Getting beyond 'virtual' reality

Opinion: Columns

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By Marc Blesoff

CONSCIOUS AGING

The other night I watched the movie The Matrix. I hadn't seen it since it first came out in 1999, when the Wachowskis were still brothers. That's 20 years ago. I liked it then, and I still do.

I don't watch movies at home very often. I don't even have a TV in my apartment. But as I sought some spontaneous diversion, my laptop screen offered some really good choices.

Most of you have seen The Matrix, but to briefly re-cap: Self-aware machines have enslaved most of humanity in a virtual reality system. The humans are convinced their lives are normal, but, in actuality, they are kept in self-contained bubbles as the farmed power supply for the machines. A small number of humans live outside the virtual reality system, fighting for their survival in hopes of setting their species free.

About 20 minutes into the movie, Mr. Anderson/Neo asks one of the "free" human leaders, "What is The Matrix?" Morpheus replies, "It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth."

I immediately hit the Pause button and replayed that line several times because it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite sentences.

In her Foreward to The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen writes: "The daily fabric that covers what is most real is commonly mistaken for what is most real until something tears a hole in it and reveals the true nature of the world."

Let's tear a hole in how we age and die to reveal the true nature of that world.

As we start yet another year, let's honestly appreciate the opportunities offered us in the last third of our lives. Such appreciation may not be easy. Fear, among other things, can throw up roadblocks. But really, what else do we have to do?

I suppose we could live in a "virtual" reality, like The Matrix. We can continue to mistake "the daily fabric" for what is most real.

Or, figuring out what is really important can help us appreciate the opportunities. Actually, just trying to figure out what is really important can help.

The last third of life gives us the opportunity to slow down and to honestly grapple with what is really important. There is no simple template to this existential dilemma. But the precious opportunity is here. Let's take advantage of it.

Many of us are no longer so enamored of social networks or of accumulating material shows of grandeur.

And for just as many, our physical changes in this awesome physical existence are cause for consternation.

We've been taught there are bumps in the road of life. But are they really bumps in the road? Actually, the road is just what it is. People-made roads are smooth and straight, but life and death are not people-made roads. They are perfectly imperfect journeys.

Joan Chittister, in her book The Gift of Years, writes, "We are finished now, except for the finishing." But the finishing just might take another 20 or 30 years.

Let's finish strong and well, all the way — imperfectly strong and well.

Marc Blesoff is a former Oak Park village trustee, co-founder of the Windmills softball organization, co-creator of Sunday Night Dinner, a retired criminal defense attorney, and a novice beekeeper. He currently facilitates Conscious Aging Workshops and Wise Aging Workshops in the Chicago area.

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