Those of us for whom The Matrix was a formative movie will clearly remember the stark choice presented to Neo by Morpheus. Take the blue
pill and you go to sleep and believe whatever you want to believe. Take the red pill and you find out how far from reality the life you lead actually is.
This image in many ways captures the essence of experience of going back to NZ and Australia on a holiday for Christmas. (Ok – it’s been a while, and we’ve been pretty busy doing some interesting things – see the upcoming post for more details).
We’d been in Ranong for over a year by the time we left and we really did feel exhausted. We were tired of struggling with language, not being understood, having to suspect all other road users of being suicidal, having to battle with stray dogs, having to massacre mosquitoes before they did the same to us, not know when the water in our taps would stop or when some of our friends would be beaten or arrested. It was time for a blue pill. Our trip to NZ and OZ was like returning to a favorite dream. We saw our friends and family, we had running water, we spoke to strangers and they understood us, we had carpet under our feet, we drank the tap water, we had no bureaucratic battles, we walked to the park(!!), we used the park, and people followed the traffic rules.
While being back in NZ was blissful, getting there was about as traumatic as Neo’s journey. Having your mind unplugged from the matrix and then having your body flushed down a sewer only to be retrieved by a giant mechanical claw and then skewered with a thousand needles is similar to taking our little 9 month old explorer on the two-day journey from Ranong to Auckland. A six hour drive, a night in a hotel, an immigration crisis, holding up the plane, sprinting for said plane, 7 hours in an airport and and then a 10 hour flight was simply too much for the curious little mind that wanted to explore everything. There were of course moments of delight mixed in with long periods of despair and desperation as we found out that it IS possible for a child to scream for 7 and a half hours of a 10 hour flight.
At about this point, comparisons with the Matrix end. While Neo’s blue pill would have led him to work in an IT firm (ewww…) ours led us into the waiting arms of hospitality – to name just a few: Linda and Dave Devaney, Cath and Phil in Auckland, Michael and Susanna VanGulik in Wellington, Dan and Rebekah Siave in Wellington, the McKeevers in Hastings (including loan of the car!), Karen in Auckland and the Moraeses in Sydney
Note: Those of you living in Australia, NZ or other developed countries, please don’t go taking pills (red or otherwise, literally or not) for the sake of it! I’m not saying your life is not real to you. This blog is only an expression of our experience.
Like any post-modern movie, the Matrix does not offer any moral commentary on which choice of pill is right. For us, when it was time to return to Ranong, we were certainly ready to take the red pill -to return (at least for a while) to a life that is closer to the reality of life for most people on earth. Life without footpaths, lawns, friends who speak your language, running water, road rules, sensible bureaucracy and basic legal protections is just normal for most earthlings. Many people who reacted to our stories of life here seemed to think that this was a heroic hardship to endure, but it’s no more than a few small steps alongside the poor, vulnerable, ordinary, or in other words, majority of people, which as Marist Missionaries, is at the core of what we’re called to.