POCKET WORLDS II: AWAITING THE KINGDOM
It is in our nature to look forward to the new world. We hope with all our bones to be in a world that is pure and beautiful and safe. However, this is a desire not limited to Christians awaiting the union of heaven and earth. I refer to that force deep in the chest that drove pagan pilgrims to journey, to sail across oceans, to find new islands and new continents. To dance on clouds, to look up into the stars and start building. Some day, we’ll make it, won’t we?
But that will be hundreds of years from now. Within half a century we went from building biplanes to rocketing ourselves to the moon. Why, fifty more years hence, we ought to be building apartment complexes and soccer fields on Mars!
But here we are, fifty years later, and everyone is still on earth, dawdling.
Sort of. We haven’t been able to travel to new worlds as quickly as we thought. So, instead, we have found a way to bring new worlds to us. They are all around us. We keep them in our pockets, now. We might not be able to travel the heavens like true gods, but, having a private glowing world in your pocket isn’t too bad. You can talk with antipodean friends at the press of a button. You can buy goods in another state at the flip of a switch. You can betray your spouse with a clap of your hands. So who needs suburbs in space? We have suburbs right here, all around us.
It’s easy to romanticize ancient expeditions that were, in truth, probably very nasty affairs. Do you think they had showers on their katamarans back then? But absence makes the heart grow fonder, when it comes to history. (That is to say, the absence of epic, manly adventures at hand.) More surprisingly, I find it’s quite easy to romanticize the present mundane affairs of modern life, as well. You just have to put your mind to it, and ignore the advertising.
So with all that in mind, it is no surprise that so many put their hope and trust not in the resurrection of the body and the renewal of creation, but in a video game. This game changes every few years, after the previous candidate wildly succeeds in disappointing, like all the previous iterations. But the promise is always functionally the same, so we can refer to it as just one singular product, always soon to come but never quite reaching us. Let us call it ‘The Game.’ We are a culture that has forgotten Christ, that cannot touch the stars. We are barred from worlds seen and unseen. So it is natural that pagans would put their hopes in the worlds which we create with modern machine dreams.
It turns out it is quite easy to find epic, manly adventures within your pockets these days.
Those with wisdom will be thinking of a game that was recently released to great fanfare and quiet sobs. So many held such dear hopes about it. It was going to be the infinite, beautiful world that they all longed for in their heart of hearts. And then, to their shock, they discovered it wasn’t. The Game fails once again.
Perhaps I am exaggerating their hopes. I doubt many thought consciously of this game as the ESCHATON, as the great TELOS of mankind, as the coming of the kingdom! Perhaps more likely, they just saw it as just the telos of their free time. If daily life is filled with boring, mundane tasks (negotium), is not the key to joy in how we use our free time (otium)? To be fed and clothed, it is necessary that one sacrifice their days to the great machine of industry; that is the law of life. So it is in those brief moments of lordship, the marginalia of being, that the pilgrim hopes to find joy. It’s all for those few hours spent playing games and relaxing and ruling a world for a brief moment.
Our generation has discovered there are no more doors to open than the ones we make. The past holds the keys of this earth, and the future holds the keys of the stars. The only keys we have now are the ones we program for ourselves. What a strange time to be alive. Perhaps anonymous said it best:
Born too late to explore the world, born too early to explore the stars. Born just in time to explore
d a n k m e m e s
For the pilgrim, digital reality is the only frontier available on hand. It doesn’t seem like new things can be found anywhere else. And the internet isn’t good enough; it’s only a million monkeys on typewriters. It can only provide weird alley ways, colorful graffiti, strangers with candy. It’s only seeing and reading and tasting. Only within The Game can we find full immersion into a newly created reality. This is because the fundamental element of a Game is the decision. True adventure and treasure are to be found only within The Game. Choice. Trial. Knowledge. Salvation.
This is how cults are formed, but no one calls it a cult. (Readers of the next age must note that our current society assumes that all religion is firmly divorced from all normal societal activity.) The pagan pilgrim, with nothing else in which to place his hope, cannot help but be drawn into these groups of fervent (and yet somehow so casual!) worshipers. Is there much of a difference between the modern hype train and the poisoned ecstasy of false prophecy? For now, the cultists only devote their own quiet time in the dark, worshiping at the shrine of the electric god. For now, they only send death threats to those they’ve deemed false prophets or schismatics.
In previous civilizations a similar obsession was found in physical athletics. In the coming century it will be electronic sports. I have even seen Christians drawn to such cults , electronic and physical; cults that they assumed were secular. Just a normal part of life. Just do want you want. Spend your free time how you want. It’s a free country.
But our citizenship is in the heavens.