In this Matrix-mad day, when the battle for truth, honesty, and the nature of reality is fought is daily fought by fifteen year old computer nerds in dimensions left unpopulated since their creaking, painfully obtuse Boomer parents long, long ago drifted euphorically across the damp fields of Woodstock, listening intently to the wailing strands of Jimi Hendix’s Star Spangled Banner searching for some meta-meaning that was not and never would be apparent, a word needs to be said about that most mysterious, most earnest, most intricate, and most un-clonable of  matrices, the family.

Matrix – the movie, not the real one we face every day – finds humanity absorbing virtual haymakers from the evil, inhuman, world of machines, which have learned to fend for themselves quite well, thank you, if only the organic forms of life known euphemistically and poetically as you and me will allow ourselves to be fed to them in the process.

Of course this machine eats man theme has been around since the Garden of Eden, if you will allow the cold reptilian snake to stand in for the machine of the pre-industrial era.  The good is like us, and the bad is unlike us, and the more unlike us it is, the badder it is.  The formula is simple; the grey, clanging, oozing, one-dimensional, vaporous, endlessly replicable world of the inhuman is in the process of kicking our cans, but we will once more pick ourselves up off our hand woven mats and make magic meaning until those dumb, uncreative, bad-dressing machines either start dancing to our tune or fall into permanent sleep-mode.  In the meantime there is ample opportunity for lots of phantasmagoric leaning and twisting, in both analog and digital domains, as fate turns in upon itself again and again, until – guess what? – we’re back where we started, walking out into the mall parking lot, wiping popcorn greasy fingers on the jeans we picked up that afternoon at Wal-Mart.

The problem with all this computer-generated cosmological sturm und drang is that it can’t hold a candle to good-ol’ run of the mill reality.  Not only is its cyber-generated digit-world lacking in simple sensory experiences – the crunch of gravel underfoot as we traverse the fifty yards to the car, not to mention the glimmering stars up there in the dark sky, and the bracing New England winter wind that lets us know there’s more to life than ones and zeroes – but anyone who has read Faulkner knows that your basic everyday family has more twists and turns than your favorite video game – times ten to the 10th.

The fundamental unasked question is from whence emerged all that noble, and typically quite handsome, humanity which finds it so necessary to assert its wicked-cool uniqueness in the face of all that very reliable but tedious machine-life?  Surely not from your friendly neighborhood disc-defragmenter.  No, they lurched forth from the same primeval mess that made us all – Mom and Dad, and all the myriad networks that made them, and them, and them, until – guess what? – we’re back where we started, wiping popcorn-greasy…

Take me, for example.  My grandfather escaped from the Ould Country, glad to find a place where he could eat, drink and get a job in U.S. Post Office.  He delivered the mail, ate his boiled chicken, drank the occasional beer.  How perfectly Irish-American is that?  But right away there was a mystery.  Turns out my grandfather was a hedge-teacher, maybe IRA, and he and his nine siblings conspired and eventually darted, in fact fled like madmen and women, to the eight corners of the globe one step ahead of – what it that clanking I hear?

So when I’m walking the streets of Dubai or Sydney or Buenos Aires, and I sit down at a local pub and start chewing the fat with the lad or lassie on the next stool, and, after all the niceties, what do I find out, in truth?  Who do I see there before me in the flesh?  Why, it’s…is that you, cousin?

You’ll have to pay another $8.75 for the sequel to find out, but you get the point.  The drama went on from there, with more wrinkles than a slept-in shirt, people rising up and falling down and rising up again, only to fall down again, for, in the end, we all end up lying down for good.  The drama of ordinary life, once you pull the cover off it, and, to be honest, the cover is usually only very gingerly laid on there anyway, is of a profundity and complexity that not even the most advanced replicant can replicate.

But the ordinary story of a family usually doesn’t fly, if you catch my drift, you’ve got to put some bells and whistles on it, a little rouge here, a smiley face sticker there, a few dollops of sugar, and then they’ll eat it up with a spoon – particularly if we call it something fancy – liked a matrix.

Maybe it’s a good sign that take our roots so much for granted that we find them less interesting than a pack of robots, but, not being good at reading signs, I’m not so sure.  The day may yet come when we can face ourselves and let the machines go count pennies.  Until then I’ll go wash the dishes myself, use a broom to clean the floor and – hey, who would knock on the door this time of night?