“What does anyone know who doesn’t know how to suffer for Christ?” – St. John of the Cross
According to NVIDIA’s vice president of simulation technology Rev Lebaredian [like a priest ha!], “Ultimately we’re talking about creating another reality, another world, that’s as rich as the real world.”… Drew Austin described the metaverse this way: “a more regimented simulacrum of public space where a wider range of interactions are easier to monetize—a virtual environment in which we’ll finally have digital walls where we can hang our NFTs, and where we can rub elbows with Marvel’s embodied IP.” He quotes Wendy Liu, who, considering a short definition of metaverse, quipped, “virtual reality with unskippable ads.”
The metaverse is just the latest potential chapter of the Machine and aside from the potential unsavouriness (or demonic depravity—depending on the day you catch me) of its effect on the potential to, well, be a human, Sacasas has the most salient point at the very beginning: “1. We never go back”.
And given that such critique “has had no success in reversing, or even slowing” its momentum, a lot of Christians—especially poor ones (I know right!), third world ones, and urban ones—are not going to have the choice of being unplugged from whatever the metaverse ends up being, and most of the rest (if there is a rest) will choose to be plugged in to varying degrees—this is already the case, I might add.
Which leads me to the question: is digital cruxifixion possible?
Can you die-to-self while inhabiting a digital reality? Or is the excarnation inherent to the Machine’s reign the death of following Christ as much as the death of being a human? I guess for a religion with a human God, the loss of our humanity to a worldly power has a uniquely deleterious effect.
Is a failure to rehabilitate the body then a failure to sustain the conditions under which the Christian faith is practicable?
Perhaps those are the stakes underlying Illich’s calm assertion:
“it appears to me that we cannot neglect the disciplined recovery, an asceticism, of a sensual praxis in a society of technogenic mirages. This reclaiming of the senses, this promptitude to obey experience … seems to me to be the fundamental condition for renouncing that technique which sets up a definitive obstacle to friendship.”
But does the kenotic paradox—that God is most revealed in an outcast and a slave, Love in suffering and death, Strength in weakness, Glory in gore, Beauty in wretchedness etc.—the burning mystery at the heart of said faith, does it stretch even into the inhumane, the dehumanising impact of digital slavery?
Or to change the key, why would Techno-Moloch be any less a productive instrument in the hands of the Lord for the righteousness of his Church than old-fashion Moloch? Satan riding the Machine than Satan riding Caesar?
If that were the case wouldn’t Christ have had to be incarnate into a metaverse to have touched the bottom of what evil can do?