Summer Musings – “Augmented Reality (AR)”

Man holding crystal ball in landscape

Have you heard the latest?  Did you know?  Turns out, our world is being populated with various monsters-like creatures.  These creatures are hiding all around us.   They could be on your back porch, across from your cubical at work, or behind the coffee pot on your kitchen counter.  I am, of course, talking about the newly released Pokémon Go game that is all the rage right now.

Apparently these Pokémon creatures are no longer confined to cartoons and playing cards, but are now running around in real time thanks to Google maps and some pretty amazing technology called Augmented Reality (AR).  According to Wikipedia, AR is “a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.”

AR can enhance one’s current perception of reality?  Really? That’s amazing!  I bet that I am not the only one who spent a good part of my college years looking for ways to enhance my perception of reality.  Who knew all it takes is a Smart Phone?

I am being facetious, of course, but this Pokémon Go craze and its AR technology has got me thinking about the nature of the reality in which we truly live.  AR may be new technology, but the idea that reality holds more than what we can readily perceive is as old as the Biblical witness.  The Biblical witness and the lived witness of many mystics throughout the ages assures us that the kingdom of God is at hand.  It is among us.  The sweet shalom and powerful steadfast love that God poured into the fabric of creation at the beginning of time are ever present.

Trouble is, it is just so hard to see.  Violence, hate, fear – the very antithesis of that to which Biblical witness and the very life, death and resurrection Jesus point are hard to miss.  Violence, hate and fear are all around us.  Where is this sweet shalom that Jesus says is at hand?  It takes a smart phone to see those Pokémon creatures.  What does it take to see God’s peace that is our true augmented reality?  News clips are full of images of people running around the woods and shopping malls with eyes glued on their smart phones screens.  What does it look like to search for God’s peace here and now in our days?

Could it look like carving out a time each day for quiet reflection and journaling?  Could it look like finally taking up a practice of contemplative prayer?  Could it look like setting aside time to be in the garden or to watch the cormorant swim up the estuary?  Could it look like cultivating a practice of gratitude, naming each morning that for which you are grateful?  Could it look reaching out in love to a neighbor who could use a little bit of help?

The irony of Pokémon’s AP is that instead of enhancing reality, it actually distracts one from it.  People are walking into poles and into busy intersections because they are not paying attention to what is truly around them.  Instead they are lost chasing cartoons.  Intentionally cultivating awareness of God’s peace and presence does just the opposite.  It draws us more fully into reality around us.  It helps us see more clearly the beauty and also the pain that is before us.  It helps us to hear more clearly the laughter and the cries of our time.  And most importantly, it give us the peace and presence to engage with and participate in the reality of our time.

So let’s put down the smart phone and pick up a practice that will lead us into what is truly our augmented reality.