I see something that angers me.I let rip.Do the thing I really want to do, yell.But it’s a virtual yell.I’m yelling on the top of my lungs, but my lungs are virtual.And so when I yell, and I empty my lungs with all the rage in me, nothing actually happens.My heart rate is still at its peak.My face is still flushed.My lungs, of course, are still full, and breathing just as shallowly as before I yelled.
Because it’s all virtual here.
And when you hear my yell, you don’t feel the way you usually do when you get yelled at.You can’t see my face, you can’t see how my anger is just a twisted version of pain, how I am a person after all.
Because it’s all virtual here.
Instead, what you see is a character.A villain out of a book or movie, who possesses only the characteristics you see right in front of you: the words.The words that, whether you like it or not, hurt you on some level.
And if I’m the villain, then you’re the hero.And it is your holy duty to yell back, to put me in my place.
If this weren’t virtual, you’d see I’m just a person.Not larger or smaller than life, but just a person whose eyes, when you look into them, are a window into a soul you share.And maybe you’d still be angry if I yelled at you, but when you yelled back, you’d be yelling at a person, not a villain.
Because here, in the virtual world, when we yell, we know we don’t feel any better after we let loose.Maybe we thought that once.Back when we were younger, when this was all new, when we thought this might actually be life.Now we know better.We’ve yelled enough at each other, haven’t we, to know better?
No, there are onlya few ways to get something close to the satisfaction we’re looking for when we yell here.
How do I feel better after I yell at someone?They yell back.We argue.Emptying lungs is tiring, exhausting.We can’t yell forever.Eventually, we separate, cool off. We come back.We realize we shouldn’t have yelled.We come together.
How do I feel better when you can’t hear my yells?How do you feel better when you see me as a villain?
Well, there’s only one way to feel better when we fight villains.How does it go in the movies?In the books?How about in our history books, where things are divided neatly for us into good and bad?
Why, there’s only one solution, only one thing that we think will provide us with the solace that emptying our lungs can give us: destruction.
A villain only exists to be vanquished.To be utterly annihilated to the point where he cannot return to the land of the living.A villain is evil put in human form, a vessel for all that is wrong here on earth, and so within that vessel is the answer to our painful yearning for satisfaction: if only I could destroy the villain, then that evil would no longer exist.
Because it’s all virtual here.And in the virtual world, we are plastic figurines to each other.We don’t bend, we don’t change.Our eyes are dead.Or rather, they’re fake eyes, made to emulate the eyes of the real beings we represent.And so, if we can’t bend, and we aren’t real, why then there is no reconciliation.Only winning or losing.
Because it’s all virtual here.And in the virtual world, we’re also playing a game.And in a game, there is no such thing as an stopping halfway through or making up with the villain.There is only getting to the end goal.
Because it’s all virtual here. And if I destroy you, or you destroy me, we won’t see the looks of pain when we succeed.All we’ll see is the red notifications, the likes, the endorphin-pushing, addiction-inducing game rewards that come with a win.
Did you know that this virtual world existed before?It was how they made killing people easier.The further away from someone, the easier it is to kill them.That’s why people who’ve been tasked with dropping bombs, even when they kill innocent people, don’t suffer from the same existential pain for the rest of their lives the way people who have to look into the eyes of those they’ve killed do [LINK].
When we don’t look into each other’s eyes, we get to imagine that we’re the heroes, and they’re the villains.
But when we see the eyes, when we’re not in the virtual world, there are no illusions.
We’re not heroes.
We’re just people.Flawed.With parts of ourselves heroic and others villainous.
But it’s all virtual here.
So, until things change, I’ll always just be a villain to you.
But maybe it’s good to remember, every now and then, that the villain has eyes.