The Perception Of The Real In Peter Pan And The Matrix: Locating The Space Where Human Nature Can Be Accessed Untouched
“Reality is something that you rise above. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are […]”
(Marillion 1999 marillion.com:Rich)
With faith through ideology, we try to make sense of the always-changing foundation and perception of the real, of dreams and of the unconscious. When we let ourselves be overwhelmed by existential questions and conundrums, searching for an answer might be daunting. Through culture, we leave our fingerprints of ideology for new individual and common interpretations to be formed in the generations to come. The artists, as legislators of the world, transcend or challenge ideology to provide a bridge to the real, taking us both ways. Things are almost never what they seem, and we always see the world as we are, basing our own interpretations of the real on our own experiences through life. Let us attempt to find that defining moment in our texts when human nature can be accessed untouched, outside the illusion of constructed realities and outside dreams.
The mechanics of the world have been given personifications as long as people have been able to make definitions representing their thoughts. Among other things, we refer to our earth as a mother. In Greek mythology the sun and the moon were the children of the titans. Atlas carried the sky on his shoulders, and Orpheus could make rocks and trees move with his song and his lyre. These creations could have been there to serve as explanations for earthquakes, or wind, or something as simple as changes in the weather.
We do not really have a universal way of conveying what can only be sensed, like thoughts, dreams and the unconscious. The chaos of the unconscious can be difficult to mediate to the world. What we do have are our understandings of words, languages and cultures, and through them we try to grasp the silent and the elusive with definitions, imagination and metaphors. In literary genres like fairytales, Sci-Fi and Fantasy we meet the more modern kind of mythology. They are texts that explore worlds and universes where interpretations of reality exist outside the common interpretation we can relate to. “The topography, themes and myths of the fantastic all work together to suggest this movement towards the realm of non-signification, towards a zero point of non-meaning.” (Rosemary Jackson 2003:42) When leaving the rational world of common rules for what reality may or may not be, we enter a realm where only the signified, the image, knows the experience.
Signifier and signified, the word and the connotations the words give, lead us through the maze of impressions like an individual guiding star, equipping us with tools to explain the silent and the unexplainable in dreams and the unconscious. The words can become almost obsolete and difficult to find when facing the sublime dream experience.
The texts chosen to search for the place where human nature can be accessed untouched, are, Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie, first published in novel form in 1911. And The Matrix, by Lana (Laurence “Larry”) and Andrew Paul “Andy” Wachowski, which premiered on cinemas in 1999. Both texts leave the common perception of what represents the real and the untouched behind. “Since we have no access to the world that is not mediated by thought or language, what independent check have we upon the reliability of what we think or say?” (A dictionary of Sociology 2009:633) Literature challenges the way we see reality, the way we perceive reality and discuss reality. Literature acts as one of those mediating elements between the unconscious and the real, it is one of those places where a human mind can be in the real and in the dream at the same time and still be awake. Our protagonists, Peter Pan and Neo also have this ability, operating within the different realities each narrative present.
Morpheus is the ancient Greek god of dreams, and Neo remains at Morpheus’ mercy throughout the story. “You take the red pill, and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” (The Matrix 1999:Morpheus) The red pill is meant to be a tracing program making the people in the real world able to locate the real Neo in the fields where human beings are grown. But in this thesis the red pill becomes a metaphor for Peter Pan and Morpheus, Pan being the Greek god of the wild. Through the red pill, they become the element enabling the illusions and simulations to unfold.
What unites the texts is that they comprise a critique of ideology. According to Terry Eagleton, the author of Ideology, An Introduction, to define ideology as a clarifying one is a very difficult task. One definition can be “The process of production of meanings, signs and values in social life.” (Eagleton 2007:1) which is a broad definition that could translate to, a group of people joined in the mutual understanding of conduct. It attempts to explain the mechanics of the world by trying to answer the big questions in life. Ideology can hold all the answers for one person, and be completely incomprehensible to another. It might not be a choice, rather a way of life set by state leaders, almost a state discourse. It becomes pivotal to follow these state choices of thought at the risk of punishment and death. We can also talk about ideological revelations, spiritual awakenings where the solution and the answer to life’s secrets, questions and truths lie. But it can also be a “Socially necessary illusion” (Eagleton 2007:2), which could mean that we are indeed letting ourselves be fooled, because Eagleton further characterises it as a question of power. “[…] The term is forceful and informative only if it helps us to distinguish between those interests and power conflicts which at any given time are fairly central to a whole social order, and those which are not” (Eagleton 2007:10). People standing on the outside of ideology, represented by the people still hooked into the Matrix, will not comprehend what it is all about. As long as man has a choice, to choose ignorance is perfectly acceptable. Once one has woken up, one can never go back.
