Why One Reality Isn’t Enough Anymore»
In the movie Inception, the character Mal says to her husband:“Admit it: you don’t believe in one reality anymore.” But, of course, it’s not really her, it’s only the projection of her, deep in a dream within a dream, within a dream. “Of course.”
In the movie Suckerpunch, a girl in a mental alysum ventures into the depths of an alternate reality from where she plots an escape from the primary reality’s captivity.
In Tron: Legacy, a son is looking for his father, a designer of virtual worlds, only to be drawn into one of his father’s creations.
In Black Swan, the lead character’s perception is fluctuating between a black & white reality of innocence & evil until eventually they both become one and the same.
Looking at those examples the blurring of the virtual and the real, the illusory and the tangible seems to have become a new genre itself, or to be more precise: a meta genre which wraps itself around traditional narratives. A fantasy plot is not enough anymore. Neither is a love story or “lonely warrior” narrative.They need to be played out in multi-levelled realities.
In fact, those movies express and manifest a growing wish of people to be engaged in, create and explore Alternate Realities.
Videogames, Psychedelics & Mythology
Having grown up with videogames, a whole generation once looked back at their parents and grandparents, boomers and hippies and had great troubles understanding them. Why had they gone to self-exploration seminars, done meditation and/or drugs when you could hook yourself up to a machine and “jack in” to an alternate reality so easily?
In the 60ies, people had tried to gain access to alternate realities aided by chemicals or physical/psychological exercises. Stewart Brand wrote in a TIMES article in 1995:
“We – the generation of the ’60s – were inspired by the “bards and hot-gospellers of technology,” as business historian Peter Drucker described media maven Marshall McLuhan and technophile Buckminster Fuller. And we bought enthusiastically into the exotic technologies of the day, such as Fuller’s geodesic domes and psychoactive drugs like LSD. We learned from them, but ultimately they turned out to be blind alleys. Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent – later called “hackers” – embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future.”
It is partly the achievement of those “hackers” (among them, people like Steve Jobs) that nowadays, we venture into multi-layered realities primarily through the channels of digital technology!
MMPORGs or Social Networks are the most famous examples of this, and especially the latter has already become a symbol for an increasingy popular exponential migration into “cyberspace”, although there are many more.
The concept of alternate or virtual realities traditionally has its roots in science-fiction literature, which – again – draws from the realm of mythology. Moreover, during the time,science fiction has come to create its own contemporary mythology, cults and zealots.
If you were an alien visiting earth you might wonder: Why bother?
Why did human beings go through the hassle of ingesting psychoactive substances, do yoga until they sweat, play computer games on the Internet and invest more time and efforts into their virtual existence than into their real one?
Some people speak of addiction. But it’s even stronger:
Alternate Realities are becoming more and more the norm. The dream has become our reality.
The boundaries between the Real and the Unreal are beginning to be severely blurred, not just for a few freaks at the edges of society but for a big majority!
The Anatomy of DIY Realities
In the age of Enlightenment, people in the West started to reject the idea of an all-powerful, all-seeing deity in favour of their reasoning mind or common sense. The Monotheistic principle of “One God and Only One God” slowly gave way to rational discourse, and eventually pluralistic thinking.
When we look a the fervor with which people now are flocking into Social Networks (which are nothing more than virtual representations of human interaction) and creating movies drenched in the awareness of Alternate Realities, it seems we have reached another cross-roads.
The pre-Enlightenment God was both the Creator and Divine Ruler over One Reality, dubbed His Creation. Either you were for or against His Will.
Nowadays, this kind of thinking is considered old-fashioned. Everybody now is the Creator and ultimate judge over his own reality, and not just in a metaphorical manner: On Facebook you can have 5000 friends, while in your normal life, noone speaks to you except your grandma. In World of Warcraft you can become a revered hero, lead and manage teams into fame and glory, even if you’re a bespectacled College -dropout living in your parents’ basement. In Minecraft you can re-build the Egyptian Pyramids in a 1:1 ratio, even if noone would trust you with anything more than a few lego blocks in Real Life.
When you walk in the streets, you carry with you a library of music, one finger always on the button – ready to put reality in the desired shade of emotion and perception.
We are creating, modifying, customizing, conforming reality to our tastes and wishes.
And we’re just at the beginning of all of this.
I don’t think that the implications this “Alternate Reality” thinking can be over-exaggerated.
“Reality is Dead”
We’re inadvertenly steering towards what Nietzsche so pointedly put forth in the 19th century, only now it’s even more severe:
“Reality is dead. Reality remains dead. And we have killed it.”
Reality, in this case, is not the same as Creation. While the term Creation generally refers to the process of and relationship with a “Creator”, Reality, here, describes a fundamental coherence of our basic experience and perception.
In our hands we are holding the shards of this One Reality. And we are not trying to mend it. Neither do we lament this fragmentation.
Instead we are continuing to feed our creativity into the multiplication, modification and customization of ”reality experiences” which can no longer be expressed in a singular.
This is the place we have come to call home.
And we don’t intend to have it any other way.
The process of “inception” is almost complete: We “don’t believe in one reality anymore.”
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