I was sitting under the mulberry tree last saturday afternoon reading the newspaper when this little creature landed right in front of me. In an instant I was back in the real world. Let me explain….
I think that when we are reading, particularly if we are reading something which engages us fully, then we become absorbed into a different world. It’s a world partly described by the author, and partly created by my (the reader)’s memories and imagination. It’s not that that world isn’t real, but it’s highly subjective and intensely personal. Nobody else has my memories. Nobody shares my imagination. Nobody is having an identical experience to me. I might be transported by the words and my thoughts to far away places or far away times….real or imaginary.
But when this startling, attention-grabbing, little creature lands right in the centre of my vision, I leave that place and time and return to here and now.
I read an article by a French philosopher recently who argued that human beings can never experience the real because we always bring our memories, our imaginations and our processing of the sensory signals from the world to all of our experience. What we live is our subjective creation of the real. I’m not sure what I really think about that. I understand the point he is making but I something nags at me….maybe it’s that there is no real for we humans to experience other than the real that we humans experience. Oops, that sounds rather peculiar doesn’t it? What I mean is, is there any “real” “out there” which doesn’t include us? Isn’t the universe whole? And doesn’t the universe include us? So an imagined universe without us is less real, not more real, isn’t it?
Oh, I didn’t set out to go down that path. Where I meant to go was a different story altogether. Pokemon Go was released in France last week and in the papers I read a report of over a 1000 people rushing around the public garden in Bordeaux trying to find a rare Pokemon creature. Over a 1000 people! Rushing around a park looking for something that doesn’t exist! Well, only as a digitally manufactured creation. The makers call this “AR”, for “Augmented Reality” and the reporter who wrote the piece about the crowd in Bordeaux said that it was a delight to see so many happy people, their faces beaming with anticipation as they rediscovered the childhood delights of play. Wow! Very positive Monsieur Journaliste! But does something like Pokemon Go genuinely augment reality?
But then, I’m wondering again….isn’t this just a contemporary example of how the human imagination interacts with the rest of the universe to produce the “real”, irrespective of whether you are going to use the word “augmented” or not?
Maybe these technologies are bringing people together, stimulating delight and pleasure, creating a brand new world. Maybe.
I think my reality is augmented every day by the world around me. This little yellow ladybird made my day different and made it feel special to me.
Don’t we augment our reality through curiosity and paying attention, by delight, wonder and being prepared to be amazed?
I think it does…….