Huh? What? Am I shamelessly adopting the lingo of alt-right internet personalities? Yes, yes I am. But not because I support them. Just simply because I thought ‘the matrix’ sounds pretty cool. Anyway, we all know what I mean by ‘the matrix’. It’s the all-encompassing system that keeps everything in check. You might want to call it ‘capitalism’, or ‘society’, or any other term, but I thought ‘the matrix’ worked quite well for an attention-grabbing title.

What is the matrix?

What I really mean by ‘the matrix’ is simply your own perspective of the world. Your personal set of beliefs, visions, values, and most importantly your practical interpretation of your surroundings. Because your perception of reality is shaped by ‘the matrix’. Your values and beliefs are determined by your social setting and your personal experiences. And because this is all linked together in the complex ways of our societal system, I think it’s fair to say that your perspective is largely an extension of ‘the matrix’.

In a way, this somewhat relates to the theory of simulacra and simulation, as coined by the French philosopher Baudrillard. This is the theory on which the writers of The Matrix movies have built their ideas (although Baudrillard has publicly rejected any association with them).

Anyway, I just wanted to namedrop a cool philosophical theory. I don’t actually have that much to say about it. What I mean by ‘the matrix’ is just some basic stuff from sociology/psychology. The framework of values, experiences, beliefs, etc, that influence your perception of the world.

Baudrillard matrix

A scene from the first The Matrix movie, directly refers to Baudrillard’s book.

The skills that destroy the matrix

Okay, now that is clear, let us dive straight into it. What are these skills that am I talking about?

And this is the best part…

Because it can be any kind of skill!

I had this revelation when I was halfway through the sewing course that Becky and I had started together in 2022. We were starting to learn everything about sewing. The basic skills, but also all different types of materials. It was an eye-opener for me. This skill set was quite far removed from anything I had done before. And therefore I was able to really soak it up and enjoy the learning process.

The real eye-opening moment came when Becky and I were hiking at the Dingli Cliffs somewhere in the wintertime. We were just enjoying our walk. On these types of walks, we usually bring a roll of bin bags so that we can make sure to clean up nature. So you can now create this mental image of us walking on the cliffside, collecting some empty soda cans, some McDonald’s packaging, and some candy wrappers.

All of that was very uneventful until we stumbled upon a shiny piece of garment. It was a vest of some sort. The material was lovely; shiny, colourful, deep emerald, and rich ochre. Very nice.

Instead of dumping it into our bin bag like all the other crap, we inspected this outlandish piece of fabric. ‘Very interesting’, we mumbled. ‘Lovely material.’ And finally: ‘If we give it a wash, we could use it for a sewing project.’

And that’s it.

Our new sewing skills had elevated this piece of fabric from roadside trash to roadside trophy. Our new skills had widened our vision and destroyed the walls of our previous perspective. All of a sudden, we were able to see the world around us in a completely different way. That might sound very dramatic, but it definitely felt as if we had ‘unlocked’ a new level in some way.

And I just think that is really cool.

Breaking your perspective

I think in general, we’ve all experienced this many times in our life. We learn something new, and all of a sudden we see the world slightly differently. I’m thinking about that time when my friend Urban told me he had bought Mitsubishi Pajero Junior. I googled the car (it’s the cute mini jeep below). And after I learned the name of this car and what it looked like, I started to recognise it everywhere on the Maltese streets. There are so many of them around! I had never really registered them, because I didn’t know the car specifically. I needed to learn about the car, before I could recognise it.

mitsubishi pajero junior

Very cute and tiny indeed

And you are probably now thinking of an example of something similar that has happened in your life.

And that’s cool. Learning a fact, or even a full-blown theory can definitely shake up your personal view.

But personally, I believe that learning a new skill goes deeper than that.

When you learn a new skill, like sewing for example, it involves many different facets that make the learning experience transcend that of simply learning a simple fact. Learning practical skills involves all of your senses. Feeling the fabric slide through your hands as you sew, smelling it burn when you sear the ends, hearing it fray when you rip it. All of these tactile experiences provide a deep insight into the multifaceted activity of sewing.

This tactical knowledge might not be as flashy as a cool fun fact, but it runs quite deep. It widens your understanding of the world. You learn how fabrics behave under certain circumstances, what constitutes a well-designed bag, and how you check the quality of clothes.

This can then translate to a multitude of different seemingly unrelated scenarios. Think of the social setting: recognising well-made garments and quality materials can help you deduce someone’s background/situation in a way that they might try to conceal verbally.

And of course don’t forget the previously discussed fresh perspective on trash. You will now think twice before you throw away any old clothes.

Finally, the wild situation where your plane has crashed and you need to turn a t-shirt into a bandage. Your newfound knowledge of fabrics will help you with cutting the t-shirt up in the most suitable way.

You see it: practical skills transcend theoretical knowledge. It relies on experience and a deep understanding of the concept. The tactile knowledge can then easily be translated into multiple different situations. This is more difficult with theoretical knowledge (and it rarely goes well when you try it).

A personal example: my custom bike bags

A final cool example that I wanted to share with you guys is this frame bag that I made recently. One morning during the period that I was working on this bag, I found two discarded food delivery bags on the side of our street. Before, I might not have noticed them at all. But this time, my eyes immediately focused on the different buckles that were attached to these bags.

Food delivery bags

‘Hmm, very nice. I could use them for my bike bag.’

And so I returned to that exact spot, a few minutes later, armed with a strong pair of fabric scissors. I salvaged many buckles and a lot of the straps. I spend some time cleaning them, and finally, I managed to use many of the items in the construction of my bike bags.

And again, I was experiencing so much joy and happiness. Simply because of this realisation that I had widened my vision. These old, dirty food delivery bags were no longer classified as ‘trash’. They were removed from the homogenous, colourless, sad category of objects that live on the road but are always ignored by me. They had elevated and were now labeled ‘potentially useful objects’.

How wonderful!

So lets cheers to learning new skills! The more you learn, the more you break down the walls of the matrix! The more you will be free! Huzzah!