According to Laurence Coupe, in Myth (1997:2-3) there are four kinds of myths, the fertility myth, the deliverance myth, the hero myth and the creation myth. The creation myth is attempting to explain how the world came into existence. In Neverland the Never bird build their nests in the shape of a tarpaulin hat because Peter Pan on one occasion saved a Never bird and its eggs from drowning by placing them in one. (Barrie 1995:103) This is an example of a Creation Myth. But both Peter Pan and The Matrix might be considered Hero Myths. A prophecy concerning Neo’s future makes his life a challenge, but he fulfils it in the end. Peter Pan could be considered an antihero, the reluctant saviour, but he bravely takes up his sword and fight at the risk of his own life on a daily basis. There is no prophecy in Peter Pan, but the stories about him have found their way to the place we call reality. “The relationship between myth and ideology is not easy to determine. Are myths the ideologies of pre-industrial societies, or ideologies the myths of industrial ones?” (Eagleton 2007:188) When looking into the Norse and Greek mythology, it is easy to assume that they were there to serve a purpose e.g. as an explanation of natural phenomena to frightened children. Other myths were fashioned to teach lessons, or to ‘parent’ the followers or believers. The myth about Herakles (Hercules) could very well have been made simply to entertain. And eventually, the gods of old were not the creators of the universe or the world. They were fallible and often made a mess out of situations, thus creating stories to be told through the centuries, managing to create a balance between hard every day life and the vivid dream world.
Neo is an anagram of One. Neo is, according to prophecy, supposed to be “The One” (The Matrix 1999). “Mr. Anderson, you’ve been living two lives” (Matrix 1999:Agent Smith) In the illusion Neo’s name is Thomas Anderson. It is almost a name of absolute anonymity, but it is also a name of doubt and duality. So his hacker name, Neo, becomes a beacon of hope, faith and unity. Neo can also mean new. He is like a newborn in the real world, and according to Morpheus everything he thought he knew is wrong. He is a tabula raza, and the real world becomes his buildungsroman. Neo meets the expectations connected to his mystical myth and his personal experiences. He learns faster than anyone before him, and is referred to as a machine, suggesting he is connected to both realities. According to the machines, as the story unfolds, Neo is the anomaly in the programming. This renders his physical appearance and mental presence a puzzle as well as a paradox. He should not be there, but he is. He is his own Neverland, and in this perspective he becomes a tragic character. He is not supposed to be there, so in the end he cannot. This makes him an opposite to Peter Pan, as Peter chooses to remain a boy, never writing anything in his book of life, as he forgets what was there the next day. Peter Pan is unchangeable as stone, but he always prevails to find new adventures.
By following the white rabbit and the second star to the right, we are invited to join in on two journeys of spiritual awakening. In The Journey Of The Magi (Eliot 1927 [2008:2060]), the travellers are undertaking a spiritual and physical journey towards enlightenment. The journey is far from pleasant, and they experience substantial suffering on their way to the goal. But the hardest part is when they return from the journey, fully enlightened, having met the Son of God, not certain how to mediate their newfound truth. The ignorant will not care for guiding stars or jumping rabbits, they might call it a ridiculous choice and be almost impossible to convince. The magnitude of these new truths must be substantial if any person is to uphold faith surrounded by those who doubt, or completely reject the thought.
