In the late 80’s, there was a one-hit-wonder band called Timbuk 3, who gave us the song The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.
“I’m heavenly blessed and worldly wise. I’m a peeping-tom with x-ray eyes. Things are going great, and they’re only getting better. I’m doing all right, getting good grades. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”
It came to mind while reading an op-ed in the NY Times recently. Farhad Manjoo wrote about the state of virtual reality. He noted, “the whole point of virtual reality is to create a fantasy divorced from the physical experience: There you are, climbing the side of a mountain, exploring a faraway museum, flying though space or getting in bed with someone out of your league.”
Believe it or not, Patanjali addressed this issue thousands of years before Facebook’s Oculus or HTC’s Vive were created!
In I.5 Patanjali writes that there are five types of vrittis or changing states of mind.* In I.9 he says that one of those states is fantasy or as the contemporary scholar Rohit Mehta calls it “Fancy.” Imagination, Mehta says, is not quite the right synonym. “In imagination the mind carries on its image-building activity on the ground-work of facts.” In the term Fancy, “the mind is expanding the range of facts.”
We live in a world where the lines between reason and fantasy are increasingly blurred. You can now climb Everest from your living room couch, put on special 3D specs and live in a 6 bedroom luxury home with no mortgage. You can even create alternate personalities to go on virtual dates and make virtual friends.
This cloudiness is causing incredible anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and desperation. Violence is practiced on video games and then real guns are taken to the streets. Pornography is the killer app of the entire internet and we read about children being abducted as sex slaves. We trade in Bitcoins and the poorest lose real dollars.
As a yogi I am on a journey, albeit a long one, to quiet my mind. Until I get to a stage of enlightenment, I need to develop “reason.” Or the kind of thoughts that Patanjali addressed in Sutra I.7. These are thoughts that I glean from actual experience, logic or testimony of a recognized authority.
Running away by putting a pair of goggles on my eyes and escaping to some alternate universe will not cure me of real problems and will not lead me to the recognition of what is everlasting.
So I’ll work to get rid of the shades we’ve collectively been putting on since before the 80’s. Because the future can only be bright if we all begin to see clearly.