Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reality and I

A few mornings ago I had the strong feeling of how strange it felt to be in this body, this fuel-absorbing tube held up by a rigid frame which was capable of motion, how strange to look out through something we call “air” at incredibly complex arrangements called “trees”, and beyond that, lights moving slowly above in periods of darkness and daylight, lights which I’m told are balls moving in nothingness.

Imagine that you raised your hands right now and saw large lobster claws instead of hands. To me it felt about the same to see ten fingers as you would feel seeing lobster claws.

I know from blog comments as well as from published accounts that some people share my sense that there is something strange or unreal about “reality”, while others are convinced that the body and what we call the material world is all there is. That such differences can exist among humans who are presumably experiencing the same universe is in itself interesting. How can it be that our perceptions tell us to disagree on such profound questions as whether we are spiritual beings inhabiting bodies, or simply physical bodies and nothing more? Or whether there is more to the universe than insentient building blocks tossed about by something called “chance”?

Which brings me back to a conclusion I’ve expressed here before – that we understand absolutely nothing, and that one person’s reality is another person’s illusion, maya.

Which brings me to the subject of computer games. I was a game addict for months before blogging captured my attention and enthusiasm. I played some Nintendo games with console and TV screen -- "Tetris", various Super Marios, “Harvest Moon”, “Animal Crossing”, “Legend of Zelda”, etc. – but many of the games resided on my computer – the “Age of Empires” series, “Pirates”, “Roller Coaster Tycoon”, “The Sims”, “Flight Simulator”, etc.

Maybe my circuit breaker flipped from overload, but at the time I began this blog I was nervous and uncomfortable about computer games. After I had been away from them awhile I felt real unease about returning to them.

Then a few days ago a friend persuaded me to try a free download (which like many “games” isn’t’ a game at all) called “Fish Tycoon”. At about the same time a repairman told me how he and his wife had become addicted to the online games “Everquest” and “World of Warcraft” and had made a meaningful amount of money through them, even thought it meant spending so much time online that they had to give up their children (almost).

Thus the gaming world’s gravity drew me subtly back into orbit. “Fish Tycoon” is a beautiful virtual aquarium. Harmless, relaxing. Nothing to worry about there. Right.

Evidence of the fragile nature of “reality” as I know it is shown in my experience at a pet shop a couple of days ago, where I found myself looking at a display of aquarium plants and thinking, “I’ll buy one of those for my fish tank.” It took maybe one second to recall that my fish are make-believe, but the proof that the brain (or at least my brain) has trouble distinguishing between imagination and “reality” had been established.

With the repairman’s stories in mind, I urged my perennially over-budget friend who had lured me into the aquarium to try making money with online games like “Everquest”. She is, I should add, a computer game expert to the degree that she writes published guides, but she had not played “massively multiplayer” games before. She quickly found something called “Second Life”, and once more I heard the Siren sweetly call: “Try it, Fleming, it’s free and there’s no stress.”

I slipped as easily into “Second Life” as a lobster into a baited trap, and for three days I’ve had trouble concentrating on blogging. I’ve neglected my friends’ blogs and done little with my own. After all, there’s a whole new world out there to be explored, a new body to learn to move and use, new ways of seeing to be perfected. . .



  1. Fleming,

    The Second Life picture reminds me of this:

    ...and now hoists sail the last little bark of my wit,
    leaving behind her a sea so cruel.

    John Donne

    Welcome to the virtual worlds.


  2. Marc, beautiful lines. Are you a denizen of virtual worlds? If so, would you either help me learn faster or help me escape?!

  3. LOL, oh Fleming you poor devil. I was once a denizen. But no longer.

    To learn faster, one must take defeat in an embrace full of love and hate. To escape, one must become more present in the moments Outside.

    Perhaps writing about what is surely a historically transforming social experience is a way to gain mastery over both. Few people are capable of backing up from these nano-worlds and comprehending what they mean. Least of all me. Or maybe I prefer not to think about what they mean.

  4. Marc, your latest comment provides food for several essays, and if you don't write them, I will.

    "To escape, one must become more present in the moments Outside."
    What is "Outside"? I can't remember.