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With so much discussion and excitement surrounding the idea of virtual reality these days I decided to do some etymological digging on the subject. For many of us the question lingers as to whether this thing often abbreviated as VR is good or bad. For the photographers who may be reading or listening to this you may be familiar with the term “VR” in connection to optics and some lenses having a ‘Vibration Reduction’ option. This feature helps a photographer keep their lens steady therefore reducing in a loss of clarity. In a way I’m attempting to do the same thing here in identifying the questionable vibes while obtaining some clarity to create a more perfect picture of what virtual reality is and what it isn’t.
Let’s begin with the term itself. What exactly does Virtual Reality mean or describe anyway? I believe the words we choose to use are important, and because of this it’s good to understand their meaning so that what we are saying is what we mean. I hope your head doesn’t explode here when I tell you that I’m going to throw some old school Latin at you for just a little bit. Trust me. It’ll be worth it.
The word virtual comes from the Latin root word “virtū” which is defined as moral strength, high character, excellence, value and significance while the word “virtual” describes something as a close copy, facsimile or simulation of the essence of reality. Reality on the other hand is defined as that which exists objectively and in fact. It’s the antithesis of what something existing as virtual is. So if we pull these two ideas together we end up with something akin to a simulation of the essence but not the reality of morality , excellence, value and significance. In other words, virtue is a set of well established positive characteristics but virtual is not. It’s simply a deception.
So if we define the term virtual reality at its core it appears to be something of a redundant statement or an oxymoron. But wait, it gets better. It turns out that Virtual Reality isn’t defined as an oxymoron at all but something called a pleonasm where more words are used than required to express a concept or idea. Using the combined concept of virtual and reality what we find when we dig deeper is that the term virtual reality is neither real nor reality. In other words Virtual Reality at its core has no real virtue other than to point out that it has none. Those bright minds who came up with the term Virtual Reality appear to be humorous grammarians and the joke is evidently on us.
What isn’t a joke unfortunately is how quickly this idea and concept of Virtual Reality has infused itself into modern culture to the point of becoming Mythos. Okay, another foreign word to reacquaint yourself with like I had to when writing this Blog. For those whom the use of traditional Latin or Greek aren’t subject to everyday discourse, mythos is defined as the complex beliefs, values, attitudes and characteristics of a specific group or society. Mythos is the underlying intellectual motivator behind a myth or mythology. Some of the words used to describe the opposite of a myth would be the truth, reality and provable historical record. Which brings us to the reason for creating and sharing this Blog entry with you.
There’s a lot of myth and hype surrounding the value to humanity of virtual reality. We find many people from all walks of life and around the world embracing this idea of a Metaverse filled with virtual reality. We are told that it will provide opportunity for people who would otherwise not have access to it. Some say it’s a way of reaching parity or equity between those labeled as have and have not citizens of our planet and will serve as a vehicle to shared experiences that would not otherwise exist without it. These things sound amazingly ambitious, noble and virtuous on their surface. What we don’t often see or hear coming from those pushing us further and faster into a world of virtual reality is the economic and social trade offs to all of humanity in doing so. What lurks under the surface and in the depths of this utopian vision of a world that exists but yet does not exist? That remains to be seen, or rather experienced. What we do have are some indications among those whose purpose it is to cajole, push, persuade, demand and perhaps even force us all down a rabbit hole that many would rather not disappear in to without more clarity as to where this journey will take us. I’ll be Blogging further about this in the future but right now I want to share something that you can use in your own life right now, to help you discern virtuality from reality.
My own rabbit hole for this Blog post developed when I began thinking about the questions and struggles with reality we all face each and every day. I got to thinking about how easy it is in our current socially accepted climate of need versus want and oppressed versus oppressor mindset to accept and slip into a realm of virtual versus actual existence. With so many feel good gurus, and apostles of the name it and claim it clan, it’s no wonder that many people end up feeling depressed at the idea of being passed over and left behind by the gods of prosperity and good fortune. We watch and listen to people who appear to have made it, and we want the same for ourselves too. It’s easy to fall prey to such ideas with so many trying to convince us that this is true unless we follow them and their process or plan. Outside of a handful of old money inheritors and the lucky few who were in the right place at the right time, most of those people who are truly happy and prosperous are the ones we don’t even know or hear about. They’re too busy working on their lives and the lives of others by paying it forward to have time to be a guest on a prime time talk show or walk a red carpet somewhere in borrowed clothes and jewelry while living a life of make believe. If you’re feeling bummed out that you haven’t reached your goals then It may be a good time to start looking at what you value most in life and where you’ve place those values in your life and why.
Many of us live lives of virtual reality. There’s an essence of truth to the things we tell ourselves and others but the substance simply doesn’t exist to move our needle closer to the reality of a “my life is running on a full tank” feeling. I get it. We all have our moments when we’d rather become a “to hell with it all” hermit and go live on a mountain top somewhere. In fact if that’s your dream I’d encourage you to follow your dream because that’s the secret to getting what you want out of life. Instead of becoming a happy success we become a prisoner and slave to our own mindset which creates the lack of motivation we often feel. The reality we experience is often due to the fact that we have yet to discover that virtue we need, inside ourselves, to motivate us to take the actions necessary to excel in a fashion that moves our needle in the forward direction we wish to go.
In my research into the root Latin words that make up this idea of Virtual Reality I ran across something that made me sit up personally and pay attention. I don’t put much stock in things that just happen without a purpose. That purpose may not become immediately known or recognized, but in this case, for me anyway, it was a confirmation of sorts. It seems that the Latin root word, “virtū”, that one defined as high moral character and strength, bravery, courage, excellence, value and significance, is also the root for another type of virtue. It turns out that it’s also defined as a taste for the fine arts, which just happens to be the realm I often dwell in with my passion for helping people discover their personal creativity through finding the root purpose for building a personal legacy.
The reason this struck such a chord with me is not so much the association with art but the other virtū characteristics mentioned earlier. It takes high moral character, courage, strength and bravery to move down a personal path towards value, significance and excellence in whatever we strive for in life. No one but we can be or is responsible for what we make of our life. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others discover these characteristics and traits within themselves and not to follow a path of virtual reality but one of creative imagining, vision and actuality. Virtū can be your root from which to grow a life of purposeful meaning too.
I encourage you to reach out and engage with me here at The Davis Arts Legacy because I don’t do this for myself but for you. This Blog is part of the legacy that I’m building for the purpose, and in hope, that it will help you build your own. Your engagement helps me understand how to help you better and this is why I look forward to hearing from you!
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