Once several generations passed and none of that happened, other interpretations began to emerge. Perhaps Jesus had been talking about the afterlife and the more ethereal promises of heaven? Perhaps the kingdom was nothing more than the constant accumulation of justice and equality that humans were tasked with achieving?
When I was growing up in church, the popular evangelical interpretation was “inaugurated eschatology,” which held that the kingdom is “now” and “not yet.” All the glories of heaven are yet to come, and yet we can already glimpse them here on earth. It’s a somewhat inelegant interpretation, which in retrospect seems like an attempt to have (literally) the best of both worlds: believers can enjoy paradise in the present and also later in heaven. It is this theological framework that comes to mind when I hear Zuckerberg talk about the physical world, augmented reality, virtual reality, and the porous borders between them. When he talks about existing “mixed reality” technologies as an ontological stop on the way to a fully immersive virtual paradise, he sounds (at least to my ears) an awful lot like theologian George Eldon Ladd, who once wrote that heaven is “ not only an eschatological gift belonging to the Age to Come; It is also a gift that will be received in the ancient aeon.”
All technological aspirations are, ultimately, eschatological narratives. We, the occupants of the modern world, implicitly believe that we are trapped in a story of progress that is building toward a blinding transformation (the Singularity, the Omega Point, the descent of the One True Metaverse) that promises to radically alter reality as we see it. we know her. . It is a story as solid and flexible as any religious prophecy. Any technological failure can be reabsorbed into the narrative, becoming yet another obstacle that technology will one day overcome.
For me, one of the most attractive aspects of the metaverse is the promise of freeing ourselves from screen-mediated physical-digital dualism and experiencing, once again, a more fluid relationship with “reality” (whatever that may be).
But perhaps we are wrong to look so intently to the future for our salvation. Although I am no longer a believer, when I review Christ’s kingdom promises, I can’t help but think that he was widely misunderstood. When the Pharisees asked him point-blank when the kingdom would come, he responded, “The kingdom of God is within you.” It is a riddle that suggests that this paradise does not belong to the future at all, but is rather an individual spiritual realm that anyone can access, here and now. In its ConfessionsSt. Augustine, who seemed not unlike a Buddhist or Taoist sage, marveled at the fact that the fulfillment he had long sought in the external world was “within me all the time.”
When you describe, Virtual, your longing to live in a digital simulation that looks like reality but is somehow better, I can’t help but think that we have forgotten the original metaverse that we already have within us: the human imagination. Reality, as we experience it, is intrinsically augmented by our hopes and fears, our idle daydreams and our shrill nightmares. This inner world, invisible and omnipresent, has given rise to all religious longings and has produced all the technological and artistic wonders that have ever appeared among us. In fact, it is the source and seed of the metaverse itself, which originated, like all inventions, as the vaporous thread of an idea. Even now, amid the persistent, time-bound entropy of the physical world, you can access this virtual realm whenever you want, from anywhere in the world, without needing a $300 headset. It will be exactly as exciting as you want it to be.
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