In reading an article in the New Scientist recently about gaming I was led to wonder about the role of gaming at the moment. It is a very widespread phenomenon at the moment with millions of people spending large chunks of their time playing virtual games. It is easy to be judgmental about this and many of the parents and adults that I speak to are very concerned about it, feeling it is a dangerous and debilitating trend robbing children and adults of taking responsibility for their lives. In much the same way, people are very judgmental about facebook and social networking feeling it is a dangerous medium that is detrimental to children and their evolution. I know it is easy for each generation to condemn the activities of the next generation, feeling they are the seeds of decadence and decline. The general consensus is that we are departing further and further from the source of nature. But what if we are not? What if we are evolving ever closer to the source of things?
The article prompted me to think: why are so many humans devoted to playing virtual games? As I did this (I have a fondness for such inversions which makes me poor at the day to day detail of life but then I am a Sagittarian so I plead mitigating circumstances!), I began to think about the role playing in life. Most animals, particularly mammals seem to indulge in play. Yet it is clear that their play has a very real purpose – they are learning skills important to their future evolution. What if this is true at a collective level too? Perhaps through gaming we are playing in order to evolve something collectively. Our children play with virtual reality but I wonder if they are evolving a world where our collective brain evolves, where our day to day reality becomes closer and closer to the virtual reality that we actually inhabit. Ram Dass describes us as taking on a spacesuit when we are born. This is his metaphor for describing the experience of being human, the fact that we are kitted out with a body (our spacesuit) and a personality in order to play the game of life. The consciousness that inhabits it, he points out, does not need to identify with the body or the personality; indeed if we can be both in the world (or our spacesuit) but not of it then we can take the curriculum of being incarnated without getting lost in it and forgetting that we are all one. My friend Chrissy spent time understanding the role of the imagination and through this came to the discovery that the role of the imagination was as our re-programming tool. It is our imagination which means that we are not caught in the endless cycle of our acting on our instincts and being trapped. We can change our reality by imagining a different way of approaching things – by changing the way we see things. This is our ability to self-programme, to change the original design of the instincts. Indeed if you think about it, we are already a long way down the road of living in a “virtual reality”. As I look around, it occurs to me that almost everywhere I look I am confronted not by nature but by products of our imagination. The houses we live in are constructs of imagination translated into form, the chairs, tables, desks, phones pretty much the whole lot is a construct of human imagination. Ah yes, I here you say, but what about nature – the trees and fields etc. Yet even here these have all been shaped by human imagination directly or indirectly – how we farm, the animals we keep and promote, the areas we designate as wilderness etc. We have already shaped a virtual reality.
So what are we doing now with our imaginations? Now, we seem to be moving to a world where the constructs of our imaginations are taking shape in a less physically tangible way. Interestingly, this fits perfectly to a move to the Age of Aquarius (and its opposite Leo). Many people associate new age with a return to nature, alternative therapies, hippies, love, living off the land, mysticism. Yet really these seem to the evolution of the old physical (yin) age of Pisces (and its opposition Virgo) rather than the new software (yang) age of ideas and imagination embodied in Leo and Aquarius.
Taking the notion of game-playing further and its connection to evolution, I am aware that game playing appears to be harmless yet really plays a role in dealing with our strongest and most dangerous instincts and finding a way to hone and transform or control them. Sport is embodiment of our aggressive and competitive natures. It dominates much of the media and internet. What is it’s evolutionary purpose? I wonder if it might be as a substitute for instincts that would have been expressed in the past through war and fighting. Nations now play each other at sport rather than go to war; I think I prefer this outlet for these instincts. At the same time, those playing sport learn to control their aggressive instincts, how to cope with losing etc. Plenty of rich learning. We watch horror movies, films of killing people, most of the computer games involve killing others or fighting. Could it be that initial evolutions express themselves through play first? I am not in favour of the internet being filled with pornography personally but I have to keep an open mind, perhaps we are evolving an outlet for people to come to terms with their sexual nature now matter how dangerous – perhaps we will learn to understand and tame these aspects of our nature individually and collectively through using our imagination in this virtual world without having to translate it into physical reality. It gives us a whole new dimension through which to explore and learn.
If there are masses of people playing games on the internet, it is almost as if our collective consciousness must be evolving at some speed. Douglas Adams’ prophetic series The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy included a story line that he first dreamt up as a young adult for a Dr Who episode. It was the story of a race from a world called Krikkit (cricket). The people of Krikkit were unaware that their ridiculously fast evolution was being masterminded and provoked by a huge computer called Hactar. This was a computer with a guilt complex for having betrayed his original creators who wanted to destroy the world. Krikkit was subtly manipulated by Hactar to want to destroy the Universe but after a war lasting millions of years Krikitt was defeated and the inhabitants returned to their world and sealed from the rest of the Universe but one battleship survived and over billions of years re-built the wicket gate (key) to the sealed Krikkit empire. However, the protagonists of the Hitchiker’s Guide managed to release the Krikkiters from the influence of Hactar and they instead promote sporting links with the rest of the universe. Looking at this story as the product of the human imaination – which was certainly very fertile in Douglas Adams, it is interesting to see that it the themes of transforming powerful instincts and emotions into sport comes through very clearly, as it does in his theme of the Planet Earth being a huge computer called Deep Earth which was designed to find the question to the answer to Life the Universe and Everything – 42. 42 is the I-Ching hexagram Increase, which is very much about evolution.
What if we need to be evolving virtual reality – what if we are designing a huge collective brain or computer. It would need a lot of people to be involved in programming it. Everyone seems to be on the internet now. I think we are all programming it with our imaginations. This new virtual reality also gives a more tangible form in which to play with and enhance our imagination. It used to be stories that we used to develop and evolve collectively, we imagined changing our personalities or approaches to life through identification with heroes, monsters to overcome, etc. Yet now, we can actually play with different realities and use our imagination in more complex ways. We seem to be evolving at such a rate – and there are exponentially more and more of us. We seem to be accelerating – like our universe – like the I-Ching hexagram 42 – constantly increasing. We are now splurging everything in our rich, fertile minds, with no holds barred, into the collective brain of the internet. To what end? Two further articles from the New Scientist are revealing. After reading the initial article and be struck by all these thoughts, I had a feeling of my thunder being stolen to read some days later the articles which followed the initial one about gaming. They had come to a similar conclusion to me, in that they were describing how gaming is helping us to solve complex problems in new ways and even being used now to help people learn new skills and to re-programme their minds. A second article in a later edition of the New Scientist explored what made us different from our closest relative the chimpanzee. Interestingly it did not appear that between very young humans and chimpanzees there was a great difference in aptitude but rather what differentiated human children from as young as two years was their social brain – their ability to share and learn from each other. This was what dramatically differentiated them from our nearest relative the chimpanzee. Put that in the context of finding a way – through the internet and virtual reality – of allowing billions to connect together to share information and play together and you get some idea of the staggering power available to our evolution. I wouldn’t bet against us finding the question to the answer 42. Perhaps we are really heading towards the source through virtual reality not away from it. Damn it, I guess we older models probably do have to die off after 80 odd years – we’ve probably become obsolete!
I’m stopping now, because I have important work to do for the universe – I’m off to have fun and play some games….!