I spend most of my time in front of a computer screen. That little glowing rectangle holds my job, my far-flung friends, and half my hobbies. And from what I can tell, this is not unusual for my generation. And most of the time, I don’t even think about it.
When I do think about it, it’s that fact that scares me most.
I am a child of the Internet age. I am just as at home in cyberspace as I am in physical space. Sometimes more so, depending on the day. I have come to understand and accept that there is no longer a meaningful distinction between the Internet and “real life.” A person only has one life, and all of it is real. And it doesn’t matter that websites are housed in far-off servers or that Facebook isn’t face-to-face. If our brains understand and interpret and process these aspects of our lives as though they were “really” happening, then they are really happening. And the world will not end because of it.
What bothers me sometimes is not the idea that I spend so much of my time on something that isn’t “real.” What bothers me is the fact that this reality that I and most of my friends spend our time in is one created by people. Because it seems to me at times so utterly absurd that in this big, wide world – in this big, wide universe – that we were not content to exist in and build our lives around the multitudes that already exist. that instead human kind had to create its own reality, one with only the most tenuous of holds to the physical reality from which we arose.
The universe is so vast, and so beautiful and delicate and powerful. And there are times I feel that we are slipping away from it, losing our tether and drifting entirely into a universe of our own making, one that is also vast, and beautiful and delicate and powerful, but that can never be complete without the one that was here before.
Two weeks ago I sat on my back porch the night of the blood moon, the first of four lunar eclipses in the next two years, shivering in the April chill, sipping a glass of wine, watching a shadow swallow the moon. And it occurred to me that the thing about lunar eclipses is that, unlike a solar eclipse when the moon blocks the view of the sun from Earth, in a lunar eclipse it is the Earth that blocks the view of the sun from the moon. Instead of being a show for our benefit, we are the show. We are the event.
We are the shadow on the moon.
And so as I watched the moon disappear behind the shadow of seven billion people and their thousands of years of civilization and the millions of years of evolution – I watched the moon disappear behind the shadow of the Earth, and it occurred to me that we will always be part of the universe beyond ourselves, whether we know it or not.
I only hope we don’t forget.