Both texts are representatives for a Gnostic world-view, but The Matrix in particular. Gnosis is Greek and means those who have knowledge. “Since the Gnostic message conceives itself as the counter-move to the design of the world, as the call intended to break its spell, the metaphor of sleep, or its equivalents, is a constant component of the typical Gnostic appeals to man, which accordingly present themselves as calls of ‘awakening’.” (Jonas 2001:70-71) The ones kept on the outside of this knowledge still in slumber, are ignorant to the shadowy world they are forced to live in. As far as they are concerned they live in the real world. They are blissfully unaware of the truth that is being kept from them. To find the answers to mysteries of life means leaving pure and blissfully unaware parts of the soul behind, and it is almost like coming back from years of unconsciousness, or even ignorance. Hans Jonas discusses this in his book about The Gnostic Religion. The awakening process is not easy, and being faced with a new truth can be frightening and absurd. Leaving behind that which is comfortable and familiar is not for everyone. But wrapping the mind around a new truth, and finding serenity and peace with a new reality is like coming back from the dead. Gnosticism emphasises that reality is an illusion, and the place where we can actually BE is located somewhere else or is inaccessible to us because we are all asleep. Neverland is located somewhere else, and most of the people in The Matrix are asleep. But there could also be a third alternative. The elevated real, where we are untouched by all the noise and all the outside influence, located somewhere away from the dream and the real entirely.
Neo is given a choice to play by the rules, but he has the courage to show Agent Smith what he thinks of him through rude gestures, causing him to end up in a nightmare within the dream that already has him captured. This is how he chooses to explain the bugging incident to himself. This is something we all do. We try to reason with our own unconscious experiences, shaking them off as nightmares and things that just are.
There are those in The Matrix that can feel something is wrong with the world, mostly people who are operating within the reality they are presented with, plus working with computers on a higher level, making them capable of peeking at The Matrix, but lacking the means to do something concrete about it. In terms of power it is ambivalent and confusing as to who really has the power to control the world, and with control we are talking about who are controlling thought and perception of reality. Who eventually holds this power is never really clear. It could be the machines, it could be a group of individuals in the real world, it could be Morpheus, and it could very well be Neo himself. “[…] We shall find that in Gnostic thought the world takes the place of the traditional underworld and is itself already the realm of the dead, that is, of those who have to be raised to life again.” (Hans Jonas 2001:68). With this in mind, the awakening of Neo represents a rebirth. The texts take on reality is in reference to what was before, and what is now. To see reality only in the now, never remembering the past, will make it infinitely in flux. The new birth into a new space cannot come unless the past is present.
But Neo’s awakening is not an endearing and beautiful rebirth into knowledge and understanding. The scene is actually in conflict with itself. One could easily interpret the tubes he is pushed through like a birth canal. He is naked, he is confused and it involves pain. And in a romanticised world it probably would be. It is likely to see it like a rejection. He is flushed out from The Matrix like abject, the movie creators even added the sound of a flushing toilet, of no further use to the machines, and he ends up in the sewer. His rebirth is what comes next.
The post-apocalyptic real in The Matrix, where food is strictly nutritious, tasteless and uninventive “Bowl of snot” (The Matrix 1999:Dozer) serves as a dichotomy to the imaginary Neverland, where each make-believe meal is a feast of colours and tastes. But the food in the dream, within The Matrix, is represented with, among other things, tasty steaks. “There is no spoon” (The Matrix 1999:Potential “One”), but in the illusion one would pick up the spoon and indulge in tasty cakes, and feel better from the taste of Oracle baked cookies. This is one of many uniting features of our two texts, and translates into “The mind makes it real” (The Matrix 1999:Morpheus). As long as you can think it, it happens. If you die in The Matrix, you die in the real world. It is therefore likely to speculate that if you die in Neverland, you die in the real world. This has to do with deception and how ideology almost infects the mind, making us believe what we see even in the unconscious.
In Peter Pan we are, through the magical dream island of Nerverland, introduced to a society where children have the power. The pirates challenge the ownership of the power. But it is never taken away from the children or Peter Pan. There are forces in Neverland that might act as if, they are the higher authority. Hook is the adult in a child’s world, but this might be another deception. “Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country to a blaze […]” (Barrie 1995:141). It is easy to suspect that Hook is the personification of the author, making himself a part of his amazing story. But as we are dealing with ideology, metaphors and dreams, questions of reality and the unconscious, we might suspect that Hook is really Peter Pan. Hook is everything Peter loathes with adulthood. But Pan is also somewhat of a mystery even as a child. “- Pan, who and what are thou? he cried huskily. - I’m youth, I’m joy, Peter answered […]” (Barrie 1995:158) Youth and joy are the key elements that Hook loathes with Peter. But Hook and Pan are united in the concept of “Good Form” (Barrie 1995:158). They have found that one mutual rule of fighting, living and looking ahead, in Neverland. Breaking it will mean devastation. And for Hook, that is his downfall. He breaks the rules, and ends up as crocodile food. This is an example of the real world seeping through to the dream world.
