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January 2009
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Facebook as a spiritual tool

One of the leit motif in spirituality is to reach an integration among the various parts of oneself. There are many important reasons for this, which I am not going to enter right now. Becoming One is not seen in Taoism as a spiritual goal, but as a spiritual prerequisite. It is not school, it is preschool. Until you are one you cannot really get involved with spirituality. It is like if in your family you decide to build a house, but not everybody agrees on that. Then one part of you builds it in the morning, and someone else of the family will destroy it in the evening. Maybe using the bricks for something else.

The idea that we are many, that each of us is many, is quite common. In psychology is common, Junghian Psychology, if I recall well. Again, in Taoism it even reaches the point of believing that this is true in a litteral point of view. Each of us, is seen as a patchwork of different spirits (shen). And when you die each spirit will then go its way. As such in Taoism until you have reached a real integration between your parts of yourselves (your spirits), you cannot even have reincarnation unless you have developed a unit which is integrated enough to go through the trauma of death without shattering in a 1000 little pieces.

And another idea that is very common (you have it in Taoism, but also in Christianity, for example), is the idea that one day, one time, at some point we will all get together. Christian say "sit by the father". In Taoism the idea is that any person who have showed a spark of interest for spiritual work will eventually join together in some place beyong space and time, a sort of heaven. And the joke then is if people are following the 1 lifetime program, the 10 lifetime program, the 100 or 1000 lifetime program, to reach it. And the faster it is, the rougher it is.

I have to say I am amazed by how well is Facebook helping in this integration work, for me. I have many friends, on facebook. But more importantòy I have friends from different groups. Each friend knew a different Pietro. Some were from my spiritual life (taoism, tai chi, meditation, ...), some from my academic world (artificial life, mathematics), some are Go-brothers, others people I knew from childhood, or from high school, or middle school. And with each of them I was a different person. And now they are all together. All in the same place. And the internet does indeed feel a little bit like this place beyond space and time. And I read of many of them. But what is more important, is that, as I write about my life, I am forced to write in a way that is acceptable for both my academic side and my spiritual side. I can only write in an integrated way, because I know that friends from both worlds will read me. In this sense facebook is catalysing an integration in me. Is helping me to become one.

I know many people are having problems with facebook. I think a lot of the problem is that they are not ready or willing to have this integration. For me Fb is pretty easy: to become my friend you need to know me. With very few exceptions I do not add anyone who is not someone I personally know. But if I have met you, and you want to befriend me, then you are in. I don't keep people that I know out of the door. Because that would be equivalent to keeping some part of myself out of the door, the part of me that interacted with them. You are all invited to the party. I sometime even go back in time, and look for people I once knew. People that were important in my life. Or people I wished I had the time to know better. Maybe now we have another occasion. But then on my status, in my notes, in the caption of my photo, I try not to speak thinking about one in particular (I might have done it, but mostly I try to avoid it). I speak to all my friends at the same time. And if anyone comments, I answer that person, personally. The answer is personal, but anybody can see it, and thus the integration goes deeper. I write in English and in Italian, because those are the languages with which I live, work, chat, play and love. My inner dialogue is sometimes in Italian and sometimes in English, depending where I am, what I am thinking of doing. And my facebook reflects that.

Most of you know that I use facebook pretty frequently. I update the status often, sometimes more than once a day. But what some of you have not realised is that I do not do much less on facebook. I avoid facebook applications. I only use the ones that are truly useful, that add functionalities that were not there, and are truly helpful. If I want to wish to my friend Happy Chinese New Year, I will do it in person, or through the status. Not through an application. In this way the integration proceeds. I very rarely invite people to use applications. I only do so when I think an application is very very good. (The "skip this" button is my friend). I invited my friends for the geo tagging application. I would do it for the "cause" application. Maybe the iRead could be another one, and the application to play Go online. Here you go, this makes it 4. And when I invite people I only invite people I think will appreciate it (or should, they know it or not ;-) ). I consider the other applications to be equivalent to spam. I try not to spam my friends. When a new application arrives (elves, and pirates, etc...) , I usually just block it. If an application is requiring me to send invitation to let you proceed, I report it (because it is breaking the TOS, and ruining the party for everybody), delete it and block it. With absolutely no pity, whatsoever.

I see often people who get tired of facebook. But very often those are people who are not using facebook as a tool to interact with friends that are far away (in space or time), but as a game. Those are the friends that use more of those facebook useless applications. They get tired, but what they are really getting tired are those useless applications. They are right in getting tired. They just need to use facebook, instead of be used by it. And then fb will stop being a toy, and become an instrument. You will forget about facebook, and think about your friend.

Keeping the application to the minimum necessary.
Speaking to everybody. Inviting all your (real life) friends.
It is fairly easy to let facebook help you in the integration process.

Current Mood: integrated integrated
Comments

I have been using Facebook for almost a year now and I agree with you, I enjoy the integration of many parts of my life there.

I also agree about all the weird corny applications. Waste of time!

Most of those I friend there are people I have met in 'real life'. a few are people that I have known for a long time online and come to feel that we do have an understanding.

I will go look for you there :)