Hey Neo, Which Cave?

Berkeley,CA,  2014

I cried yesterday but not for the reason I would have predicted. To put my crying in context, I have been traveling nonstop for four years partly for the kindness and connection I discover in other places. I can find these things here at home. It’s just easier to find them in places that are new and different, where I have to pay more attention. And, honestly, it’s easier where the dominant feeling is a little softer than my American culture these days. (Something like that….I was supposed to be in Saudi Arabia today).

The reason I cried was that a stranger said something to me that was unnecessarily kind, and that connected me to something bigger. In the past month, I have been in the middle of so many gestures of kindness and connection in my American culture, whether right in front of me or described in a news article. Other people seem to be having the same experience. Something is different here.

Tilden Park, Berkeley, CA

After crying, I watched a wonderful documentary in which a dozen philosophers talked about the themes in “The Matrix” movies. https://gypsycafe.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/wake-up-neo/  As you probably already know, “The Matrix” is about a world where humans live, enslaved, in a reality created by technology. Some people are trying to find truth. Our hero, Neo, is undergoing a transformation in order to save the world. His name seems like a relevant metaphor.

One of the unexplained mysteries in “Matrix” is why people wear sunglasses only after they get on the team with the cool kids.

The Matrix story reminded me of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” In Plato’s cave, people are chained to a wall and only see shadows of what is real. When they learn the shadows are not real, they are threatened. The man who escapes the cave, in contrast, goes on an intellectual journey of meaning and beauty.

Image by Philosophyzer

And that reminded me of something my hero and Plato-lover, Joseph Campbell, said: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

Two caves. One that shelters us from truth. The other that holds the treasure.


Berlin, Germany, 2016

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
                   — Joseph Campbell



  1. I am not a big fan of The Matrix.

    And I don’t think Keanu Reeves can act. Not even a little bit.

    But, I do think you have a special ability to open your heart to (the kindness of, etc.) strangers and you write beautifully. Your words and the allegory and quote you cite provide me with a very comforting feeling. A sense of hope that things can change for the better.

    I need that.

    So, thanks.

  2. I’m a huge fan of the original Matrix film, despite Keanu’s acting abilities. I especially like Agent Smith’s monologue – while holding Morpheus captive – that rails against the blight we humans are to the Earth. Very meaningful Joseph Campbell quotes as well.

  3. Love the Joseph Campbell quotes! I’ve cried a few times too thinking about my kids and their futures and my future grandchildren.

    1. Yeah, when I see young people without masks and not being careful enough, I want to shake them but then I remind myself that it’s my generation that handed them this problem and a lot of others that are worse. We gotta give them a break.

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