You can’t escape the virtual world, we are all plugged in, connected and online.
Yet we are in the early stages of this world, like babies taking their first steps, we wobble and fall over not really being sure of ourselves. Is it good to be online so much or is it damaging something within us?
Most of us use it to connect with people – old friends and new friends. We create groups to connect with each other, skype or google+ with faces glued to the screen. At the moment we are in its infancy and it seems to be ok, there are glitches and warning signs but with moderation our virtual lives should stay within its boundaries.
But what happens if it doesn’t? What happens if the virtual world takes over our world and sucks us in like that scene in Tron where we find ourselves riding motorcycles and wearing cool cyber clothes?
What about falling in love with your operating system?
Sounds crazy right?
It’s funny because as I watching the film “Her”, I felt uncomfortable at how close it all was to our reality. Theodore upgrades his operating system to a system that can fulfil his every need. As he plugs in and says hello, he is greeted by a soothing female voice called Samantha. Move over Siri – this female voice has the ability to giggle, sound happy or angry and speak to Theodore in a way that captures his heart.
He begins to talk to her day and night, sharing their dreams, hopes and fears and soon he finds he is in love with her. And he isn’t the only one. Everyone seems to be falling in love with their operating system.
You make think this is just stupid and impossible. But it cuts to the bone and makes you feel uncomfortable. Why?
There is something about it that we like and something about it that we find disgusting. How can you fall in the love with a machine?
But that machine suddenly becomes very human and sounds human and she offers Theodore a relationship with no strings attached. All he has to do is pick up his phone and speak to her and he can speak to her for as long as he wants to. It doesn’t feel messy, the relationship fits with his lifestyle and he has no need to sacrifice anything for her, he has no need to put her first.
Here is a quote from a scene in the film where Theodore is talking with his ex-wife:
Uncomfortable Waitress: How are you guys doing here?
Catherine: Fine. We’re fine. We used to be married, but he couldn’t handle me, he wanted to put me on Prozac and now he’s madly in love with his laptop.
Theodore: Well, if you’d heard the conversation in context… What I was trying to say…
Catherine: You always wanted to have a wife without the challenges of actually dealing with anything real and I’m glad that you found someone. It’s perfect.
Life feels easier when everything is on-screen. All our shopping, reading and relationships all online. It feels clean and we can dip in and out whenever we like. There is no sacrifice or investment on our part – if we don’t like someone or something we can block or close our laptop lid.
But with real people you can’t do that. There are no block buttons to press. Real relationships off-screen are messy. You get hurt, you have to work things through and give yourself to others. You have to sacrifice and you can’t dip in and out.
Often we think that way about Jesus. Our virtual friend who we can dip in and out of and block when we feel like it.
Thankfully Jesus doesn’t feel that way about us.
Christmas time shows us a God who really isn’t far off or behind a screen. He isn’t a virtual reality but he is the true reality. He doesn’t mind mess, in fact he came down and entered into our mess and dirt, taking on our flesh and connecting with us in a way that caused him pain in the end. He isn’t a distant soothing voice, he is fully man who walked the same dirt roads and invested his life in us. He saw it better to die on the cross then shout commands from on high.
We can search as much as we want on our virtual world, trying to find ways to shake off the loneliness. But Jesus shows us a better reality – that real life with its mess and brokenness is worth walking through with others, face to face. No matter how many likes or comments you get, nothing beats sitting down with a friend over coffee and chatting through life. The danger is that the comfort of hiding behind the screen to form relationships can grip us too tightly and we may find ourselves ending up like Theodore in the film “her” – lonely and obsessed with something that isn’t real.
Jesus offers something that is real – himself. And he also offers his church and beckons us to come in and find fellowship.
Let me warn you though, that fellowship will be messy, it may hurt you and you may feel like your trailing through mud at times. But it would be real, with real friendship and its laughter, tears and complexities. There will be eating together, playing and studying.
And you can organise these events on-line and then meet face to face, but don’t trap yourself behind the screen for safety or comfort. Jesus offers you something better.
If you are interested in buying the film, you can buy it here: Her