We, the people, tyadddd (tired)! The novelty of LaLa Land (aka virtual reality) has officially worn off, and the honeymoon phase is over. This once idyllic situation can now be compared to having hemorrhoids, and your occupation is being a truck driver. I promise you; nobody would be mad if they never hear the words "Zoom Meeting" again.
For many, what started as a break from the norm is a new normal that has fast become overrated. From online meetings to an increase in chat rooms, you know the evolution of MSN Messanger, and now the dreaded, most hated of all, the virtuals, hybrid schooling—the arch-nemesis of parents everywhere.
At first, it was fun to attend a work meeting in pyjama bottoms while having everyone think there was actual coffee in your mug. It was amazeballs to roll over at 8:55 am and not be late logging in for a 9:00 am. shift. Yes, the TikToks were fun; going viral became a top-tier bucket list item. But getting, if only a whiff of reality, is becoming as essential as drinking water. I mean, even the introverts are over it. All the simulations, replicas, dupes, and recreations; can't replace the real McCoy—human interaction. Please, all I want is to see the inside of a changing room again.
Remember when fake realism on our devices was fascinating? Fantasy football, having a Giga pet or being an avid farmer—you know, the craze known as Farmville, was all kicks and giggles until it wasn't. Ahh, fun times at the ranch! But even that could not prepare us for this long haul of working from home, online doctor's appointments, virtual church services, streaming of weddings and funerals, and virtual concerts. It's one thing not to want to go anywhere but not having the option to go is a whole other ball game.
So what's the issue, then? In virtual reality, everything is fashioned to give the look and feel of realism. As exciting as this all started, nothing compares to the energy you can feel from attending any one of those events in person. In my opinion, as long as at least four of the five senses are not being stimulated, something feels missing no matter how good it looks on screen. People are in these streets risking life and limb just to socialize!
The virtual platform uses software that creates an artificial environment presented to the user as realistic. Two of the five senses are primarily engaged in virtual reality: sight and sound. (stick a pin here) Like I'm sure, no one could tell you that your imaginary childhood friend, Charlie was not real. Or, at some point, the thought of there being a Santa Clause wasn't the highlight of your adolescent existence. While your reality may not have been as exciting, what was real had the ability to keep you grounded.
Is it all an Illusion?
Before we called it virtual reality, we'd had a glimpse of these alternate perceptions from movies like Beetlejuice or Nightmare on Elm Street. They piqued our curiosity about the unknown. Then Hollywood made it more relatable in films like Final Destination and Premonition (church folk call it a vision), which somehow evolved into Men in Black, Jumanji and the ultimate alternate universe on screen (which I'm still, by the way, lost), The Matrix. Yes, yes, the resurrection of the elusive 'one.'
I suppose I should define what these words mean, and then you'll see by the sheer contrast what makes this phrase an oxymoron (a combination of contradictory words). Virtual: something that exists in the mind, exists in essence but not in fact or created by a computer. Reality: The totality of all things possessing actuality, existence, or essence.
How then is virtuality this massive thing that has taken over? And how does it coincide with 'the real world'?
A Land Before Time
The progression of it all reminds me of a familiar Bible story. I hear you, "Raquel, there is no way you can pull virtual reality from the Bible!" Maybe not as you imagine it with your 21-century mind, but I promise you, those characters have been sketchy long before optical illusions were a thing.
Anyhew, let's look at Esau and Jacob (See Genesis 27). Twin boys of Issac and Rebekah (Issac being the 'lil fellow who Abraham almost sacrificed). As the eldest son, Esau was entitled to the birthright. However, Jacob was his mother's favourite, so naturally, she felt he deserved their father's blessing. (See how a sense of entitlement can cause you to be deceitful?)
Esau was described as rugged and hairy, while his brother was smooth. So to trick (that's putting it mildly, of course) his aged father, his mother cuts the skin from an animal for Jacob to wear. I can only imagine that she knew Issac would have asked him to come closer. This lady was a piece of work—talk about the enemy of my enemy is my friend!
Just as predicted, Issac was skeptical that the son before him was, in fact, not the one he should be a blessing. When he asked him to come close, he stated how it felt like Esau, but sounded like Jacob. (unstick pin here) In virtual reality, sight and sound are crucial, but because Issac's eyes were dim, he had to depend on touch. Next thing you know, 'boom' he blessed the wrong son.
When Jacob did show up, he nearly had a conniption. Poof! Just like that, blessing gone! An entire family, destroyed because two members altered reality. Jacob goes into exile; thus, Esau lost his brother, and Rebekah dies, never seeing her favourite son again. Poor Issac perhaps died ladened with guilt.
In reality, this story made me wonder, am I a Rebekah, do I aid and abet (do I help in offence)? Am I an Issac, the one who'd been hoodwinked? Always the victim? Am I an Esau, the one who was jilted? Usually, the one a day late and a dollar short. Or, Am I Jacob, the one who cheated and knowingly stole the thing that wasn't rightfully his? Am I the drama? Obviously, that one act changed our prayer. We all now pray to the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob when it should have been Esau.
CAUTION: For every Esau, there is a Jacob. And for every Issac, there is a Rebekah. #detrayal
With that said, are we so entrenched in a Matrix that it's easier to live a virtual existence than to be present in reality?
Dream vs. Reality
I'll tell ya, in this virtual environment, things are not what they seem. No, let me rephrase that; people are not who they seem. We know most of what is consumed on social media is curated to look aesthetically pleasing. Gamers would refer to it as decoys and traps. These are usually set to deter them from winning the game.
Real-life is no different—distraction is more deadly than procrastination. Virtual reality is set to mimic that what you know to be true. So keep you busy wondering 'why her and not me' instead of focusing on your truth.
There are three types of realities:
Objective reality - is measurable and observable and exists even if human beings were absent (i.e. physical laws, gravity).
Subjective reality - what one believes. (i.e. the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty theory).
Intersubjective reality - it explains what exists because we collectively believe it exists. (i.e. evolution, fame and celebrity)
Each of these categories is mutually exclusive. When it's objective, it cannot be changed (i.e. the blessing goes to the firstborn). When it is subjective, you have the options (to deceive or not to deceive). When it's intersubjective, you decide which reality you'll abide by (faith or the universe). You can absolutely steer clear of any of these realities, but you will not escape the consequences of avoiding them.
Of course, reminiscing on this story led me to ponder some questions: Is there is a difference between faith and imagination? Is seeing yourself with the life you dream of your virtual reality or a matter of expectant manifestation?
As Real as it Gets
You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. (Proverbs 19:21 NLT) Why am I saying this? While Rebekah and Jacob's actions altered Esau's reality, it didn't stop the reconciliation of the brothers, nor did it stop Jacob from being chosen by God. He's known for wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:22-32); he's known for the dream of the ladder to heaven, thus the naming of Bethel—the place where God lives (Genesis 28:10-17 & Genesis 35). No matter how twisted your reality or denial thereof, your life can have significance.
Look, I too had some skewed realities of my own—picturing dudes I've dated as 'the husband,' having the high profile career and living in the lap of luxury. While these images live rent-free in my mind, they are not anything tangible I can lay claim to. What is real is that I exist in my truth of being purposeful, absent of the things I deemed important. All I'm saying is don't be so anxious to escape reality with the illusion of perfection that you miss the beauty of what's right before you. Can you tell the real from the fake?