Samsara Squared

Buddhism and Virtual RealityTracy Cochran

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In virtual reality, we will never be able to read what John Muir called "the inexhaustible pages of nature ... written over and over uncountable times, written in characters of every size and color, sentences composed of sentences, every part of a character a sentence." This is the contention of Bill McKibben in his book The Age of Missing Information (Random House, 1992). McKibben shows how TV has cut us off from an awareness of the cycles of nature, how it has coarsened our senses and blunted that more subtle ability to feel ourselves in context. McKibben claims that the ever-expanding capacities of virtual reality are efforts to compensate for what's missing. "They are attempts," he contends, "to overcome through more technology the frustrations of living in an electronic world."

More troubling, perhaps, is that technology itself now so thoroughly defines "life" that we no longer know why separation from nature matters so much.

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