Red Pill or Blue Pill

Near the beginning of The Matrix, the protagonist receives two pills. Either he can take the Blue Pill to expunge dangerous thoughts and retain his everyday life or take the Red Pill and learn an unsettling but life-changing truth. Many controversial ideas have stolen this Red Pill/Blue Pill concept, and I will shamelessly do the same!

Consider Plato’s Allegory of the Cave—in which prisoners are chained inside a cave and see shadows on the wall. They don’t know where the shadows originate or that these shadows are a blurred image of a richer reality. These poor souls don’t know they exist in a cave because the cave is all they know—they have no concept of life outside. Plato intended for this cave to represent most of humanity. The job of philosophers, ergo, is to escape the cave and see the world for what it is.

Seeking truth (escaping the cave) is the Red Pill. Accepting ignorance (finding comfort in one’s shackles) is the Blue Pill. There are many of these decision points in our lives; for instance, you may have the opportunity to push yourself physically or mentally to complete a project. If you don’t try, you can’t fail, and you won’t have to deal with the possibility of failure, so you can continue finding solace in fantasies about your potential. The same is true for moving to a new place, changing careers, starting a relationship, going to therapy, or having a difficult conversation. The Blue Pill maintains the status quo, despite the potential regret for the chance not taken—which slightly lowers your quality of life moving forward. The Red Pill could have great or terrible outcomes, but which one you get is unknown.

The Red Pill is scary, tastes nasty, burns your throat, and gives you piercing headaches. The Blue Pill is like your favorite potato chip—tasty, familiar, and comforting. We unconsciously gravitate toward the Blue Pull: Rather than challenge our beliefs, we imbibe information that comforts us. Because once you see something new, you can’t unsee it—it’s a one-ticket to an unknown world.