Actual Virtual Reality

The False Mirror by René Margritte. Via the Museum of Modern Art.

Tech innovators increasingly tout virtual reality as the next big thing in entertainment and social media. As if we need more entertainment and social media to keep up with. This also presumes the reality we inhabit is not enough, and what is right in front of our faces is not already imbued with joy-giving wonder.

Without any technology, our minds are basically already VR machines, recreating reality through our perceptions, which are limited and subjective, calling into question of what ‘reality’ actually means. Memory, even in the short term, is constructive, recreated by the mind, rather than being a photographic file the mind access. The mind – pesky as it is – already exists to codify perception, to make our reality ‘virtual.’

As an exercise, use your mind as its own virtual reality machine. Simply find a picturesque landscape or cityscape, and spend a few minutes taking in the view. It could be of a park, mountain, or city skyline. Then close your eyes and slowly reconstruct the view in your mind’s eye. Recreate the reality in front of you through memory and imagination. Bring focus to the attention to detail, discovering how much you remember, filling in what’s left through imagination. Let the image sit there for a few minutes as you breathe, holding it in your awareness.

Enjoy your moment inhabiting this ‘VR’ reality, then open your eyes. Consider the differences in what you imagined and what is before you, how fallible perception and memory are and how our realities can only ever be virtual.

For more mindfulness exercises and activities, look here.

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