Better than the Virtual World!?
You can find anything here, or at least anything the human mind can think of. An entire world of 3-D figures living a virtual life in the palm of your hand. All you need is a mouse, a monitor, and plenty of imagination. But what’s really the deal with this “virtuality” trend? What lies behind the passion for the virtual?
He sits back in his comfy chair, types the address on the keyboard and goes out for a night on the town. He makes his way to a club—one unlike any club you know. There are no concrete walls, neon lights or parquet dance floors. This club exists in virtual space only.
And yet, people behave just the way they do in any other club in the western world: they listen to loud, modern music, dance shoulder-to-shoulder on a crowded floor and enjoy plenty of drinks at the bar. And all this time, they are sitting before their computer screens in different corners of the world.
The screens flicker with 3-D virtual characters—designed, dressed and named by the users who operate them. And behind every image is a real person who is located somewhere on the globe.
At the moment, for instance, the screen displays an architect from Milano, a middle-aged lawyer from South Dakota, and a marketing manager from New York (well, at least that’s who they say they are). They are joined by Dan—a false name, of course (his real name is encrypted and kept secure on the server). We tag along with him for a tour, and watch him order a virtual beer at the virtual bar, which costs him ten virtual dollars.
The participants refer to each other by mysterious code names: The Black Fairy, The Prince of Light, Leonardo da Vinci… But there’s nothing strange about this—in their world, you can be whoever you want. The four of them already know each other from previous “meetings,” but they know only what each has chosen to tell the others.
And so begins another typical evening in Dan’s second, and often secret, life...
Living Inside a 19-Inch Screen
“Dan” is 33, married and has two picture-perfect children. He lives with his family in a duplex in Palo Alto, California. Four years ago he graduated as a computer engineer and soon became a senior manager at a hi-tech company that successfully entered the stock market trade last year.
Like many of us, Dan is a regular internet user—he browses through the news headlines in the morning, monitors his various investments at mid-day, and, like any self-respecting professional who values his time, pays his bills online every month. So far, so good, as far as life goes: mundane, efficient, and very normal.
The change in Dan’s life occurred about a year ago when he first entered the virtual world. He was suddenly exposed to an experience that was very different from anything he’d ever known. His ordinary life was suddenly filled with excitement, something he had long yearned for, and he was immediately swept into this new world. Since then, he’s been a regular participant, along with seven million other users, in a new virtual world that exists beyond time and space, called “Second Life.” (For more details, see “What is Second Life?”)
The Virtual Attraction
So what attracts seven million people to a virtual world where they start a whole new, different kind of life?
According to Kabbalah, the “Second Life” phenomenon and all other virtual engagements are not coincidental. They’re symptomatic of the change humanity is undergoing. This is part of a process of development where we are gradually becoming independent of the physical level of existence. In other words, humanity is preparing for its next level of existence—the spiritual world.
If you zoom out on this process, you’ll see that our attraction to the virtual reality began long before the recent “Second Life” trend. As modern technology has developed, most professions began relying on the information it could access—and information is virtual by its very nature. This virtual commodity—information—has become vital to us. Tycoons and giant corporations rely on it, process it, invest fortunes to secure it, and eventually sell it for astronomical figures. (Did somebody say YouTube?)
Another factor that has made virtual reality an essential part of our lives is our increasing need to become global. For instance, we can store photos and videos on the net and share them with Aunt Sharon in LA and Uncle Frank in London—simultaneously. With internet communications, we have managed to easily and cheaply overcome the differences in time and distance between continents. It’s as if we are beginning to transcend the boundaries of the physical world.
Considering this ongoing “virtualization” process, it’s only natural that seven million people (with the list getting bigger as we speak) are leading an entire virtual life, in addition to their physical life.
Fleeing to the Virtual World
However, Kabbalah explains that there is another aspect to this process: Our attempts to find refuge in other dimensions also stem from the fact that our “real” lives have become rather difficult and wearisome, we long for escape to another world.
Everywhere, humanity is experiencing an escalating crisis, highlighted by drug abuse, depression, breakdown of education systems, disintegration of the family unit, social gaps, and the list goes on.
Since we are beginning to lose hope that things will improve on the physical level, we seek another dimension, a place where we can forget all our earthly problems. Hence, we find ourselves building more and more frameworks that provide quick distraction, excitement and tranquility—everything we don’t find in our routine, physical lives.
The Next Step
So what’s next? Will we all move to the virtual world, drink virtual beer, and hang out with Dan and his virtual buddies? Probably not. However, “Second Life” is not a bad prelude to humanity’s next step.
As already mentioned, our present attraction to the virtual world is not coincidental. Kabbalah explains that it is an expression of our deeply rooted urge to actualize the spiritual level of our existence—a level that is perfect, eternal and boundless.
According to Kabbalah, this latent urge has been developing in humanity for millennia. However, while in the past we could settle for our limited experiences in the physical world, today the urge for spirituality is surfacing in more and more people, and demanding its realization. We can no longer be truly satisfied solely by whatever the physical world has to offer.
Therefore, our attraction to the virtual world actually indicates great progress in human evolution. It plays an important role in humanity’s preparation for spirituality. In fact, all our virtual dealings are preparing us to detach from matter, disconnect from our corporeal identity and transcend the limitations of time, space and motion. It happens even if we are not aware of it; just by sending an e-mail—the most commonplace activity of today, we eliminate the distance between us, and connect one end of the world to the other.
However, the virtual world is no more than preparation. Kabbalists explain that as the desire for spirituality continues to unfold within us, we will feel more and more that we cannot exist simply on the physical level. And eventually even our virtual getaways will not be enough for us—we will have to learn how to actually enter the spiritual world and live in it.
Fortunately, the means to do so is already here. The wisdom of Kabbalah is patiently standing by, waiting to be used by anyone who feels ready. Kabbalists explain that as soon as we commence on our spiritual path, we will discover an abundance of Light that shines brighter than any high-resolution hue. But this Light won’t flicker briefly on the computer screen and then disappear when you go back to “real life.” It will be Real Life—one that’s endlessly filled with the Light of eternity and perfection.