this was it — surely there was more. There has to be.

Morpheus: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes”.

But the red pill means giving up everything, making a choice; “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62 ESV). You have to decide which world you’ll live in.

Cypher: You know, I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realise? Ignorance is bliss.

Just as history pitied Judas Iscariot, we could slam Cypher for betraying Morpheus, Neo and his crew and asking to be plugged back into the Matrix. And ultimately the nondescript coding name “Cypher” reveals the minimal impact he makes by seeking to return to the cookie-cutter life. But his case for blissful ignorance is also understandable, because unplugging is a difficult life involving a war instead of steak. And Cypher must choose between the Matrix and Zion; “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4b ESV).

Morpheus: “That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

And as Morpheus explains, the enemy in the training program is not actually the woman in the red dress or the homeless man, but Agent Smith (holding a gun in Sydney’s Martin Place and Pitt Street); “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world” (Ephesians 6:12a NIV). Like protective sentinels and agents, the religious Pharisees hated Jesus for what he taught and wanted this sacrilege to be quashed. Offended by the Sabbath-breaking healing, the “blasphemously” good news, the love and care for “sinners”, they fought to protect their neat moral bubble, and eventually in hatred, crucified Him; “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds” (Colossians 1:21a). Morpheus teaches Neo that once you unplug, the Matrix is no longer a friend or a home; “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18–19 NIV). In the world, but not of it.

Morpheus: “Welcome to the real world”

Essentially Neo receives the revelation that the real world and real life is bigger than what’s programmed in the Matrix. Instead Morpheus and his crew are heading for Zion, the last human city, which is truly worthy of aspiration, unlike the manufactured ladder within the Matrix; “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion” (Psalm 84:5 ESV). “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).

Neo: “I used to eat there. Really good noodles. I have these memories from my life. None of them happened. What does that mean?”

Trinity: “That the Matrix cannot tell you who you are.”

The Matrix has a way of programming identities — manufactured possessions, job titles, status, stations — but they are not who someone really is. And when our hero finally declares; “My name is Neo”, he rejects his Anderson identity, the neat little life as “a program writer for a respectable software company”, with a social security number and a land lady, and becomes his true self; “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3–4 ESV). “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1 NIV). Instead of plugging back in, Neo takes the path of freedom.

Neo: “I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.”

And true to his word, it was Christ who taught me; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26 NIV) and that “All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:23b ESV). He takes a while to come to terms with being the One (“If you are the Son of God…” — Matthew 4), and his divinity (“You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.”). But eventually even bullet-dodging, even water-walking, even flying from a phone on the corner of Hunter and Pitt Street in Sydney, is possible. Jesus embodied the breaking of rules and controls, borders and boundaries. In a Matrix full of status he humbled himself to wash people’s feet. In a Matrix full of social rules he dared to speak to people of lower class, the outcast and despised. In a Matrix full of material security he had nowhere to lay his head. In a Matrix full of sickness and death he dared to heal people. In a Matrix full of religious rules he stood up and courageously opposed the hypocrisy of the religious.

Trinity: “The answer is out there, Neo. It’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to”.

He didn’t barge into my life; “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). I didn’t accidentally get unplugged. I wondered, and I decided to take the red pill. And maybe life is harder on a ship, fighting a war, being misunderstood all the time. But it’s also an amazing life beyond imagination. It’s free. And it’s real. It’s almost too cheap to say the red pill changed my life. Really, it was far more than that.

How to Tag your Workout with Scripture

Whether it’s the meditative levels of consciousness in yoga, the principles of Pilates and Paleo diets, the Many Luxury Items Rapped by Jay-Z or the muscle-building worship of the gym, we all follow something while we train, whether or not we mean to. Every single sportswear manufacturer markets a seasonal or classic mantra, every inspirational quotation and every motivational trainer gives inspirational words and direction, pointing us somewhere. But if the rest of our lives follow Christ, why not also when we train?

