So, I've been thinking. And if you make it to the end of this odd jumble of thoughts, I'd love to know what you think too. Here goes. Beauty is a primary way that I perceive the reality of God. Nature has always signified the transcendent to me. I've been reading about this kind of wordless knowledge in Lewis, in Guite, in others, pondering the idea that every aspect of the world points back, "signifies" if you will, to a Mind and Reality beyond itself, from which (or in Whom) it has its beginning. David says in the Psalms that the stars "speak" though their "voice is not heard." Creation then, communicates to us in "a language without words." Nothing in creation, it seems, is uncommunicative because each atom came from, and gestures to, the mind of God.
This makes the stuff of the everyday, the wind and pines, bread and skin and stone and water, the very substance of breath and bone, quite precious. Contact with the very material of existence becomes, when you think like this, an encounter with the Mind of God. Nothing is neutral or superfluous. The whole world communicates to us about the unseen world that we take by faith. Christ's incarnation then, is the joining of the material with the Real from which it came. In Christ, the unseen, ultimate Reality (the instigating, living Word) took on flesh and became touchable, visible, "with us" in material reality. So any lover of Christ must be inescapably "incarnational" in their outlook, perceiving that the material signifies to, and in Christ (and in a fallen way in humanity), contains, the spiritual.
One of the great robberies of secular thinking is to empty material reality of meaning. The materialist worldview posits that physical reality is all there is, so that the substances of earth are mere mounds of atoms without spiritual significance or inherent meaning. When we perceive the world (even when lovers of God, influenced by materialism think like this) as a collection of mere physical material, we are no longer aware of that "language without words" in which stars sing and trees mean and skies embody truth. The loss here, is meaning. Material reality robbed of meaning.
But what if the material world is then robbed of materiality?
Here's what this is all leading to; I'm wondering how virtual reality affects us spiritually.
Because it occurred to me that virtual reality could be seen as a form of "de-incarnation," a process by which physical reality is made merely mental. As the modern world exists, relates, and works increasingly in virtual constructs of reality, in which the physical aspects of friendship, play, and business are made merely mental activities, I wonder if we are approaching some dangerous territory. Because de-incarnation to virtual reality isn't a return to the spiritual, it's the turning of something physical into a disembodied idea. Not only are we separated from spiritual significance within the material world, we are separated from the material substance itself so that we truly are no longer "in touch" with reality. Mind and flesh are disconnected.
Now, at this point I have mostly questions. I'm not studied enough at this point to say what the consequences of that disconnection might be. I'm not ready to comment on whether it is a viable option for modern people to live half of their lives in the virtual world. I don't know yet how that influences our view of God's reality, or if it alters our sense of the consequences of our own (disembodied) actions. I don't want to critique, I want to question, and I'm not attacking all technology and virtual reality as wrong.
However. If God made us as inescapably physical beings, with five senses through which we were meant to experience the rich, communicating earth, what might happen to our awareness of his presence if we are no longer in contact with that earth? Can we apprehend God's reality as well as other cultures if we live mostly in insulated houses surrounded by artificial materials while working on computers? Can we know consistently experience (or communicate) the love of Christ in others if we never experience their physical presence? What might the consequences of disembodied action be? Will we learn to separate action from effect?
And what about children? As childhood education and entertainment becomes increasingly virtual and technological, can we assume that mind, soul, body, and heart are developed fully without recourse to nature, to physical activity, to real-world learning, writing, touch, play, exploration, or relationship?
Again, at the moment I have mostly questions. But I intend to have them answered. I think we have been abruptly immersed in technological changes that might just be shaping our very perceptions of Reality. And I don't think we can take that lightly.