Red Pill vs Blue Pill – Which One Would You Take?

         In a famous scene from the cult film ‘The Matrix’, the protagonist is put before a difficult choice – a choice between a blue and red pill. Take the blue pill, and he will wake up carefree in his bed, unaware of everything around him being a lie, and continue living his normal life. Take the red pill, however, and he will find out the whole truth about the ‘Matrix’ that he, and everyone else, has unknowingly been living in for his entire life – but then there will be no going back. Barely stopping to think, he immediately takes the red one; but, is that really the right choice?

            I have no doubt that, if faced with the same dilemma, I would pick the red pill, too. However, that does not mean I would not be incredibly tempted by the blue one, as well. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and the thought of resuming my life normally, instead of having to face the actual nature of reality and the grim fact that everything I’ve known and experienced has been a lie, is very comforting, after all.

             However, I believe that the truth, even when it is a horrible one, is always worth finding out. It might make me miserable, but I feel like it would be my duty to myself to learn the truth and not to continue living a pointless, wasted life, even if it would feel real to me. Moreover, it would be my duty to humanity as well, because, even though the chances might be slim, there is always a possibility I could do something to break the illusion and free everyone from their projected-reality prisons. Even notwithstanding these more serious, noble reasons, I think that my innate curiosity would simply never allow me not to choose the red pill. In fact, I think that my curiosity is why I have warmed up to TOK itself, and it certainly makes questioning and wanting to know about everything that much easier. No matter how hopeless the situation is, I believe it is always better to know, than to be left in the dark, and I always try to find out even the harsh, unpleasant truths, because at least knowing them is the first step towards actually dealing with them.

          Still, I cannot say that this dilemma necessarily has a right answer. After all, just knowing the truth does not mean we can do anything to change it, and, in that case, there might not be a point. Sure, it is worth knowing a painful truth if it is useful, but if it isn’t, why would we want to know it? Can knowing just for the sake of knowing actually do us more harm than good? I don’t actually know the right answer to that; but, to modify a certain famous bit of wisdom from Socrates: All I know is that I would still want to know.

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My TOK Song

 

 

The song I have chosen to represent my feelings towards TOK is ‘The Humbling River’ by Puscifer.

I confess, this was a much more difficult task than I had originally expected it to be. For someone with as little musical talent as myself, I am to an almost unbelievable extent driven and inspired by music. It has incredible power and significance to me; in the most stressful and busy periods of my life, there have been days when I haven’t slept, or when I missed all of my meals, but I have never gone a full 24 hours without taking out at least a bit of time to listen to a couple of songs. Furthermore, I consider (at least some of) the music I listen to to be meaningful, deep, and dealing with complex, philosophically relevant subject matter, and certainly there would be something in there about knowledge, too (well, at least in the part that’s not dead emo bands or embarrassingly bad Finnish opera-metal; but I digress). Therefore, when I heard we were supposed to find a song about knowledge, I thought it would be a 10-minute task at most. Easy-peasy, right? Well, not really.

It took me a couple of weeks of searching to actually remember this song, as I hadn’t listened to it in a while. But, having re-discovered it, I feel it is exactly what I wanted. ‘The Humbling River’ has a haunting feel to it, as it narrates a kind of fairytale journey (to me, it has a bit of a “The Name of the Wind” feel), on which the protagonist embarks, facing and conquering all sorts of challenges, before coming across a river he simply can’t cross. This is described in the lines:

“Braved the forests, braved the stone
Braved the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I’m helpless by the river

Angel, angel, what have I done?
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?”

His questions are then answered in the following manner:

“Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands, my son
Or you’ll never make it over the river

It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river”

Now, one of the great things about this song is that it can be interpreted in so many ways; in fact, the internet is full of various interpretations of it written by fans. Personally, I’ve always liked to see it as quite allegorical; the ‘hero’ of the song representing the individual, or one powerful country or entity, and ‘crossing the river’ standing for solving a great issue or advancing humanity somehow. But where, I hear you ask, does TOK come in here? Surely, I should finally relate to TOK somehow, 500 words into this post? Well, the answer is: knowledge. More specifically, individual and shared knowledge, something we talked about quite a bit in our TOK lessons.

I think that this song, more than anything, carries the message that shared knowledge, the knowledge of all of mankind put together, is one of the strongest, most formidable forces in the world, and the only one that can truly help us build a better future for our species. Not even the most powerful individual, or even the one most powerful country or political body, who has faced and conquered everything in their path, can single-handedly know what to do in order to advance the human race; individual knowledge is simply not enough in this matter. It will, as this song says, take a lot more than words, guns, riches or muscle, which are all the common means we tend to use to solve problems. Instead, the way the phrase “And together we’ll cross the river” is hauntingly repeated for the last couple minutes of the song, together with the “The hands of the many must join as one”, sort of represents that it takes the knowledge of all of humanity combining and working together, in order to bring us any kind of progress. No other force can have such a strong, cumulative effect on our lives.

And, really, isn’t that what TOK itself tries to teach us?

 

My first impressions of TOK

“What is knowledge?” asked the bold, glaring title of the PowerPoint in front of the class. It was my second TOK lesson, and the first one hadn’t done much to show me what studying TOK would actually look like, so I didn’t have any particular expectations.

However, seeing the scope of the question I was being posed, my hopes were not particularly high. At that moment I thought the whole concept of TOK quite abstract and not particularly applicable to the real world, to be honest. It was even slightly annoying to me, as a pragmatic, to have to open these difficult questions, because, I thought, surely we know what knowledge is and isn’t, in a practical sense, and there certainly is no point in bothering with a messy, philosophical view of the matter?

I was quite wrong.

While I cannot say that TOK has, in just a few brief weeks, transformed the way I think or become my absolute favourite lesson, I am definitely seeing its benefits and have much more faith in it than I did before. Our discussions are always lively and interesting, and I always find myself eager to make or debate points. I’m also always intrigued by excellent points I hear from other people in the class, because a lot of them offer me a perspective I never would have thought of. The topics and questions we’ve so far debated are very broad and don’t come with any easy answers, but that is the charm of it, and, all things considered, I really am enjoying it.

I hope that in the future, when I look back to these two years, I will find that TOK actually is as useful as it promises to be, and it really does stimulate me to view life and knowledge differently and be better rounded as a pupil, a thinker, and a person.