The general world-views in Peter Pan are presented in a very traditional way to the contemporary reader. We are in a London and England coming out of the strict Victorian period and entering the early modernistic period with deep traditions still lingering. It is tempting to generalise, because many might get a very clear image, the signified, when presented with a phrase like traditional proper English, but we are not going to. But we could claim that the Victorian Age left the English society a bit confused. The roles the various parts had to play were starting to falter and women suddenly found themselves in a position where their opinions started to matter. They were no longer just the mother or the angel of the house. And in this new society, it is likely to assume that men felt rather confused. Women were no longer confined to the home and gradually became more and more in control of their own lives. But Peter Pan was published as a novel in 1911, and the Victorian Age was still visible on time’s passed horizon. So, in this strict early modern society a grown man, the breadwinner of the family, had a very clear set of rules to live by. Doing something out of the ordinary would end up highly scrutinised and widely talked about.
Both Peter Pan and The Matrix were received in society as something completely new and innovative. And both narratives made people believe in the power of imagination. The stories have a wide range, and they have managed to penetrate the consciousness of the masses. People know who Peter Pan is, people know who Neo is. And the common feelings connected to the timelessness of these stories are examples of how deep a constructed reality can affect the common perception of a society.
Wendy, Michael and John take with them their playful imaginative daytime stories and continue playing while asleep. In that ambivalent moment between the conscious and the unconscious, they find Peter and Neverland. “Wendy and John and Michael stood on tiptoe in the air to get their first sight of the island. Strange to say, the all recognised it at once […]” (Barrie 1995:43) As adults we can look back on the Neverland adventures once experienced, but we can go to shore no more. The different Neverlands are there for all children, serving as an escape to a magic place where they can remain children, remain untouched. Neverland is hard to grasp for an adult mind set in its time and ways.
Time is significant in both texts. The crocodile that swallowed Hook’s arm, and with it his wrist watch, ticks and toks as a constant reminder that time passes in Neverland just as it does everywhere else. Even though time slows down, mildly forcing the citizens of Neverland to live in the now, time will not be stopped completely. Time is a character existing in the void between the stories, present as an inevitable force affecting Neverland, affecting the real worlds and affecting The Matrix. Time is, in The Matrix, present as a confusing, almost a deceiving element. The real world has lost count, and cannot pinpoint the exact year. They can only guess. “You believe it’s the year 1999, when in fact it’s closer to 2199” (The Matrix 1999:Morpheus) Humanity has been driven under ground and has no longer the sun to determine day or night. The prisoners of The Matrix are given a version of a time that is long passed. And like Morpheus showing Neo where to go, what doors to walk through, taking him from one reality to the next, the people still part of The Matrix have only the machines’ version of the past as their present reality. We might say they are caught in a virtual single story, and the few who dare to break free are searching for new sources of information to free their minds.
Peter does not simply turn up as an invention of Wendy. Wendy’s mother has unconscious memories of this magical boy from Neverland. He owns the kiss in the upper right hand side of her mouth, the kiss Mr. Darling cannot have, because the kiss is Peter Pan. It is not for Peter, it is Peter (Barrie 1995:2). Peter has been around for hundreds of years, making the dream world’s laws of time bleed through to the real world. As he flies in and out of the real, so do the stories about him. Time seemingly stands still in Neverland. After all, it is a place that lingers on the horizon as a paradox by its name alone, Never Land. “[¼] I will never land in Neverland” (Marillion 2004:Marbles, Neverland). Neverland is the place one never really goes to, the place that never happens, the place that never was. Time slows down and ones ability to remember the real world is challenged, as with a dream that withers away in the first waking moments. We cannot be sure if the children spent one second or several months in Neverland, or if they even go there at all.
