Merging Imagination with Reality
I was once on the shores of a beach in Iceland, mid January. The sun hovered just above the horizon (as it did all day), and painted the sky in shades of violet while my boots squished in the rocky, black sand. With each footstep was a crunch of gravel that could be heard for miles. I walked up to the deep blue water and felt its energy humming. Then I pulled a glove off my right hand and stuck it in.
The water was frigid - amplified by the subzero temperature of the air as a rush coursed through my body to take my breath away. I was lost in a swirl of respect, wonder, and gratitude. The land was so grand beneath my feet; the earth felt like a thundering force, transcending the realm of time - and I felt completely one with it.
Could this experience translate into a virtual realm?
The more I think about it, the more it feels possible. What's the difference anyway? If a virtual environment and subsequent virtual experience are producing a deep, meaningful experience within someone does that not make it valid? Is the feeling of flow that arises while rock climbing any different than one born of a finalist figure skater's dance routine?
The idea of our natural biology merging with machine has been a daunting one for me to process. My thoughts have always revolved around a theme that we're slowly losing a part of our selves, our consciousnesses, and our souls, by choosing to engage more fluidly with a virtual world. Somehow, it feels unnatural.. Then I remember a friend telling me that everything on the earth is natural. Touché. At this point it seems like it's only a matter of time, though in reality, we're already there. Our phones are the portal to a alternate reality.
What I've come to realize is that you can't look at experiences objectively. Every experience is truly unique to the individual. Something that feels incredible to me might cause someone else discomfort. The way I interpret the color purple may be far from your interpretation, but that doesn't mean we don't each fully experience purple.
My memory from Iceland bears no tangible meaning to anyone in the way that it does to me. Experiences like these can't be relived through words. But feelings can be transmitted, empathy can be felt between us, and we can connect on deep levels through our experiences. We just have to listen with an open mind.
This post was inspired by the following TED Talk by Alex Kipman: https://www.ted.com/talks/alex_kipman_the_dawn_of_the_age_of_holograms?language=en