‘[I]t’s important to see the patient as the hero of a drama and not to see him as the summation of complexes. And, actually, every human being is the hero of a drama. […] Hero is a person born with certain gifts, and usually he fails, and his life is a tremendous struggle to make something out of which he is born with, fighting against tremendous handicaps.’*
There’s always been virtual and real worlds.
Whenever we imagine something that doesn’t exist, we are virtualising. We’ll discard some of our imaginings at this stage, but we’ll go on to bring others into being. Steven Covey referred to these as the first and second creations.
Sherry Turkle tells the story of Joel who ‘grew up hoping to be an artist, but practical considerations led him to study computer science.’**
We lose another artist, I thought, and the world needs artists to help us see differently. Or, as Maria Popova writes in her chapter within an anthology of Beatles’ songs in the lives of great writers, there’s always a tension to be lived in between art and certainty:
‘We yearn for art to surprise us, but we also yearn for the control, for certitude, for knowing what to expect from those we’ve come to trust.’^
I read on. We hadn’t lost Joel. Finding he wasn’t valued either as a programmer or as an artist he joined the virtual world of Second Life. Whilst others joined Second Life to live some fantasy version of themselves, Joel’s alter ego is a “warts and all” programmer and artist:
‘This is a kind of crossover effect. In the virtual, he cultivates skills he wants to use in the real.’**
I have come across the kind of frustration and disappointment felt by Joel over and over again. In the conversations around dreams and talents I share with others, people tell of how the most de-energising experiences for them often include not being respected or taken seriously for what they can do. What happens then is we begin to doubt and devalue ourselves. This was my own experience when others struggled with the contribution I had to make. I grew quieter, doubting this was really what I had to offer.
‘When we value ourselves properly, we do not devalue others.’^^
Valuing ourselves involves a proper understanding of what we love, what we can do, and what we want to change. It also involves understanding that others have a different contribution to make.
When Richard Rohr writes, ‘We have a hard time finding grace in “just this”!’*^ it echoes what Brené Brown names “enoughness” – having the capacity to do what we need to right now. So when someone puts themselves down we can help them see they are more than enough. And when we witness someone else being put down, we can step in and point to their enoughness.
Joel’s story has helped me see how I begin every day in a virtual state. That is, in my journalling I’m imagining what might be but does not yet exist. I rehearse ideas and re-perceive challenges. We all need to do this and it only becomes fantasy when we fail to activate, instigate, or give.
When Erwin McManus writes about ‘Wholeness is not found through receiving but through giving,’^^ he helps us to see the flow between the virtual world of our imaginations and the real world of our activations. Something we’re all capable of but we are seldom helped to see.
Turkle’s telling of Joel’s story leads her to use the term liminal for virtual worlds (from the Latin for threshold) for where we explore new ideas and possibilities. Writer and entrepreneur Frans Johansson identifies “intersectional thinking” for where ideas from different fields and domains come together – which sounds a lot like liminalality and he goes on to ask:
‘Can you make your environment more collision prone?’*^
There’s research been done that there’s a relation to the size of a population and the number of patents emerging from it.
These things connect up with what James Carse was noticing when he wrote about those who play infinite and finite games:
‘Every move an infinite player makes is toward the horizon. Every move made by an finite player is within a boundary.’^*
There are even more connections we can make here, too. With Otto Scharmer’s Theory U as a liminal journey crossing boundaries. With Joseph Campbell’s description of a hero’s journey – which takes us back to the beginning because Erich Fromm’s words, opening these meanderings, echo the path of Campbell’s hero, crossing thresholds in order to move forward, moving towards what they do not know and can only imagine. Myths of virtual and real as ancient as human storytelling itself.
(*From Erich Fromm’s The Art of Listening.)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^From Maria Popova’s BrainPickings: In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles’ Songs.)
(^^From Erwin McManus’ Uprising.)
(*^From Frans Johansson’s The Click Moment.)
(^*From James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.)