By exploring the illusion and simulation of reality in the texts, we become part of the creative process of the dream world. We will get an idea of how reality and dreams are interpreted both through different medias and in different times. The Matrix is a contemporary narrative, post-modernistic and futuristic. And as it is a movie, the visual experience employ the signified, the image. The dialogue is only a fragment of the expression. There is no need for long depicting descriptions. The moviemakers simply show the audience what for example the real looks like.
Both texts represent a dream world that can overtake the common perception of reality, and even numb metaphors and, eventually, language, completely. The texts suggest that though realism and the real should cover every known aspect of life, presented as an all-encompassing truth, it is in fact limited and restricted. All the things we relate ourselves to in order to have order will be limited by the disturbances that dreams and the unconscious stand for.
We are all as sane as we choose to be, and as sane as our version of reality allows us to be. Choices made lead us to where we are in the present. The choices our characters make are shaping the outcome as well as the story itself. Had Tinkerbell not betrayed Wendy, the pirates would probably not have found the Lost Boys’ hiding place. Neo could not become The One before he chose to be. Not before Agent Smith killed him within The Matrix and he chose to wake up again. And in waking up from the dead, he redeems himself as the one lost to the world, as well as fulfilling his own prophecy (Jonas 2001:79).
To speak, to write, to paint, to understand, and even to present definitions, we have to use language. “Language is thus both the concrete manifestation of ideology - the categories in which speakers are authorized to think - and the site of its questioning or undoing.” (Jonathan Culler 2011:61) In myths and storytelling, as books and films represent, we are faced with a different kind of language than we normally use. This is to make us able to mediate things that rational everyday language cannot. How an individual perceives the written and spoken word, has to do with that person’s ability to use and understand language. Through language we also have to decipher all kinds of hidden messages. Philosophers, authors and poets make use of the ambiguity and the metaphors of language, and it is up to the reader to interpret what message is conveyed. We also see examples of this in every day speech. We apply irony and sarcasm to make generic tales interesting. A human able to speak and understand language will at one point make use of metaphors. Language itself, it could be claimed, towers up as the ultimate metaphor, without we would be left with no more than instincts and animalistic behaviour.
In The Matrix a lot of the dialogue is presented as highly enigmatic and esoteric, and one also make use of elevated riddles. We get a feeling there are dangerous secrets so substantial and revolutionary that even before The Matrix is revealed as an illusion, we know very well it is big. The individuals enlightened enough to solve the enigmas will find higher enlightenment still. “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it” (The Matrix 1999:Morpheus) In The Matrix it is hard, or even close to impossible, to “free a mind” when it has reached adulthood. The earlier they wake a human up from the constructed slumber, the easier it is for the soul and the mind to see the truth and then accept it. However, Neo’s mind can only be free when he truly understands what Morpheus is trying to mediate; he, Neo, can no longer be a drone in the constructed reality. The language used is not the rational language connected to everyday and familiar life. The language conceals as much as it reveals. We might even suggest that the true knowledge lies within the riddles and the enigmas, and that the true search is within the mind.
But through language humanity is forever united in a mutual understanding of the world and reality. It becomes a mutual understanding through a shared culture and ideology. A developing human being forms its identity through language, and constantly adding to the internal bank of words and the connotations these words give.
We are discussing elements that only exist in myth and stories, and yet we are still using the same language connected to reality. We make use of the same language in both spheres, but we make use of different images, different metaphors and different experiences to grasp the ungraspable. And though our stories do not particularly critique the language of the time period they represent, the speech is connected to fairytales and fantasies in a way that people were made to listen. People felt frightened, yet part of something bigger. The texts become a cathartic experience. Because we get a heightened understanding of the world, we end up feeling elevated and cleansed.
