“It’s like they’re not even in the same dimension…” That’s why my friends are invisible friends, even when they are not imaginary friends.
The “Science of Happiness” MOOC (online course) from Berkeley continues to presuppose that its students are humans. This is by and large a reasonable assumption. But I just finished the second week on Tuesday and it still does not apply to me.
The new “happiness exercise” this week was Active Listening. In this, you sit down with a friend or loved one and “invite him or her to share what’s on his or her mind. As he or she does so, try to follow the steps below. You don’t need to cover every step, but the more you do cover, the more effective this practice is likely to be.”
2. Ask questions.
3. Express empathy.
4. Use engaged body language.
5. Avoid judgment.
6. Avoid giving advice.
Somehow I think my coworkers would freak out if I tried any of that. While one of them occasionally rants about colleagues, our relationship is not quite such that we sit down and go through his problems. More’s the pity, since I am a great listener, except for the body language which is more detached than you might want.
Coworkers is as close as I come these days. I only know a few who I work with regularly over a long time. I don’t have any other visible friends. I do have relatives, but we don’t see each other every year. All the rest of my friends are invisible friends, even those who happen to have a body at this time. In most cases, those bodies are in foreign countries and I have never seen them except in photos, sometimes not in photos either. I have had comrades of whom I did not know their fleshworld gender, age, skin color or citizenship. Some presented themselves as characters in an online roleplaying game. Some took on the features of vaguely humanoid animals (anthropomorphs). I haven’t really seen this as a problem.
I guess it makes sense for materialists to focus on the body, which is after all made of matter. But as for me, I cannot clearly remember a time when I mistook my body for my true self. I probably did when I was a toddler, but we are not supposed to remain toddlers. By the same tokens, it does not make sense for me to mistake my friends for bodies, which is one reason why I felt at home on the Internet pretty much from the start.
Between this and my Invisible Friend and family from Heaven, there hasn’t really been much motivation for me to seek out and try to befriend neighbors and random townies. But my sims do this. They also have a lot of options for conversation, although not quite the same list as above. Too bad, or I could have tested it on them. It would certainly be easier than testing them on myself. But you are probably a more normal human, perhaps you want to give it a try, if you don’t do this already?