Have you ever made the experience of living without the internet for some weeks? Finding bars, cafés or public places with internet, sitting either under a protecting roof when it is raining and stormy outside, getting wet and trying to protect your devices? Or drinking coffee all morning in a local café, just to be in contact with the world virtually and physically? – I have.
My virtual existence expands – via the internet – and my need for physical human contact remains. I enjoy being with fellow travelers in a café. Most of the time they are much younger than myself. That is part of the joy for me.
There we are, sitting together focused on the same thing, but not interacting with each other. What a strange and changed world. There is a sense of belonging and a sense of not-belonging at the same time. Virtual and physical. Real and unreal?
What is “REAL”?
I am coaching people (men and women) who live all over the world, and I have neither met them physically nor in real time and space. Before that, I coached people from all over the world in one physical place (Brussels), where I was present myself. Present and real. Or not? I could see my clients in full, smell them, hear them directly. Though I did not touch them nor did I taste them. But still, I could have, if my education had allowed me to.
Now I meet people in their homes through the ether. I see their faces, and if I am lucky I see some arms and hands. I don’t know if they are overweight or too skinny. It is not obvious from the square box I look into if they wear perfume or they smell badly from sweat. I can’t smell them, nor touch them. Are they real?
Reality, as we have understood it until now, is connected to our senses. We hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. Through the ether we can imagine all that, but not with the use of our senses. With the use of what? Our imagination? Our brain waves? Energy fields?
These days I have to focus on the finest trembling of voices, of pauses between words, of moderation in tonality, and of silences. I know that blind people do all of that all of the time. Blind people are deprived of one sense, their sight. I do have this sense and I can see the people but have to focus on their voice and content only. Who do I see?
Who and what do I see anyway?
Isn’t it so that I only see what is inside me? A modern cave version, adjusted to the 21st century? The beauty is in the eye of the contemplator. What is it then that is so different when I work in the virtual world as a humanistic counselor?
My inner eye is changing. I see myself differently, partly virtual. Am I already a cyborg?
The outer world has changed and I am changing. As I said, it does not make me uneasy, it gives me food for reflection. Here I am, a virtual reality, or a physical non-reality. At the moment when you read my story, I will not be present. And yet: I am.
It intrigues me how we move away even from established physical laws. Time and space become irrelevant in the virtual world.
I believe the biggest change took place when we could see our home planet from the outside, from out of space. This was a shift and all other shifts followed in consequence. Going into space reminds me of leaving my home country and looking at it from another standpoint, another country, another culture. It changed my perspective entirely. Our world has changed and continues to change the further we go away from “home”. How will it all look, once we set foot on the planet Mars?? Are we ourselves digital and virtual by then?
I love to be part of this change, and I don’t know where it leads us to. That is okay. I can just be, also in the digital world. Be present, as Tolle says, digital and virtual or physical. Be present. And – of course – I would not be here without you, so I “inter – am” (inter-being) as well. We are all connected virtually and physically. Inter-connected through genes, breathing, and DNA.
And, it is important to me to keep contact with “real” people, my friends, my neighbors and my family. I need hugs and kisses. I need to share the impression of the sound of the ocean and my joy with my partner. I love to hold hands.
Are the people I coach and assist real? I see them cry, I feel their emotions inside of me. Well, my imagination lets me feel my own emotions, to be clear. In the meantime, I comfort men and women when they cry in New Zealand and I am in France. The woman in front of me wears a top and is still perspiring whereas I need my warmest pullover. And yet, we speak the same language. The language of human needs: be seen, heard, understood, and accepted. The virtual world provides that. The touch is missing.
I am expanding. In addition to my sensory world, a non-sensory world has added itself. I embrace it, because if somebody can invent and imagine all of that I can too. And yet, I have to ask myself: what is reality really?