According to Anthony Easthope, Sigmund Freud said that the interpretation of dreams was “the royal road” to understanding the unconscious. (Easthope 1999:9) One might argue that words occurring in dreams have deeper meanings than the connotations they normally would present, and any associations one would get from a word in a dream would be a step towards understanding the dream itself, as well as moving towards an understanding of the self in both the real and the dream. One might suggest that the higher understanding, and the higher ability to make use of language and its metaphors we have, the higher chance of grasping the symbolism of the dreams and eventually fathoming the unconscious, and in the end be able to get a bigger understanding of the real. But, to understand dreams, one must attempt to understand the unconscious. It is difficult to know exactly when we switch from the conscious to the unconscious. It is also difficult to determine what is an unconscious experience. It could be all sorts of absentminded processes, sleep, dream, intoxication and unconsciously and mentally ill, to mention a few.
Our texts reflect on the unconscious and the world of dreams, metaphors and myth. The texts are not only trying to make a description of the unexplainable, but they also oppose the common rules in their contemporary society. “In philosophy, realism signifies the assertion of the existence of a reality independently of our thoughts or beliefs about it.” (A Dictionary Of Sociology 2009:632) Music, movies, literature and art are always presenting us with versions of reality. It is up to us to interpret and find common ground with the creator in reference to our own experiences. One could say that the individual interpretation creates a reality of its own, but still relating to a common idea of reality and a common set of rules and norms, all with a linguistic and cultural anchor. These sets of rules try to explain what reality is, and how we as a species relate to the real.
The unconscious can sometimes be almost submerged in rationality and reason, but it takes our minds to strange, silent and incomprehensible, unexplainable realms through dreams and deep thought. No one can stop this from happening. One can numb and drown the feelings of creativity and imagination, almost even completely eradicate them, but one will never fully silence the dreams or the unconscious stream of consciousness. The biggest parts of The Matrix and Peter Pan take place in the unconscious. For example, Neo make the biggest decision of his life still a full part of the illusion that is The Matrix, the question of the red or the blue pill. Once that choice has been made, there is no going back to the dream as it was. He can go back as an observer and visitor, and eventually a revolutionary leader and warrior, but never again blissfully unaware of the chains he once bore.
In the real world art has not survived the cataclysmic war between man and machines. “The world as it was at the end of the 20th Century, it exists now only as part of a neuro-interactive simulation that we call The Matrix” (The Matrix 1999:Morpheus). The real world has been left in ruins, and even the sun cannot reach through the scorched sky, leaving humanity in a gloomy twilight. The cultural and sunny world lives on in the illusion, in the digital representation of a world that has seized to be. Faith in humanity, that pure faith in survival, is what powers them to fight on. The cultural memories of the world have become a Neverland, a place that never was and never can be. The mind makes the experience real, and if a doubt is present, you will not be the One, you will not be able to fly anymore.
In all the stories about Neverland and Peter Pan, Peter remains a boy. “In his wild state he […] offered his new minders and teachers a blueprint of human nature - untouched.” (Marina Warner 1994:33) He is, throughout eternity, or maybe never, that lovely boy, with all his baby teeth intact, living in Neverland, hunting pirates. Not realising that his own story will always be the one powering his own beloved dream world, where everything remains the same, even though it constantly changes. “Wendy and Michael fitted their trees at the first try, but John had to be altered a little” (Barrie 1995:77) Peter make them fit his reality, his Neverland.
It is likely to assume that Neverland and Peter Pan are linked, further that the two cannot exist without the other. Neverland could very well be the equivalent of the real world in The Matrix, as it is the unexplored and wild, the unexpected and the unpredictable, that place that can be altered to fit ones reality. Looking to the text, Neverland is impossible to map, as is a human mind (Barrie 1995:6). Neverland is the human mind. Journeying into the mind, one can get lost or get stuck for a while, and both Peter’s Neverland and The Real World in The Matrix are places not everyone are able to access. It is not for everyone to access the deep places in their minds. The real world enables the human mind to flourish, and go to all the wonderlands it desires, whereas in the illusion the machines have the power to control what the human mind is or is not.
On his search for meaning, Neo asks what The Matrix really is. But the answer rests within him. Only when he dares to believe in the myth created around him can he become the creator of his world. Morpheus is leading him from one realm to the other. We might from this suspect Morpheus of being the true creator of the dreams in The Matrix. We might also suspect that he knows far more than he ever really gives away. Neo could be Morpheus’ prisoner, as he can only walk through the doors Morpheus shows him. He can never know for sure if the door he is in front of is the door to the real, or a door to another dream.
