What’s a meal worth?
Xue and I spent some time at mom’s compound in DC this week. It gave my cousin Teresa, the patent attorney, the chance to make good on her Christmas-promised trip to her new favorite restaurant. Upscale. Swanky. Yes, the food was delicious. Yes the bill was jaw dropping. I guess patent attorneys can’t really do client meetings at The Olive Garden. I had the swordfish. It was sublime. Does anyone actually need food that expensive? Is my life somehow less because I can’t afford that kind of dining? What does Teresa get from eating there? Does the food taste better? Is it more nutritious? Does cousin Terry project the reality of her perceived world view onto the experience?
If you spend time in a virtual world and think it’s “real,” are you delusional? Or is it just as real as a USD100 swordfish dinner?
In 1988 Allan Kaprow bought me a veggie burrito. I don’t mean to dishonor cousin Terry’s truly kind and generous gift, but I think I liked the burrito better. It’s unlikely that it tasted as rich and deep as the swordfish. But it meant more. Why did “worse” food mean more? Now 27 years later I have no idea what that burrito even tasted like, yet I’m convinced it was the greatest burrito I’ve ever eaten. The burrito I can’t taste anymore means more to me now than it did when I ate it. The reality of it has faded. But my perception of it has grown. Perception is reality.
In 1995 my grad school roommate Stacey Giachino and I took a workshop from a legend of dance therapy. I thought it was ok. I wasn’t sure it taught me anything I didn’t already know. At the end of the workshop, as you are wont to do at these sorts of things, we formed a circle, held hands, and the legend said a few words of thanks for our time together that day. I don’t remember the guy’s name who was holding my right hand, but Stacey was holding my left hand. When I looked over at Stacey there were tears streaming down her cheeks.
Back then I thought that perhaps Stacey had projected more onto that day’s experience than was really there. Maybe I still think that today. But I also wish I had found a way to be as present as Stacey was. I wish I’d found, or perceived, the beauty that Stacey did. Perception is reality.
Perception is Reality
Today I see avatars in virtual worlds build things, like Scarlett’s Broke Brain Clinic, or Trilby’s Paper Mill, or Ravensong’s garden pavilion for her writing. These things are real to me. They have a persistence that $100 swordfish or 3 hours with a legend don’t. Am I projecting that reality? Is reality in the eye of the beholder? Is perception a choice? Perception is reality!
photo by Brian Hartley / The Arches