Most of the time, the conversations I tend to be involved with inworld could hardly be called highbrow or even particularly intelligible, however there are the odd occasions when weightier matters do crop up and I find myself party to a rational and even serious discussion.
Such an occasion occurred fairly recently, when the topic of conversation turned to the matters of the corporeal body in which we live and the essence of who we are. I think it’s probably fair to say that, no matter what your belief or personal faith, most of us would have little difficulty with the concept that the meat bodies which contain our essential organs and enable us to eat, sleep and breathe are not necessarily what makes us essentially ‘us’. There is something that goes much deeper than skin deep that defines us and makes us uniquely who we are… Call it a soul, spirit, or whatever you wish; it is an intangible, indefinable aspect of us that will always remain esoteric and mysterious.
Who is to say that our soul – or whatever alternative you wish to employ in its place – is even tied to our physical condition? It’s not something that I’d particularly thought about previously, but during the course of our virtual conversation, somebody mentioned that the nature of the soul is that it’s a link to the wider whole; that whereas our bodies might falter and fail, the essence of ourselves is not limited only to that small, human-shaped entity, but surpasses those limitations and may well continue to be, without such physical constraints. I don’t know whether that was a view based on any particular religious persuasion, or just a philosophy held by that person, but it did resonate with me.
I think sometimes the world in which we live can be a very dehumanising, soulless place. It’s very easy, as we go about the daily grind, to lose that vital connection between what we are, and who we are – that spiritual WiFi that connects body and soul. And, just like a WiFi connection, it can fluctuate, break down, be hacked and stolen, and occasionally go completely haywire!
It’s long been recognised that a sense of self is incredibly important for navigating the tricky pathways of life – in it’s most basic form we gain that empowerment from our life context and our environment: ‘I am Fred’s daughter’… ‘I am Maisie’s sister’… ‘I am a police officer’… ‘I am the leader’… and so on. This not only gives us a sense of being and purpose, it allows us to formulate how we relate to the world and people around us, and in like fashion, it provides a framework for those around us within which they interact with us. A more highly developed sense of self might be grasped from achievements – as we move upwards through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, to eventually attain self-actualisation, we develop a much stronger self-identity. However, I would suggest that there’s more to it than that, and – whether we consider ourselves as spiritual beings or not – I’d be surprised if we didn’t all have some innate predisposition towards that aspect of our lives. To be human is, I would suggest, to be part of a greater whole – and to be aware that we have a place within it. Some of us embrace that knowledge and actively seek it out, perhaps through faith and religion; perhaps through mind-altering practices and substances; perhaps through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom – whilst others may rail against such things and obstinately insist that there is nothing more to being, than simply existing in the here and now.
Maybe the one thing that constrains us, whatever our philosophy, is the vice-like grip of rationality that the world holds upon us. We cannot prove that there is anything more than what we can see, experience and explain in scientific terms – anything else demands faith, belief, uncertainty and a certain degree of risk, and even if we were able to prove the existence of those things we cannot adequately explain, there are many who would argue that this would fundamentally alter their nature, and effectively negate our need for them. So, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place – as Agent Mulder would say, “I want to believe”, yet would do everything in his power to prove beyond doubt that there is nothing to believe in!
Does perhaps SL provide us with a middle ground of sorts? A place where, free from the constraints of body and physics, and free from the encumbrances of physical limitations, we are able to project that element of us that is truly who we are? Are our avatars some sort of representation of our soul, our spirit, the essence of ourselves? Could SL be a means by which we hardwire ourselves into the greater whole?
In some ways, SL could well be Nirvana for the digital generation.
Life is bigger
And you, you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Passenger – Losing My Religion