Through Mopheus and through Pan we are invited into the world of the unconscious and the hidden. Morpheus and Pan serve as the keeper of the dream world, and as the keeper of the wild and the uncontrollable. When we are faced with a place where dreams come true, or where fear stirs up the mind and tears up the consciousness, we might not be in control of the self or perceptions the real. Even the most reasonable person would probably scream in fear if the known reality were to be revealed as a cover for a truth far darker than any nightmare. But both texts convey that children easier believe in the unreal and in the amazing.
The elusive real is what we cannot quite define, and we are dealing with a reality that has been stunned. In reference to Creation Myths, we can note that The Matrix were created by the machines, and the machines were created by man, and at the very beginning, man was, according to myth, created by God. In an intricate way, the machines are God to The Matrix. But the lucky few, who manage to see beyond the Platonic metaphors, those awakened to the cold desert of the real, are still clinging on to faith in a Christian version of God. The Christian connotations in The Matrix are undeniable. Neo is a modern, or even futuristic, Jesus. This could both be seen as a comment on the relationship between the human being and God, and the relationship between the socialised human being and ideology.
But, waking up from the illusion might create anger, and deep frustration, which again might create enemies “If you would have told us the truth, we would have told you to shove that red pill up your ass” (The Matrix 1999:Cypher) Cypher can only see what the real world cannot provide, and through his yearning for a state where his mind is blissfully unaware of the truth, he betrays Morpheus and his friends. Most people are content remaining in the dream. The people living in the real world become a rebel force to the machine empire, fighting a war on behalf of people who will never know.
Peter communicates with Mrs. Darling through her dreams. He can move around rather effortlessly in, in between and through both worlds. He is capable of influencing both worlds by the power of his will. But in the real world, he is merely en echo resonating through from the dream. He is the strange sound in the house at twilight, he is the shadow in the corner of the eye, he is imagination gone wild.
Throughout Peter Pan the story keeps coming back to the fact that he is a child, he still has his baby teeth, and he has a smile that makes him get away with anything. Peter is a child, he acts like a child, he remembers like a child and he lives completely in the now. But, when the time comes to choose whether or not to let Wendy and her brothers go home, he makes the right and selfless choice because he can relate to Mrs. Darling’s feeling of loss. He can see she is suffering, and he takes pity on her. In one of the film versions he closes the window, and the Darlings open it. In the book he leaves it open.
Neo communicates with Agent Smith while hooked into the Matrix. Neo can also move around rather effortlessly in, in between and through both worlds. As he comes into his true powers, he is capable of influencing both versions of reality by the power of his will. He can for example bend the rules of gravity. And when the lines between the dream and the real become blurred he can handle it. The lines fuse and the two worlds come together as a strange and unexplainable one that has to exist to uphold the other. It is unthinkable to have a real world that is just unchangeable and set, static and cold, without the amazing thoughts, images and universes, and the unconscious and the dreams can give us. Stories such as Peter Pan and The Matrix enables us here and now, in our real world, to imagine worlds outside the common and cultural perception of reality.
Though both Peter Pan and The Matrix are full of symbolism, we find a clear foreshadowing when Neo is looking in the mirror just before being woken up in the real world. At first there is no reflection, then a reflection split in three melting into one. And Peter Pan’s shadow living its own life, wanting to break free from its master. We are still focusing on the dreams and metaphors of the real. The White Rabbit is a metaphor for exploring the unknown, and a clear reference to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1998). We are invited to jump down the rabbit hole to see just how deep it really is. It is hard to decide what is real and what is not. But if we look at the myth of the rabbit, or the hare, it is a far more complex character than a side feature in a fantasy story. It is linked to the myth of the Earth Mother, and the eternal never changing moon. A moon that “[…]serves as the backcloth to deep dream-states […]” (A Dictionary of Symbols 1996:472), and becomes ambivalent in its constantness, its coldness and its secretiveness. We can ask ourselves what the real really is, and how it is mediated through the different medias we are surrounded by. Whatever the question, art, in every form, will always function as a destabilisor to our comprehension of reality.
