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virtual insanity

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Sometimes I find myself really caught up in a book I am reading. And what I refer to as caught up, my wife would refer to as obsessed. I have trouble putting it down and I often find myself looking for excuses to get back to it. The book I am referring to currently is called, “Ready Player One” and it is set in the not too distant future and the entire premise is built around virtual reality. I don’t want to give anything away for those who might be interested in reading it, but the reason it is so much fun for me is due to the fact that much of the virtual world is built around 1980’s nostalgia. From Saturday morning cartoons, to TV commercials, to music and movies…it’s got everything. But the hang up in the book for many of the characters is that they often can’t seem to parse out reality from the virtual reality that they often find themselves plugged into. For many of them reality is terrible, as the planet has been depleted of resources through an energy crisis, overpopulation and wars. So their actual day to day existence is pretty terrible. Thus the reason they take comfort in escaping to a place where their problems aren’t always before them.

Don’t get me wrong, but some days I feel like that could be a pretty sweet deal. Lately it feels like my family and many like ours jump from one miniature crisis to the next. Strep throat, flu, house repairs, car troubles, etc…it seems like no one can catch a break. And so we lament our current realities on social media hoping to find solace, or at least compatriots, in the virtual world. It seems like Facebook and the like have become places for that very thing. We log in to these virtual communities and we celebrate our best and lament our worst and for a moment take comfort in the arms of a virtual community. Yet when we are approached in the real world and asked about how we are doing our reply is simply, “pretty good”. Pretty good? It’s almost as if we are forgetting what reality is, or at least what it could be.

Whenever we pray the Lord’s Prayer there is a line that should be incredibly trans-formative when it comes to our realities, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10. We are literally praying that God’s kingdom become a part of our actions in the world around us today. And yet, when we actually engage with culture around us, all we can manage is a mundane “pretty good” or “fine”. I like that word “mundane”, by the way. The dictionary defines mundane as, “common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.” And the second definition is even more profound,  “of or relating to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly.” If anything, we as believers are called to bring God’s kingdom to this worldly/earthly hemisphere. Our lives should be the opposite of unimaginative. And so maybe perhaps we need to reengage. Maybe we need to realize that although the virtual world can be comforting, it does not bring the Kingdom. And maybe with the apostle Paul we can refocus our energy in the actual world around us, “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” – Philippians‬ ‭4:8.‬ Maybe then we would find comfort in affecting actual reality instead of escaping into the virtual landscape. After all, we have a mission to bring the Kingdom. Maybe it’s time to get plugged in.

 

 

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tethered

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Candy Crush Saga. One of these four had to catch your attention. Yesterday on my drive home from work, which albeit is about a 5 minute commute I noticed a phenomenon. While at a stoplight I lost myself in a song, but started to look around wondering who might be pointing and laughing at the guy rocking out to Needtobreathe. But here’s the weird part. No one was looking at me. While we were stopped, for maybe all of about two minutes, everyone I saw was looking at their phone. What have we become? Fifteen years ago I didn’t even own a cell phone and now I have a mini-computer in my pocket. And I was slow to get on the smart phone bandwagon. But now all of a sudden, these things are everywhere…and I mean everywhere.

There is this weird maxim tucked away in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians a couple of times that if you weren’t paying attention to, you might miss. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.” – 1 Corinthians 6:12. And then again in 10:23, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.” Now in a way, Paul was trying to relate to the Corinthians licensing their lifestyles that conflicted a bit with their witness. And I get that piece, but I think this might be able to relate to our overstimulated technology tethered culture as well.  You will notice in the first reference of Paul’s use that he includes the phrase “I will not be mastered…”. The Greek root of this phrase literally alludes to the loss of the freedom of choice/freedom to choose. And then in the second occurrence we see the insinuation that perhaps these things might be okay, but they aren’t really improving our lives.

In all of this I’m not saying technology is a bad thing. In fact, there are so many benefits to media and technology that for the most part they outweigh some of the negative issues. But think about this with me for a moment. How many of you, when you find yourself in a time of silence/lull immediately reach for that phone? This is where I think the issue may take root. For thousands of years humans have been known for their innovation and cultural achievements. And now, I’m known for my high score on Flappy Bird or Candy Crush!?! The one thing we have that we constantly spend and can never recall is time. And I am scared to think of the hours (maybe even days at this point) I have wasted because of seemingly harmless activity on this miniature computer I keep closer to me than anything else. Maybe these things aren’t so bad…but I think I might need to find out who or what masters the empty spaces in my life and what better things they might be filled with. And I think that if we fill these spaces with more meaningful encounters/endeavors we might be amazed at what we can do and the freedom we find that we have.


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