It occurred to me that I was ‘freeborn’ recently. People of a certain age (what, maybe 35+?) will have grown up in a world that wasn’t dominated by the Machines (The Matrix, Film 1999).
Those born within the ‘Matrix’ have never known a world that isn’t digital. This is the Real for them. This is their freedom. I’m not helping matters by saying, ‘this isn’t real’ in a way that implies ‘what you’re feeling and believing is not valid or true’. I try to lean towards ‘this digital window isn’t the only way to experience the world’. I remember how it felt to leave the house without a mobile phone, and I remember how to make plans to meet someone without one. I could say, ‘I know what it is to be free’, but I’d be denying the conveniences of mobiles that make meeting for a quick coffee easier. But there was a simplicity and freedom before tech that has been lost since I got my phone. I’m increasingly aware it’s a freedom the many have never experienced.
Back to the Matrix. Like Dozer or Tank, I’m living in rags, a murky world where there is pain, where the food is like slops, where I’m in a war for my very existence, and most importantly of all, where I know who my enemy is. I remember, and long again for my freedom.
I’m not on a rant against technology itself, please know that. But there’s an insidious digital ‘thing’ that is seeking my soul and my freedom that comes at me, every waking moment, through this internet connectivity. It’s a virtual world that is seductive, clean, beautiful, peaceful, with just enough trial in it to make it seem real… but it’s not the real world.
The real world is happening just behind me now – in the sunshine and blue sky that is blazing outside my window (I know, why am I not in it, but blogging about this stuff right now?) and I’m missing it. The best of life really is happening right behind me.
When we’re out and about, why do we choose to see the astonishing from behind a mobile phone camera? What I capture there, and post… it’s not the real thing. It’s a representation of it, a counterfeit, an icon. Virtual. ‘Not quite’. Like Neo, I’m duped into thinking ‘this air I’m breathing is real’. (Ref in this clip at 3:10)
We need help to realise and remember that this digital world is a virtual one… a nearly-not-quite, mere representation, a shadow of the reality around us. God help us to learn to fight for the full, undiluted beauty of the world around us. Not the image on my screen, but the real image hitting my retinas with full force. I want to use my eyes. There is a fuller reality in the here and now.
With all that said, there’s one step further. This Real reality I’m trying to cling to – even this is not it. When we’re sitting restfully in the beautiful sunshine, looking at a real human’s eyes and face and sharing real, present, heart-felt thoughts with each other, in real time – yet even this is a shadow of an infinitely more glorious Real to come… and that is in the presence of Jesus.