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Bernie Ziebart

The Engineering Perspective

The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.

Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.

Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.


The Matrix

One of the defining movies in my generation is The Matrix. Along with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and The Mission; The Matrix has had a profound impact on my mind.  It had presented a concept that I was forced to wrestle with. I couldn’t just dismiss the movie because I knew that aspects of it were valid to my experiences.  

The Matrix is the physical world. Everything in the Matrix can be described in the language of numbers. From the dimensions of objects, to colors, smells, or texture; if it exists, it can be weighed or measured.  Every person, place, or thing can be described in numbers thus making this material realm, the matrix.

The over riding theme of the movie is that life is not what it seems. What we consider to be the real world may actually just be the output of other programming. We may be temporary visitors in an illusion known as life.  The Matrix reality for most humans is constructed by a computer system, is dependent upon that computer system, and we exist in that reality for the purpose of serving the system's needs.

Reality is in some sense dictated by our beliefs and our environment. There is a differentiation between Truth and Reality. There can be many realities, but there is One Truth. For example, to those who are plugged into the Matrix and not yet aware of it, the Matrix is reality. However, the Truth is that they are serving as a 120V battery in a pod full of green slime. If I am anorexic, then I see myself as overweight; that becomes my reality. The Truth is that I am gradually starving myself to death.

The problem, then, is when my reality is not in accord with the Truth. Either I am unaware of the Truth, or I am ignoring the Truth by conscious effort. To those who cannot see the Truth, whose eyes have never been opened (still in the pod), there is no choice. That is to say, the only choice available is one reality over another, one Matrix or another if you will. Yet there can be an awareness, a searching for the Truth. Planted within each human is the desire for purpose, for meaning; a thirst for the Truth. As Trinity whispered to Neo, "It's the question that drives us."

The Truth, once perceived, may not be to our taste. It may not always be convenient or pleasant. It may require sacrifice and hardship. Was the truth, the real world, what Neo expected at all? If he had known what his first days in the real world were going to be like, would he have still taken the red pill? He admits to Cypher that he would not, "Why didn't I take the blue pill!"

If Neo was to spend the rest of his days eating tasteless glop and running away from sentinels in underground sewers, with no other purpose than to exist as a post-coppertop, he would likely regret his decision each and every day. What kept Neo going was his purpose, his destiny as the One.

When we turn from the Truth and return to pseudo-realities, it is either because we fear the hardships and responsibilities that freedom brings, or we lose sight of the higher purpose we serve as one "unplugged", or we just plain find the truth unpalatable.

Another interest aspect to the Matrix was the anomalies in the program. The program could not account for everything or every possible scenario. The program and science is able to develop enough formulas to explain a good portion of the way things work and provide an outline of methodology in their perceived world. The people within the Matrix "believe", or accept, these formulas because they are TOLD to. Thus, science becomes a virtual representation of reality that prevents "external" perceptions of the Truth. The scientific method: form a hypothesis (a model), perform experimentation and gather data, and evaluate the model against the results. The truth is that "supernatural" events reveal the shortcomings of the model. 

In the film, Neo had been searching for Morpheus for a couple of years, while Morpheus had been searching for Neo his whole life. When Morpheus knocks on the door and Neo answers, the invitation is extended to Neo to join the group. When Neo accepts the proposition and swallows the red pill, he awakens to the Truth. Now, as a "free moral agent," he has the choice to accept and live by the Truth, or to follow Cypher and plug back into the Matrix.

Neo lived as both a follower of the system (Thomas, an employee of a respected firm) and as a hacker (in opposition to the system).   The quotation by Agent Smith "You seem to be living two lives, Mr. Anderson," is a key to understanding Neo. As Neo pursued his "hacker nature", his true powers as the savior began to manifest themselves.

The Oracle knew that Neo was the One. She predicted his death as Thomas Anderson and resurrection as the One. Why did she seem to imply he was not the One? Consider the scene when Neo breaks the vase. The Oracle could not tell Neo he was the One, for the reason that Neo would then begin to think he was the One and act like he was the One. In doing this he would be distracted from ever KNOWING that he was the One. The truth of his nature had to be self-discovered from within. The significance of the vase was to provide a parallel for this critical point. Because the Oracle told him he would break the vase, he fulfilled the prophecy by breaking the vase, giving him insight into his purpose.  The Oracle needed him to BE the One rather than trying to BECOME the One.

The images of people being consumed in order to provide power to that world are among the most powerful and disturbing scenes of the Matrix. The world of sensation seems so true that most people in that world are unable to break away, to see beyond it to what is real and lasting. They are lost in sleep, in a destructive dreamland that will destroy them.  We do not question our reality. We tend not to question what we see, hear, and feel. We toil away for purposes that sometimes are counter to our truest selves.

The Matrix is not a religious movie, it is philosophical. It deals with the same concepts of philosophy that have been discussed for thousands of years. Neo most closely resembles a man released from Plato’s cave to experience the sun, trees, birds and life. In Plato’s cave people are held in bondage and forced to stare at a wall on which the shadows of reality are projected. For those in the chains, the shadows appear to be reality, but they aren't.   Anyone who is able to break free and reach the outside is ridiculed when they return and try to explain truth to their former comrades.

Despite its philosophical overtones, I can draw parallels between the movie and my life as a Christian (I really don’t know the intentions of producer or writer, nor do I care). Up to a point in my life, I truly believed that all that there was to this life was the material realm. Then, in a miraculous chain of events, I was awakened to the spiritual realm. I have been finding that the spiritual realm drives Truth and that the material realm is only an output created from within the spiritual realm. My red pill moment is when I willingly surrendered my will, hopes, dreams, fears, etc to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  

In the early phase in my awakened state of living I tried to act the part of a Christian rather than being a Christian. When I tried to do what I thought I should do, Christianity became to me a lifeless system of rules and regulations. In being, I found a relationship of love and purpose intermingled with a grueling battle.

I can’t explain the spiritual realm to those who are not awakened to it. Despite an awareness of Truth, we are unable through our own powers of intellect to know or accept the Truth.  

Now I live two lives; one in the system as an engineer and one fighting the system. My fight against the system supersedes politics and material values by an incredibly large margin. Of course, I dabble in those things, but only with the mindset of a temporary resident in the system. Those things are of secondary importance, at best. 

Most importantly, my mindset has changed from a short term temporal perspective to an eternal perspective. I have had a vague glimpse of what I should be but I am not close to attaining it, thus the struggle continues. 


It was never my intention to publish this to a wider audience.  Primarily, because I would expect the feedback to this article to be that I have completely lost control of my mental faculties…that I am crazy and need to be institutionalized. I know it, because that was my response to this type of belief before my red pill moment. That was also the response to those of similar faith before me. 

This article builds on the crime in Sheboygan blog in which I presented the material realm vs the non-material realm. And also in the sheep and wolves article, I use two methods of observation to discern the sheep from the wolves dressed as sheep; observation in the material realm and observation in the spiritual realm. Without being awakened to the spiritual realm, the extra data point is not available. 

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