Every year, I write about a book. One that spoke to me, and continues to speak to me long after I’ve finished reading. My reading this year has been giddy. I won’t bother you with every roller-coaster ride I took. I want to talk about one specific ride I took on a random day in a place I usually don’t frequent: Science Fiction.
The name of the roller-coaster is Ready Player One. A guy called Ernest Cline set it up. Okay, he wrote it. This isn’t a summary of the book as much as a telling of the wind I felt against my face long after the Roller-Coaster ended.
We all live in an oasis: an escape. Far from one another. Far from truth. Far from reality. The escape could be a nomadic life of travel. It could be a hobby. It could even be your job. It could be/mostly is Social Media/television. Or, as a lot of people believe, it could be all of life on planet earth.
In Ready Player One, the escape is a video game called OASIS.
It’s 2044. The world, as we all expect it to be, is a train wreck. The OASIS is the sole respite for most of the population. But it isn’t any ordinary video game. C’mon, didn’t you expect Virtual Reality (VR) to have caught up? One rad improvement: VR schools. That’s where I am getting my MBA.
But, the real reason people log into the OASIS is to win it. Because the winner makes a crazy amount of money; Two hundred and forty billion dollars. Before taxes. Still, a lot of money. The book is about one kid’s quest to win the game. Actually, the book’s about everyone’s quest to win the game.
Knowing me, I got all deep about how what the OASIS means to our lives now. In 2018. Sure, there’s no Two hundred and forty billion dollar prize and there’re no VR schools and you still occasionally need to shake a human hand. But, the OASIS is already here.
My Oasis is this. The words you see on the screen. My Oasis is also riding the same roller-coaster again. My oasis is riding one roller-coaster after another as the world – the real world – goes by. Every time I log-off and go out into the real world, I see everyone is logged into an OASIS of their own. I don’t know which one is an escape and which, reality. That only you know. That I can’t tell you.
But I know someone who can – James Donovan Halliday, the creator of OASIS.
“I created the OASIS because I never felt at home in the real world. I didn’t know how to connect with the people there. I was afraid, for all of my life. Right up until I knew it was ending. That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real. Do you understand?”
That could’ve very well been a variation of the message from anyone that created the OASIS known as Social Media. Or the internet. Or the smartphone. I have nothing against any of these. Chances are that you won’t be reading this without some combination of all three. I only think there are levels beyond which inhaling this combination can become toxic. It can become an escape. Like an OASIS without an end.
I don’t know about your life. Maybe you need to escape to find yourself. But, if you want to escape, choose a better medium. A better OASIS. Art, servitude, travel, wilderness, circus clown. Heck, play a video game that requires cognitive overload beyond crushing candy.
Ready Player One is both all about the prize and not about the prize at all. It’s about how we live our lives. It’s about what we can do in 2018.
It’s only when you work on making your reality interesting enough, beautiful enough, human enough and Real enough, can you actually find yourself. Because that’s where You truly, really, miraculously exist. That’s what I am going to try more of in 2018. And I think if we all tried a bit of that, maybe the world will be a different place around 2044. Maybe we can preserve whatever true happiness is left out there.
1. 2016 favorite (one of) book.
2.Ernest Cline geeks out on technology, pop culture and video games in the dystopian setting that is Ready Player One. I didn’t get most of the references, and I still loved the book.
3. Steven Spielberg is working on giddying-up the ride for the movie folk.