I’ve been waffling on topics again, and I think that I have finally come to a topic that speaks to me. This article for the PBP will be about Experience – but not in the way you might think.
I’m not going to talk about the value of experience over book learning. What I want to explore in this article is how modern Pagans experience the world.
It was this article that finally provided me with the inspiration to write my E post. A virtual shrine. I found this both intriguing and horrifying at the same time. The graphics are cool, and the interface appears both simple and intuitive. But I have to admit my first thought when I saw this was, “Good lord, how lazy can you get??”
Can a virtual shrine provide you with the same experience as real life sacred place? Your mileage may vary, but in my opinion: not by a long shot. This is pretty. But it’s more akin to a video game than to a sacred shrine.
Video games and online interaction can provide a lot of emotional experience for people. You get to feel accomplished, and you get to connect with people you might never otherwise meet, but can an MMO or a chatroom take the place of sitting across the table from a real person?
There is more to human interaction than words on a screen. Similarly, the peace and reverence felt at a shrine comes from more than pleasantly assembled pixels, and digitally encoded sounds.
Life offers so much more. The scent of flowers. The kiss of a gentle breeze on your skin. Even the burn of cold and the bite of winter – as much as comfort relaxes, discomfort lets you feel that you’re alive.
I want to be able to touch and smell and taste the offerings I share with my gods. I want to experience the closeness with them with my whole being, not just with my eyes and ears.
Think back to the last time you really unplugged. For many, it was probably during Earth Hour last year. Did you notice a difference in quality of the silence?
Computers and other electronics can be a useful tool. But they shouldn’t be the only tool. It may be that an app on your iPad provides you with the convenience to visit a shrine while on the bus, but is convenience really something you were looking for when you took up this path?
This article on the concept of the religious pilgrimage suggests that the journey to a holy site was a demonstration of commitment to one’s faith. A sort of way of showing your neighbours that you really were serious in your beliefs.
I’m not sure that I entirely agree with that position, even though that may have been an unintended side effect. I think that the religious pilgrimage was an ordeal – an initiation of sorts that brought your spirituality to a new level. These trips were in no way convenient and were often something people would save a lifetime for.
If pilgrims of old could have rocketed to their holy places with a click of a mouse or a tap of a screen, they would be bypassing the journey. Essentially, they would be skipping the evolution of the soul that takes place during the ordeal in order to reach the end quicker.
A lot of people find themselves low on the free time scale these days. But finding the time to commune with your gods is a sign of your devotion. Taking a few moments to care for a real life shrine shows that your faith is more important than the latest buzz on Twitter.
It can be very tempting to leave behind the toil and drudgery of everyday life and seek beauty in the wires and circuitry of the internet. But the fantasy will take its toll. Virtual flowers have no perfume.