Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why Virtual?

A Virtual Nun…

Why “The Virtual Nun”? First, to answer the question I am often asked, I really am a nun. Am I a Buddhist nun who happens to be a Christian or a Christian nun who happens to be a Buddhist? The question is like “which came first the chicken or the egg?” The important part of the answer is that Buddhism and Christianity are not, as many assume (and some of my co-workers have screamed at me), mutually exclusive. I am not the first person to follow both Buddhism and Christianity and I certainly will not be the last.

So why “Virtual”?

Marshall McLuhan, the author who wrote so much about mass media, would speak of the world becoming a global village – no part of it not being instantly accessible by the flow of electrons. This is certainly the case today, whether those electrons be in the form of television, radio, internet, or cell phone. The world is becoming an increasingly smaller place.

We live in a world where I can sit in a room with a friend in New Zealand, and another friend in Florida, USA at the same time – all the while I am sitting in my room in Illinois. Yet we can all see and hear each other, real time and in three dimensions. What we see may be a collections of pixels called an avatar, a virtual representation of the self. But we still see each other. We still talk to each other. This is the world of the global village. This is the internet.

William Gibson, the author who first coined the term “cyberspace” described it as an alternate reality in his books. A large part of the global village has become just what the author envisioned – an alternate reality. Massively multiplayer online games (mmo) like “World of Warcraft” are just such alternate realties. How real? Ask the 6.5 million subscribers that consist of everyone from grandmothers to five year olds to movie stars. This is just one small corner of the global village.

Sister Can I talk to you?

Yet too often we forget these collections of pixels are the intrusions into cyberspace of a real person.

One evening a virtual neighbor leaned over the virtual railing of her virtual front porch and spoke these words to me – “Sister can I talk to you?” The porch may have been a collection of pixels in the mmo “Ultima Online” but the woman speaking to me was very real. She was a woman stuck in a marriage with a physically abusive husband. Ultimately she had to take her children and flee for her life.

Whether it is a virtual front porch, an instant message, an email or a telephone call, many is the time I have spoken to troubled residents of the global village. I have never met them. Not in person. But they have met me, the virtual me – The Virtual Nun.

© 2006 Sisters of Embracement. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Jo Jo said...

I am a avid fan of Blessed Margaret of Costello, we have absolutely nothing in common, I am 6'1" athletic, married, with 5 sons. My suffering has been minimal, but I am fascinated with her story. I tell it all the time.
When I feel like complaining I try to think of her. Now I am fascinated by you, epecially your interest in World of Warcraft. I call it the dark side in my home. It's me against the the "big" man and the boys. I've often thought of starting my own website called World of Warcraft Widows (
Jo Jo