The metaverse refers to a synthesised virtual online environment through which users like you and me can experience various things from shopping, talking, walking, movies, music, gaming and many, many more things through virtual reality technologies.
How the metaverse is often presented to us is that it offers all kinds of great new virtual experiences, and through that, feeds the human search for experience.
But what if there is more to it than simply us searching for better, more novel experiences?
Interestingly, RZA, the founder of the world-famous hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, recounted in a recent interview how he and his little brother, growing up in an abusive and broken home, used to escape to a corner of the house, play with their toys and imagine a better world for themselves.
The human search for better experiences is always underpinned, in some sense, by a search for an escape.
Similarly, P. L. Travers invented Mary Poppins for the first time when she was kneeling in front of a fireplace, trying to escape a broken and abusive home.
We see from The RZA to P. L. Travers, that the human search for better experiences is always underpinned, in some sense, by a search for an escape.
In times like these, the human instinct to escape is a good instinct. Wanting to escape can be necessary and important sometimes.
The challenge comes when we turn that into an “ism”.
There’s a big difference between wanting to escape and escapism.
Escape ≠ Escapism
Escapism means you orient your whole life just around escaping things you don’t want to be a part of, escaping out of reality and aspects of your identity.
Wanting to escape is not problematic. It’s important that RZA and P.L. Travers didn’t get used to their lives and didn’t simply make peace with the brokenness that they were experiencing.
But however well we escape – whether it is into the metaverse or into video games or movies – we eventually have to re-enter the real world.
Our actual reality has to be dealt with.
All instincts to escape, in my view, are a response to the intrinsic awareness of our brokenness. And what that points to is a need for redemption.
And that’s where the Christian message I believe is so powerful because it takes the things we all want to escape from – our struggles, our guilt, our shame, our loneliness – and redeems us through it. So it’s almost a rescue, rather than an escape.
No matter how compelling our virtual experiences are, and will be in the metaverse, we will never escape our actual search for identity and security in the real actual world.
We need a stable foundation on which to build our identity and security.
Only then will our experiences in the metaverse be positive and aid in our flourishing and fulfilment, because our flourishing and fulfilment will be about experience, not escapism.
The Christian message wonderfully and incredibly offers that stable foundation for our identity and our security, and it offers it through a relationship with God.
When we step into that relationship with Him, we become a child in His family, a citizen in His kingdom.
We will have the identity and security that we need, and there is no more need to escape.
From then on, the search for experience can be positive.
The Metaverse can be a wonderful thing. But without identity and security in the real world, it will never be enough.