“Imagine being able to change your age, gender, weight, height, and even your species at the snap of a finger at a cocktail party or in a business meeting. In a virtual world … it’s just as easy to render the avatar as the Jolly Green Giant as it is to replicate the spitting image of the user, and anywhere in between. So one reason social virtual worlds are becoming so popular is because of this alluring but potentially dangerous idea of appearing however you want, whenever you want.”
This comment from Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, authors of Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New World, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution, raises disruptive questions.
Click to hear an audio enhancement as you read.
If technology allows you to show up any way you wish on-line, is that a phenomenon born (and restricted to) that dimension, or is it a reflection of something we are already doing unconsciously (and therefore in a disempowered way) in real life? Some people are like chameleons; they change to fit in with their environment of the moment. That seems to be a pre-requisite character trait for many politicians, by the way!
So, are you a parade of real time avatars or are you dependably yourself?
Technology traditionally opens up realms of possibilities where the only exercised moral code could be described this way: “Since we can do it… we will.” Like, the infernal combustion engine, splitting the atom, etc. Are you guided by anything similar in real life? That is, because you can be a certain way, you are? What guides you in choosing who you “be,” moment by moment?
It’s not unfair to suggest that most people don’t routinely consider that question. Life, for most, is largely unconscious. Things happen, they show up, have some sort of experience… rinse and repeat. But for anyone awakening to conscious meaning and purpose, a profoundly different scenario is unfolding. As consciousness expands – and this is the phenomenon rippling through human experience now, an unstoppable wrinkle of exponential growth – it dawns on us that we do have a choice. We suddenly have an option: to become proactive rather than remain reactive.
Just as there are special keys on your keyboard like CONTROL and OPTION and COMMAND that produce dramatic effects when you strike them, there are personal triggers inside our own “wiring” that get activated, either because we choose them or they choose us.
Example: someone disrespects or slights you. This can happen in any number of ways, from an oversight at work to an undeserved, unkind word from your spouse, or a belligerent outburst from your son. Do you react, “hit back” in some way, adding to the abuse in subtle or overt ways? Or do you pause, then make a different choice? You might forgive, comfort, even offer kindness.
Choices like this represent a unique kind of 21st Century human technology. We’re not born with it; it’s born in us. Often with the help of inspiring mentors, sometimes in the process of overcoming extreme diversity, we develop our moral compass, with a “true north” that guides our momentary choices to be authentic rather than the avatar of the hour.
What is that true north for you? One way to find out is to ask yourself what you stand for. Our culture is primarily adversarial. We survive by competing, fighting against threats, ensuring our safety by prevailing over. But there are increasing numbers of us who, without abandoning our warrior strength when we need it, are more primarily advocates. We are for something.
What are you for? There’s an endless menu of “causes,” like civil rights, economic fairness, environmental activism, etc. But righteous causes are often adversarial. There’s a bad guy to fight, perhaps a heartless corporation, crooked politicians, a system that rewards and punishes unfairly..
The choice to be authentic means taking a stand for yourself, for being yourself, before, during, and after any sort of activism in the world. Participating in constructive social change should be a priority for all of us all but there’s a new way to do it in the 21st Century: through the power of being, not just acting. Modern mystic Andrew Harvey calls this “sacred activism.”
Let’s recall Einstein’s warning that problems created by one level of consciousness can’t be solved at the same level. They can be wrestled with and temporary results achieved – as they often are - but the reflection returns. True change must come in the “operating system” itself, within the inner wiring that – unless it is changed - constantly, unconsciously produces variations-on-the-same-old-themes reactions, rather than introducing truly novel solutions.
Be yourself, your authentic self. There is power in that, the power our world needs. And, surround yourself with others who are exploring this path, particularly avail yourself of a mentor who already knows the way. It’s a path of choosing in the moment, what the Buddha called “the pathless path.
Deepak Chopra described it this way in a recent Huffington Post article. “The pathless path isn't a straight line; it doesn't even lead from point A to point B. The journey takes place entirely in consciousness. A mind overshadowed by fears, hopes, memories, past traumas, and old conditioning finds a way to become free. This sounds impossible at first. How can the mind that is trapped by pain also be the tool for freeing itself? How can a noisy mind find silence? How can peace emerge from discord?
“The Buddha offered his answer, which is a variant on an even more ancient answer from the seers or rishis of Vedic India: transcend the personal mind and find universal mind. The personal mind is tied to the ego, and the ego is forever swinging from pleasure to pain and back again. But if you look at awareness when there is no pleasure or pain, when the mind is calm while simply existing, a fascinating journey begins. You have made the first step on the pathless path.”
- Tags: Krishnamurti