Do you remember the movie The Matrix in 1999 (written by the Wachowskis, and produced by Joel Silver)? Oh, yes, you do…Starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. Yes, those actors were gorgeous human specimens for women to swoon over! They were so young, so absolutely alive on the screen with every breath, every stunt, every move, and every question.
My favorite line of the movie is by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to Neo (Keanu Reeves):
Morpheus: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?
Neo: This can’t…
Morpheus: Be what? Be real?
There is a fundamental schism in the movie of the real and unreal…a quasi-reality within a reality. What are we supposed to believe is the norm? And, the viewer is along for the ride…silently wondering “Could this happen to me? Could I be caught in a dream world that mimics my reality, but is not quite the same?”
Alas, I find myself in this moment daily. I wake up, walk, get my daughter up, run her to the bus stop, pick up my carpool friend, and drive to work. It is like clockwork….same routine every day. And then, I enter my classroom…and I become alive. I am teaching a great poem or piece of literature that I embody with my entire being. I become the piece…it is a part of me, and I move with grace and elegance trying to share the symbolic nuances of the piece. I wonder if my students hear me…I snap my fingers to get that one girl’s attention who is sleeping. I snap again to tell another girl to put away her phone. And, then I return to the beautiful dance composed of words that are flying off the page as I explain the elegance of a word…or the embellishment of a sentence…or the climax of the story.
Ah, yes, the climax of a story is so very important…it is the scene where the story takes a huge turn. Where the characters are struggling to deal with a particular conflict, and then it hits a crescendo…where the characters must grapple with themselves, their environment, and their community to solve the ultimate problem at hand. I love the moment when the students figure out THIS part of a piece of literature. Sometimes, I lower my voice to a whisper, and walk around the room asking “What is important here, girls? Why is this particular paragraph so very important?” And, one lovely student rises to the challenge and states that THIS is the moment the reader has truly been waiting for…a moment of truth, a reality check for all characters.
And, as the girls note this importance, we begin to weave our way through the denouement of the tale the book has woven. How the characters resolve the issue at hand, and what symbolic metaphors the author uses to weave the reader through the process of coming down from that perfect precipice towards the last page of the novel.
And, then the school bell rings, and I say my goodbyes, give the students a quick reminder of their homework, and I leave the room. The minute I do so, I am hit with a whoosh. It is a feeling of almost reeling to a complete stop, yet, still floating in the air…waiting for my feet to hit the ground in a slow-motion time warp,
“Whoah!” I tell my friend in the teacher’s room…that was a huge “high” as I recount the lesson. “But, now, I feel…different…like I am in an alternate reality in my classroom…and now it is like I was given a shot, and I am immediately back to my reality.”
I try to explain it to my friend, and she says “No, Ariel, you do not need to explain…I feel exactly as you do, and I see your face expressing the exact same thing as I am feeling…” We realize that in our classroom, we are in an alternative world of teaching, and conducting a beautiful understanding of a piece of literature that is like a terrific production of the most beautiful piece of music, and then we leave the room, and it is as if the air has been sucked out of us. We realize that the room is not our reality.
Our reality is some alternate world of our husbands or our sons serving in the army. Our reality is that we can sometimes barely breathe through the pain of loss. Our reality is that our loved ones have turned in their phones because they are close to the border of Gaza. Our reality is that we still need to think about what we are making for dinner, whose laundry needs to be folded, and whether the plumber has fixed the leaky sink?
Our reality is a complex web of unknowns, distractions, fragmented thoughts, and subconscious meanderings throughout our day.
Our reality is a Matrix. Oh, how I wish I was just looking at the gorgeous characters played by Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. Yet, instead, it is me…a mother of a soldier, a wife, a sister, a teacher, a friend, a colleague. I am trying to mend my two realities into one, and it is so hard…so painstakingly hard to do so. The cacophony is loud, like an f-35 flying overhead. And, I wonder, can I wake up? Is this a crazy dream? Will I ever return to normal again?
But, the answer is “No”, this is the Matrix.
Our Matrix began in our October sky on October 7, 2023.
NB. The video attached to this blog is the song “October Sky” by Yebba. It was written by Yebba (Abbey Smith). It is a tale of the loss of her mother to suicide.