Though the story in Peter Pan mainly deals with children’s discovery of spirituality and imagination, they find their true self as the story progresses. Wendy cannot stay in Neverland, because one of her dreams is to become a mother, a proper mother, maybe to Peter’s child. This is a puzzle to Peter. He does not understand why anyone would want to leave. He resists any kind of awakening. He never takes the defining step into adulthood, he gets that Wendy wants him to be something more, but he is unable to give her what she wants. “You are so queer - he said, frankly puzzled. And Tiger Lily is just the same. There is something she wants me to be, but she says it is not my mother.” (Barrie 1995:111) He either has to come back to the real world with Wendy, and become the man she hopes he is, or remain in the dream.
The dialogue in The Matrix drives forwards the spiritual journey of the characters. To accept new truths is the first goal, spreading the word among the ones still in the dark is their mission. This is another place where our two texts unite, in this the journey towards elevation and understanding of both the real and the illusion and the dreams. Both dream worlds are equipped with a reality where features such as dreams within the dream occur. They are faced with a reality within the illusion, making waking up that much more difficult. So our characters are wise in following the guidance provided by rabbits and stars, and the gods of dreams and the wild.
In Peter Pan, opposite to The Matrix, the dream is the savage world. “Here dreaming, though wide-awake, of the exquisite tortures to which they were to put him at break of day, those confiding savages were found by the treacherous Hook” (Barrie 1995:125). It becomes a playground for stories of bravery, good form, deceit and loss. When danger stares them in the face, Peter sticks to good form, by habit more than by choice, and picks up his sword to fight. Here the real world is the constricted and numbed truth. But, the real world is also a representative for the choices one cannot have in Neverland, such as growing up, finding a spouse, starting a family, having responsibility. From a child’s perspective these might be considered boring, and even frightening. But good form survives even Peter Pan’s childlike reasoning.
We find a lack of balance between the dreams and the real in both the texts we are exploring. Both in Peter Pan and in The Matrix we have a fragmented perception of the dream world and the desert of the real. The protagonists are at the centre of worlds gone vertigo, worlds that according to creation myths can alter as their creator chooses to, making sure nothing is presenting as constant, noting is presenting as normal, nothing is presenting as safe, not even the real world. We are parts of adventures that manage to erase the boundaries between the common perception of reality and the common understanding of dreams.
We also become parts of adventures where it is not easy to see things clearly. Seeing is challenged both on a metaphorical level and an actual level. “The topography of the modern fantastic suggests a preoccupation with problems of vision and visibility, for it is structured around spectral imagery […]” (Jackson 2003:43). The ability to see is challenged in dreams. Peter’s Neverland is bright and colourful. The children are caught up in the game, and slowly they forget what mother and father look like (Barrie 1995: 80). Neo wakes up and realise that all the things he thought he had seen and experienced was in fact an illusion. And the world he wakes up to is a world where humanity have been forced to hide in the shadows, to run from danger, and to operate on the margins of the stunned real world society to plan retaliation and eventually revolution.
The most generic action or item can become so overwhelmingly scary or beautiful in dreams that one wakes up feeling either frightened or enlightened. Unknown scenarios disguised as reality play tricks with our minds all the time. The mind makes it real, forcing dreamers to recognise strange faces, or making strange places into ones home environment. It is hard to determine why we experience this, but it could be our minds looking through a divine or sublime looking glass, the world shown from a perfect and un-describable angle, the uncanny angle.
The uncanny angle we see and experience that moment between worlds, that moment when one is neither awake nor asleep, neither lost nor found, that transparent moment when one can claim ownership to both worlds, when both the conscious and unconscious mind is ready to bring the dream into or out of the amazing. The moment when signifier and signified are silenced, yet screaming louder than ever. The moment just before Neo wakes up from The Matrix to the real, and the moment the children are flying from our world to Neverland, both stuck for an eternal moment in a void, an elusive moment when everything and nothing becomes a whole. This could be the moment when human nature interprets the absolutely untarnished untainted and untouched real.
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- marillion.com 1999
- Marbles 2004
Label: Marillion publish on their own label, Racket Records, London. www.marillion.com
Fairies In Kensington by Arthur Rackham
Artwork from The Matrix - Copyright Warner Brothers.