I can’t go on, I’ll go on — for real

For those not aware, virtual worlds are vastly different then game worlds.

In game worlds, there is a delineated space in which the activity is driven by overarching objectives devised by the game’s authors. Virtual worlds, however, have no overarching objective. There are no goals or aims to be pursued by the player. Rather, the world contains a limitless supply of atomonics to create a world purely for amusing oneself.

As such, in the absence of an overarching aim, this void is filled with players devising social aims through their surrogate self, their avatar, deriving purpose and meaning in virtual interactions with other avatars.

I have commented before on my sense of unease with the virtual world: the vacant, zombie like stares, the absence of touch and warmth. However, I’ve come to realize that there is another element of the virtual world I dislike: the absence of purpose or meaning.

The virtual world exists for its own sake; a platform for the Self and what the Self, through the surrogate Self, can cajole, manipulate, and seduce from others. It is the recognition of this essentially Becketoinian landscape that fuels my unease. It’s as if scores of players are waiting for Godot, but they don’t even realize that they are, in fact, waiting. (I can’t go on, I’ll go on — virtually.)

I suspect for many, this virtual world mirrors very real, purposeless lives. Devoid of meaningful relationships, I know people who exist in a world where there is no Supreme Design, no meaning except to persist in the exploitation of others because the meaning of the universe begins and ends with what they can see, touch, and manipulate. This is the apocalyptic world of the existentialists — emotionally and psychology confined like Hamm in his wheelchair, or Winnie buried to her chin in sand, paralyzed by drivel and discreation, (Beckett, 1957, 1961).

I fundamentally reject this world. I vehemently rail against the idea that the six inches between anyone’s ears can contain and comprehend the infinite expanse of the universe and the mysteries contained therein. I cannot know the infinite variety of life as I experience it now — and therein lies my faith, I suppose. My belief that life and its meaning lay beyond the dark shadows of my limited knowledge and imagination.

I know nothing, and am nothing in the vast expanse of existence. This much I know. But in this perspicacity of a limited experience and understanding, I do recognize that I am part of something bigger than I can ever know in this lifetime. And in that enormity, there is purpose: the lifelong search to understand and know the mysteries of the universe and how I may contribute a verse.

It is interesting to me how both artists and scientists are interested in the interplay between order and chaos. Biophysicists, for example, are preoccupied with this space between order and chaos, and are beginning to discover new rules for life based on the dynamics of criticality.

Criticality is where one system transforms rapidly into another. Some believe criticality might play a role in some of biology’s fundamental and largely unexplained phenomena: how interacting genes shape an organism’s development, and how neurons give rise to complex cognitive functions.

Biophysicist John Beggs of Indiana University says, “You’ve got randomness, and you’ve got order. And right between them, you’ve got the phase transition. The idea is, you want to get as close as possible to chaos, but you don’t want to go into the chaos. You want to be on the edge, on the safe side, ” (Keim, 2015).

Exactly.

So with that, I’ll let the artists and physicists peer past the black curtain of nothingness, and I’ll try and remember to be compassionate with those who feel that a virtual world is more meaningful than the real one. As for me, I’ll embrace the real, orderly, and purposeful, no matter how close I get to the edge.

——

Beckett, S. (1957). Endgame.

Beckett, S. (1961). Happy Days.

Keim, B. (2015). Biologists Find New Rules for Life at the Edge of Chaos. Retrieved on 13 February 2015 at http://www.wired.com/2014/05/criticality-in-biology/?

You’re the only one who knows

I am not perfect.

Don’t laugh. I’m being serious here.

Being sick for nearly a week during the holidays has made this abundantly clear to me in a number of ways. To list my imperfections, however, seems self-indulgent. They are the usual suspects. And then some (God forgive me).

But I’ve got Big Love, a wicked quick mind, uninhibited laughter, and Crazy-A$$ed Kitchen Dance Moves that I’m sure my neighbors will cash in on one of these days.  That stuff, I’ve got in spades: Perfectly uninhibited imperfection.

So as we end this year and anticipate the next one, here’s my proposition: Let’s Do This.

No fear.

Cause Time is not, nor ever will be, our friend.

Please don’t test my better nature

For over a year now, I have been focusing my work on detecting and identifying affect and behavior in learning environments. Predominately, this work has been tech-based learning platforms, e.g., students participating in intelligent tutoring systems and serious video games, but I’ve also begun to do work in much less structured environments. Being skilled at this detection work, it doesn’t take me very long to construct meaning from discourse.

 

However, I know full well that the constructing of meaning from utterances alone is a fool’s task, because what we say and what we mean is not usually the same thing. Luckily enough for me, I’m good at ferreting out the subtext of utterances: analyzing them, reinterpreting them, placing them in a context that renders them substantively more meaningful than their phonemic parts. I’m so good, in fact, in translating everyday parlance that it stuns me not a little bit when speech actually matches subtext and intentions with such ferocity that it defies any attempts at reinterpretation. I find this particularly true when words are used to hurt or distance one person from another; usually the text and the intent is so well aligned there can be no misunderstanding, no room to pretend the distress was due to carelessness or random error.

 

When well-aligned text hits its mark, I’m faced with two options: retaliation or alienation. My faith is actually pretty clear at which is the better path. Matthew 18:8 says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” I have always extended this understanding to include instances when a person causes you to disrespect and devalue your very self, than that person should be cut off from your life than continue to be welcomed in your life to persist in the pain making.

 

But if you read a little further in 18:15-17, things get a little more complicated. Matthew says the following: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

 

Now, this heathen tax collector thing is a bit of a slippery slope, because at the time when Jesus said this the good people of Yahweh would shun heathens and tax collectors. However, Jesus made it clear in his teachings that we should welcome the heathens and tax collectors to our table – should they come willingly to said table.

 

My interpretation of this seemingly inconsistent precept is this: I have every right to remove those people from my life who seek to hurt and devalue me, but I must also be willing to forgive, should forgiveness be sought. Even if all I really want is have them take a long walk off a really short pier.