“for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

Why it’s worth trying:

  • I underestimated how much physical training is described in the Bible – it’s fascinating. It uses running with perseverance, training yourself, endurance, strengthening your hands and fighting the good fight as spiritual analogies for the journey with God. It might seem like a tenuous connection to tag your workouts with scripture, but in fact, when you struggle physically, you are actually meditating more deeply on the what everything means – what it’s trying to say about endurance, the strength it will build, the need to rest, even as you literally experience it firsthand. And even if it’s not directly referring to your sport, His words are so powerful and potent that they will drop deep into your spirit and make you strong.
  • You’ll remember it. If you train regularly, with the scripture attached to an existing routine, reflected on deeply through its movements, every time you train, every rep you do – bam. You’ve memorised it. If you literally do one for every session, every rep, you’ll have so many scriptures deep within your spirit by the end of the year, by the end of your life time, you are guaranteed to be a winner. And meditating on it day and night is the secret to success (Joshua 1:8).
  • It will strengthen you inside as well as out, and pretty much set you up for life, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV). “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24 ESV). And you are rock solid.
  • But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15 NIV). I like the the Lorna Jane Philosophy, but I want the words of life.

One more rep:

  • “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” (Isaiah 40:29 NIV)
  • “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion” (Psalm 84:7 NIV)
  • “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong”(Proverbs 31:17 ESV)
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3 NIV)
  • “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV)
  • “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”(James 1:4 NIV)

Runs:

  • “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness”(1 Timothy 6:11)
  • “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
  • “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV)
  • “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14 NIV)
  • “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
  • “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31 NIV)

Holds:

  •  “By your endurance you will gain your lives”(Luke 21:19 ESV)
  • “Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger” (Job 17:9 NIV).
  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 ESV).
  • “Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Revelation 2:25-26 ESV).

Train with others:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

Recovery/Rest/Cooldowns:

  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)
  • “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Jeremiah 31:25 NIV).

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

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Good

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm‬ ‭34‬:‭8‬ NIV)

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm‬ ‭34‬:‭8‬ NIV).

God is good! Featuring my latest batch of bliss balls and a rainbow filter! Fly over to the gallery for more.

The Accidental Ferrari

Koenigsegg is arguably one of the most fascinating high performance car manufacturers in the world. Pursuing a singular brief to create the world’s best supercar, its founder is known for his passionate commitment to quality. Compromise is simply not the Koenigsegg way. The team will reject even the best off-rack parts in favour of exclusively creating idealised components in-house, the manufacturing process is conducted by hand by a loyal and highly skilled team, and their recruitment criteria stipulates that even the best technical and engineering talent cannot succeed unless they share its top criteria of passion – a passion evident down to hand-stitched upholstery.

As I reflect on my year I’ve realised God is like that with me, and with all of us. As the year draws to a close, I actually feel like I’ve rolled out of the factory and accidentally become a Ferrari. Instead of any agenda or a goal, I remember one thing – one person. And in the process He made me smash goals I never set, and become someone I never foresaw. It’s not just about where the drive ends – it’s about who you become in the process. And it’s always supercar level,

because of who the manufacturer is.

A car cannot put itself together well. But God Himself conceived of you in His mind, He wanted you, He designed every component on an engineering blueprint before a single piece was made; “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV). There was no economical constraint with you, and you were designed by the most brilliant mind.

Like the instant prestige of the mere name Ferrari or Lamborghini, you have the cross of Christ’s love as a seal of His best and His love; “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14 NIV).

Nothing conveys love and care like hand-stitching, and you are hand-stitched too; “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 NIV). “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 ESV).

In you, the best engineer in the world made something purposeful, good and new;  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

Only the best components were sourced and made in-house, for “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Genesis 1:27a NIV).

Every bit was orchestrated so “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4b ESV). And “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

But not only are you perfectly engineered in Christ, but the best driver on the circuit is personally taking you on track, steering you to victory, for “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV). And Jesus made sure He secured the victory lap.

“Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

(1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG)

Favourite breakfasts for workout recovery

Training comes with an entire lifestyle that goes beyond the session into daily decisions about how to nourish the body through food. It’s recommended to eat within an hour after a workout to replenish the body and ensure proper recovery. Personally, even if everyone uses it, I can’t even imagine ingesting protein powder (it just seems a bit too artificial – all I can think of is sea monkeys eating flakes!) and I don’t use snack bars, even though they are a common and convenient recommendation. I think it’s an unhealthy (and unhappy) mentality to use meal replacements, count calories or periodically diet, and much more sustainable and enjoyable to relish your healthiest decisions – it will make you love your body more, and makes you more passionate about fresh produce and enjoying all the senses. I find it’s important just to have lots of good ideas, and to plan and prepare a proper meal with some thoughtfulness so that you’re not just eating anything convenient while ravenous. Here are a few goodies:

Yogurt, muesli and fruit parfait

This is seriously one of the most complete and Pinterest-pretty meals in existence.

  • How to: Layer fresh Greek style yogurt with a whole-grain muesli, nut, dried fruit and seed mix and top with fresh seasonal berries or sliced fruit (e.g. banana or kiwifruit). You can mix it up with whatever fruits are seasonal.
  • Yay: Yogurt replenishes more calcium than milk, the muesli will replace lost carbs, dried fruit and nuts cover both proteins and carbs, and the fresh fruits cover various nutrients. Blueberries, banana and kiwifruit are especially good for recovery.
  • Convenience: I enjoy making this fresh after a workout, but if you’re pushed for time you can also make it in a large glass mason jar, to keep chilled till you’re ready to eat.

Frozen yoghurt and fruit pop

  • How to: Combine fat-free Greek yoghurt with a mix of berries and fruit and pour into ice pop moulds to freeze. If you’d like to use these as a post-workout snack, consider adding wholegrains to the mix and using blueberries to facilitate recovery.
  • Have fun! Mix up the nutrients and flavours with more surprising combinations like passionfruit seeds and mango cubes, or even add finely chopped nuts for a surprise crunch

Homemade banana bread with seasonal fruit

Banana bread is easily my favourite thing to bake. If you make it yourself you’ll be able to make it just the way you like it and you’ll know you only have completely fresh and natural ingredients. Nothing beats homemade and fresh.

  • How to: I never use white processed sugar. You can also use maple syrup as a natural supplement to sugar. Homemade is also beautifully moist enough to not need to serve with butter. If you like you can also sneak in more nourishment through finely chopped goodies, like nuts and even fruit (e.g. passionfruit seeds).
  • Yay: Banana is well known for potassium and complex carbs, and the fresh fruits cover various nutrients. Blueberries, banana and kiwifruit are super for recovery, but I also like whatever is seasonal e.g. watermelon, peaches.
  • Convenience: Fresh slices are perfect to wrap and pack with you.

Scrambled eggs with alfalfa, crepes and berries

I love scrambled eggs! It’s one of my favourite things ever, and the alfalfa combo is a must-try. Plus crepes and berries add a sweet partner to the savoury combo.

  • How to: I scramble organic and free range with milk. It is seriously amazing when garnished with raw alfalfa. While you have the pan out you can also make a few thin crepes (again homemade with healthy ingredients) to serve with berries
  • Yay: Eggs are super for protein without you having to make a weird protein shake, a splash of milk offers calcium and alfalfa is absolutely loaded. Crepes cover your carb needs, and blueberries and strawberries are super together.
  • Convenience: This one’s probably the least convenient but if you’re like me and enjoy winding down in the kitchen after a workout it’s worth the effort.

Multigrain or oatmeal mix with light milk and fresh fruit

It’s popular because it’s easy and awesome!

  • How to: Choose a good quality oatmeal porridge or multigrain to enjoy with milk. Cutting up some seasonal fruits always makes it special.
  • Yay: Milk covers calcium, the muesli will replace lost carbs, dried fruit, seeds and nuts cover both proteins and carbs, and the fresh fruits cover various nutrients. Blueberries, banana and kiwifruit are especially replenishing.
  • Convenience: Buy and bring a whole box or bag of grains and you’ll always have a healthy option handy.

Other savoury ideas are baked sweet potato (a superfood full of beta-carotene antioxidants) and carrot and celery sticks with hummus (chickpeas for protein). Another blissful one is banana with yoghurt and milk, slurped through a straw in a classic milkshake glass. I gurantee it’ll not only top of your nutrients, but it will make you smile!