Reality Online

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

In a previous issue of the Monitor, Daniel Nahmod wrote that "we may be witnessing the yielding of physical reality and experience to the seductive appeal of 'virtual' reality and 'virtual' experience" ("Through the Online Looking Glass," Aug. 26). His article urged readers, "Let's decide for ourselves that we're still people - that frequent and varied human interaction is what we're made of, what truly is in our best and natural interests."

Perhaps millions of people today worry about the apparently unstoppable revolution taking place in the realm of human communication. What can be said that will help us deal positively with the rapid pace of this change?

A central concern would seem to be the possible loss of human identity by venturing into the realm of cyberspace. But consider that long before the communications revolution, people were sometimes encountering severe restrictions on the frequency and variety of their human contacts. Often, this solitude left an individual not with a diminished sense of personal value and identity but with a joyful and reassuring conviction of closer contact with God. One Bible writer went so far as to say, in a hymn of praise to God, "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalms 139:9, 10). Couldn't this be just as true of someone who might "take the wings" of the communications revolution and "dwell in the uttermost" regions of cyberspace?

The Bible tells that we're made in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26). This fact about our true nature is the bedrock of our identity. It applies equally to each and every one of us. Thus our identity is not dependent on the form, variety, or frequency of our human interactions.

When the telephone was still new, it must have seemed strange and even frightening to many people. I heard it pointed out that when we are with someone on the phone we're actually with him or her in an early version of cyberspace. But spending a lot of time on the phone is obviously not a threat to our identity.

In 1901, the founder of the Monitor was asked by a reporter what she thought of then new phenomena such as electricity and the telephone, and "the pursuit of modern material inventions." Mary Baker Eddy said she saw them to have purpose from a spiritual point of view: "Oh, we cannot oppose them. They all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living. They seek the finer essences. They light the way to the Church of Christ. We use them, we make them our figures of speech. They are preparing the way for us" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," Pg. 345).

Where are we when in cyberspace? Actually, we are still in God, who is the source of all reality. Paul said of God, "For in him we live, and move, and have our being ... For we are also his offspring" (Acts 17:28). Christian Science, based on the teaching of Christ Jesus, defines reality as God and His creation. This Science observes material existence - so-called physical reality - as a dream of life being somewhere other than in God, who is Spirit. You could say that what we call physical reality and experience just constitute another virtual reality. They are both subjective. When we enter cyberspace, we are only trading one virtual reality for another; we actually remain in God, and our spiritual identity as His image and likeness remains safe.

Jesus often healed others without physical contact. The Bible says that when a Roman officer of great faith asked Jesus to heal his ill servant, "Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour" (Matthew 8:13). This kind of healing shows that what is opposite to God, opposite to good - be it sickness, fear, or mortality - is part of a dream from which we can progressively awake, through understanding the truth of existence - of actual reality.

Nothing may be more central to this awakening, a process of growth and redemption, than our thinking and acting as God's image and likeness. Whether we do this face to face or in cyberspace, we can let our spiritual identity shine through all our actions and interactions.

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