virtual reality

Last night my phone finally got sick of my procrastinating ass and forced me to install a system update. Along with the system update, there were also a bunch of updates to the apps I use, including the camera software. It looks a little bit different, but I can still find everything I need, so I didn’t think much of it.
This morning I took a selfie to show off my hand-knit neck wear to some like-minded friends, and I noticed that the camera automatically took two pictures, which seemed odd. I kept switching back and forth between the two pictures, trying to figure out why one looked slightly different than the other. One looked just a tiny bit eerie and it took me a minute to realize why.
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Do you see it? The program filtered out the freckles on my cheek and the scar on my nose, and made my skin just generally brighter / whiter.
AUTOMATICALLY.
It didn’t even give me a choice. It just assumed that I wouldn’t be happy with my face. Because who actually likes their face anymore, you know? Who WOULDN’T want to be touched up a little?
Yes, I’m making a leap by talking like my phone is making assumptions, but the simple fact is that while the phone itself can’t make assumptions, the people that write the programs that the phone runs absolutely can. They are collectively assuming that no one feels like their face is good enough anymore. They are collectively deciding to feed us an ALTERED version of reality FIRST…then offering the actual reality as an afterthought.
That’s not only sad to me, but scary as well. It’s SO easy to fake things nowadays. Altered pictures, fake social media accounts, news being spun to fit a network’s or publication’s bias. Who do we trust anymore? What do we grab on to in order to not get sucked into this crazy vortex of reality being constructed for us?
The way my head is wired, I need to check in with what’s real on a regular basis or I start to feel like I’m disassociated, detached…like I could happily float off into the deep end of the Crazy Town pool and let myself drown. To combat this, I go outside and spend time in nature. I visit friends in actual meatspace, face to face. I read about science because I find fact-based things grounding and soothing. I practice yoga and meditation, both of which remind me that I am here, right now, with each breath.
And I look at myself in the mirror or in pictures. Not like Narcissus gazing at himself in the pool, but looking at my own face for a moment and remembering that I am not just the constant barrage of feels pelting the inside of my skull. I am not actually a (mostly benevolent) ghost floating quietly in the background of all these rooms that I enter on a daily basis.
My wrinkles, my freckles, my scars…they all remind me that I am a person, piloting this meatsuit through space and time, having real experiences and doing real things.
I’d rather technology not decide to take those reminders away from me with the assumption that I value luminous, freckle-free skin over…you know…my actual face.

 

gifts from the cleaning lady

Most days at work I’ll have a cup of tea, or more rarely, coffee. Around mid-morning the perpetual cold in my office will start to seep into my bones and I’ll need to enact self-warming measures or risk going into torpor (I’m half pterodactyl, you know), so I’ll grab my coffee cup and head for the kitchen. I return a few minutes later with a nice, hot beverage to go along with my renewed dislike of mankind in general. I sit down. I return to the tasks at hand. I slurp the hot beverage and feel the threat of torpor lessen. When I finish my drink, I set the cup off to the side of my desk and promptly forget it exists until the next time I want a hot drink. Washing the cup out while I wait for the water to heat up is just part of the ritual.

Except on Mondays.

On Mondays, my cup is pristine. There’s no ring of dried tea. There’s no quarter-inch deep puddle of coffee that I’ve abandoned because it has become so thick with grounds that it’s undrinkable. The inside of my coffee cup gleams white like new-fallen snow, and it never fails to make me smile.

Now don’t be fooled into thinking that this small miracle of tidiness is in any way due to foresight on my part on Friday afternoon. Oh, no. That kind of planning ahead isn’t how my brain works. If it were solely up to me, the coffee cup would sit all weekend and the Monday hot drink ritual would be just like every other day.

No, the Monday Morning Clean Cup is a gift the cleaning ladies bestow upon me. On Saturdays they come in and whisk around changing bin liners and wiping down bathrooms. They vacuum the carpets, they dust behind our monitors, they haul out the trash. They have plenty to to keep them busy on Saturday mornings. And yet, one of them always takes a couple minutes to pick up my cup, carry it out to the bathroom on the landing outside my office, give it a wash and a dry, and set it back on my desk.

You could argue that it’s just part of her job. Or that she’s getting paid by the hour, so the time it takes her to collect, wash, dry, and return coffee cups is more money in her pocket at the end of the day. Those points are fair enough. But do they take any of the shine off my clean coffee cup? Do they cheapen the tiny joy I feel when I go to make my hot drink of a Monday morning?

Nope.

The clean cup is a gift because I decide to see it as such.

I’m by no means immune to cynicism, to assuming everyone has ulterior motives. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I have a dislike for mankind in general, and that’s not something I just throw out there for LOLs (the pterodactyl part is still up for debate until someone pays for me to have DNA testing done, though). I’m not refusing to believe that the cleaning lady is personally benefiting in some way from washing my coffee cup every Saturday. I choose to be thankful for it anyway. It’s not like my mug would be any cleaner if it had a final rinse of pure altruism. My tea wouldn’t taste any better if I knew that the person who cleaned my cup was doing so of their own volition with no monetary motivation or sense of duty. The gesture is no less meaningful because someone else is benefiting from it.

This unconditional thankfulness isn’t something I’m good at, but it’s something I think is worth trying to practice. I am reminded of this every Monday morning when I go to make my hot drink and find my cup sparkling clean.

So really, the cleaning lady has given me TWO gifts, one far deeper and more consequential than the other.