What is reality? It's all in how you view it. – newportri.com
The whole concept of “reality” has always fascinated me and zillions of others. Many moons ago (that’s generational speak for “a long time ago”), I eagerly gobbled up an evening philosophy course at what is now St. Joseph’s University in my hometown of Philadelphia. The instructor was a popular one whose late-night classes were always filled and whose students, working men and women, crowded around his desk after class to continue discussion of subjects he brought to life, like — well — reality.
In those years, the subject was a philosophical football to be played with for hours and used as the basis of term papers. You could have fun with the term because everybody knew what was real, and, more importantly, what wasn’t. The term itself was never in question.
That was then. Now, enter “Virtual Reality” and “Augmented Reality” and all of their sub-types. The concepts have infiltrated our language, our television shows, our advertisements, and yes, our lives – like it or not.
Rod Serling, creator of the vintage television series “Twilight Zone,” would be hard put today to create a series that exceeds what our “normal” is becoming. I particularly remember an episode in which a man continually visited a museum to view a particular landscape painting he loved, and at the conclusion, escaped from police by entering the painting and disappearing. We now have the opportunity to do pretty much the same thing with the right equipment.
Google defines Virtual Reality as “a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they are immersed in their surroundings. This environment is perceived through a device known as a Virtual Reality headset or helmet.” An aside: Back in the day, it was not uncommon for young people to have to take certain drugs to achieve a similar experience. A whole book series by the late anthropologist Carlos Castaneda about shaman training, which included stories of ingesting certain herbs and the “trips” the participant took, sold wildly — some eight million copies — and was published in 17 languages.
But I digress. The core thing for us to know is that today, right here in 2022, we can enter into a fictional “reality” without drugs. You even can buy (expensive) property in what is known as the “Metaverse.” There is a whole lexicon for virtual reality and its attendant subjects, such as cryptocurrency, which is the digital money used in virtual reality transactions. I know. You’ve already heard too much. But, gentle reader, bear with me a bit longer as I cleverly knit this information into the whole concept of reality.
Decades ago, you might never have been able to buy items such as artwork and real estate. But now, once upon this very present moment, you can buy such things in a virtual world using a non-fungible token (NFT), which is a form of digital currency. (You can read about these currency terms on “Investopedia.com,” which gives as clear a description as I’ve seen.) For example, you can buy property in the United States or other countries on Tiliaverse.com, from as little as $200 up to more than $8,000. The site also provides information about the concept of such ownership. To my mind, this is the game of Monopoly brought to the big screen; but, instead of playing it, you play in it.
Lastly, we can’t forget the proliferation of “reality shows” on television. I think it’s fair to suggest that the term is an oxymoron, as are all the other “realities.” The words “virtual” and “reality” cancel each other out, which I believe brings us back to the basics — either something is “real,” or it is “virtual,” but it can’t be both, which is not to say that people can’t believe it’s both (but that’s a whole other area of study, isn’t it?).
The late science fiction writer Philip K. Dick said that, “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” I believe that’s as good a definition as any for the concept, which is not to say you can’t have some fun along the way by stretching it. Just do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200. LOL.
Sandra Matuschka of Tiverton is a freelance writer and columnist. Send feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o The Newport Daily News, P.O. Box 420, Newport, RI 02840.