You cannot get hit with a plastic sword on Zoom.
This is not a cause for thanksgiving.
My brother once taught in NorCal while we were living is SoCal. Each Sunday he would call into dinner. We would move a laptop around the room so he could see what was happening and so we could see him. When he finally came down for the Holidays, there was something odd about see him in 3D.
I almost felt that we had virtual reality, Daniel could move himself around the room! What was this feature that allowed him to have a smell as well as a back? This was magical! Daniel had participated in our dinner conversations online, but when one of his nephews attacked him with his mighty plastic sword Daniel knew that he was there in a different way than virtual. Being here mattered and though we were thankful for what we could get online, the experience was deeper, thicker, when he was with us.
He could see, you can now see, pictures of our adorable child and his sword, but interacting with the lad was so much better. Naturally, getting whacked with a plastic sword is not all good. Children can be irritating in reality, smelly, dirty, loud. They do not go away when we are “done” with them. You can end a Zoom call more easily, then you can put a rambunctious boy-child to bed.
Thanksgiving is easy when we control the images, how we will see the images, and what images we will see. The truth, deep reality, is not easy. We love a person when we love them in all their dimensions, including change over time. The adorable boy of the picture is now a good man. He is wonderful, but no longer apt to wear a Mickey Mouse shirt, helmet, carrying a sword. Time has changed him, and me, and we are friends.
The reality is so good, but more difficult. The difficulty makes for depth and so our relationship grows thicker than the thin memories of old photographs. If Zoom were the only way to contact him, I would thank God for Zoom, but I still would wish for the whole reality, not the smoothed out version one gets with “touch up” settings in the Zoom program.
This much is obvious. Our full selves, humanity in three dimensions over time, is more than an image can portray. We do not just need a presentation, but the totality of our brother, our friend, or teacher. Why? We remain three dimensional while we watch the flickering image on our screens.
We sit in our totality, even if they cannot see us. Our backs ache, we sweat, we stretch our legs off camera. We are more, but the other people in Zoom are not more to us. They are more to themselves. The other person is just like us, they are living in reality, but a bit of fakery mediates between us. We see fakery, they see fakery. We both sit on uncomfortable chairs.
It would be no better if we substituted phone calls for a face-to-face conversation, but the fakery of Zoom is better and so we are tempted to be content.
Is this not good enough?
Not merely because of other goodnesses, the three dimensions we cannot see, but because of the inability to get hit by a plastic sword. We might be surprised on Zoom, someone has a cat that knocks over his camera, but we cannot make physical contact on Zoom and we are physical beings. We ignore the body at our peril.
That too is fairly obvious, Zoom-centered living condemned by obvious flaws, but there is something else. Too often in virtual reality, we use an avatar, are touched up, arrange good lighting, and so miss who we are. We “see ourselves” in the other images on the screen, but we do not see ourselves as we are in “thick” space. We see an illusion. We were not designed to see ourselves this way. What is the outcome? I am not sure, but this is not “knowing oneself” as Socrates suggests.
Beware too much of all of this fakery in virtual reality.
Do not for more than a little time try to educate online. Mentoring requires the thickness of all our many dimensions. God so loved the world that He did not Zoom to Bethlehem, but was born of the Virgin in space and time. The little Lord Jesus swaddling clothing could wear.
I would rather get hit with a plastic sword, then live in the safe, thin world of Zoom. I am thankful for the whole person of my adult children, my Lady wife, my folks.
They are as they are and I would know them. Thank God I still can.