Changing Perspectives: Virtue in a Virtual World

I doubt I would have ever ventured into Second Life if it wouldn’t have been assigned as homework.  It was uncomfortable from the first moment I entered, and still weirds me out every time I launch it.   I feel totally out of control when I enter the space and no matter how many times I’ve attempted to figure it out I end up where I never wanted to be.  I keep bumping into the dis-virtue elements of the virtual environment and always without knowing how I got there or how to exit.

So I spend time trying to figure it out – after all – I’ve gotten pretty good with other technology applications.  I find a very thorough page explaining all of the elements of SL.  I watch a video tutorial that’s supposed to help me figure it out, but my takeaway is – I still haven’t figured it out and I’m not convinced there’s any need for me to spend more time on it.

There is one more take-away, actually, which really resonates with me – especially the third time I hear it:  “How to avoid disorientation?  Change your point of view, get a different perspective.”

So I go back in, but after spending even more time (wasting more time?  time I can’t really afford to be spending on this?!)  I remember the the resonant lesson, and decide it’s time to change my point of view and look for a different perspective.  Put down the technology, pick up the Torah – it always helps me find a different perspective.

In this week’s parasha, Vaetchanan, we might actually have the first incidence of a virtual world.  The opening verse sees Moshe praying again to God to allow him to cross the Jordan with the Israelites and see the Land on the other side – the Land of Israel.  But God does not relent,  Instead, God shows Moshe a virtual glimpse.

So,  I don’t know about others, but I struggle with that.  How satisfying can a virtual look be?  Isn’t it actually, more of a tease, more painful – more frustrating – more of a punishment to see something virtually, and knowing that’s the only look you’re going to get?

One of the underlying messages in this week’s parasha – if not in the entire Torah – is to trust in God.  This week’s parasha revisits the Ten Commandments and introduces us to the Shema.  The first commandment and the Shema teach us the same thing – there is one God, and without a God who commands there are no commandments.  There is only one God, though we perceive God in many different ways and find God virtually everywhere and in everything.

If we look, if we trust… and if we bring God in with us.

Are there any virtues to spending time in virtual environments?  Can we build virtuous communities and conversations in virtual environments?  The answer is in this week’s parasha.  By recognizing God and bringing godliness into all our behaviors, words, and actions we continue the work of creating communities in worlds we may never step foot in – worlds that don’t yet exist.  Moshe understood this.  Perhaps if we change our point of view, and look through different perspectives we, too, will create satisfying and healthy worlds wherever our path leads.

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