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Reality , What A Concept

A pair of Cardinals nested outside our front window this spring. The well-hidden nest was probably no more than eight feet from where I’d stand looking out. Yesterday I noticed the bright male adult feeding a couple of little ones, who’d somehow wandered away from the nest. They sat on a branch, looking like tiny little still clumps of leaves until the parent got near, at which point they’d get excited and flap their tiny wings and jump a bit. A couple of times during the day I just stopped and watched the activity. It was quite relaxing…and got me thinking of a couple of news tidbits I’d seen recently. Two quite disparate items which were so different, it got me thinking, maybe they pointed out the same thing – we need to be more in touch with reality, and with our planet.

The first story was about Canada, where some doctors can now “prescribe” Nature for patients. The BC Parks Federation started a program which has now spread to several provinces including Ontario, whereby doctors are allowed to “prescribe” time in nature for their patients and even give them a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, which allows free entry into Canadian national parks and some other provincial or regional ones.

It’s not just a gimmick devised by some granola company or binocular manufacturer either. Dr. M. Lem, speaking about the idea says “there’s a strong body of evidence on the health benefits of nature time, from better immune function, (increased) life expectancy, to reduced risk of heart disease and depression.” A Dr. R. Phillips adds “we practically live in virtual worlds…it’s important to set an intention to regularly spend time in nature.” He says “I often prescribe nature time for patients who struggle with chronic stress, anxiety or depression.” He reports “improved clarity and mood” generally result in those who follow those doctor’s orders. So far, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore are watching the program with thoughts of doing something similar and a few American doctors have already followed suit on their own. Seems as though sometimes a walk in the woods or coffee break watching ducks on a pond does the trick better than a couple of Xanax or Valium.

Which brings me to the second news item. A follow-up to a story which I somehow missed four years ago about Akihiko Kondo. Kondo’s a Japanese 30-something man who made headlines for himself in 2018 by “marrying” – I won’t write that without quotation marks, sorry – a cartoon character, Hatsune Miku. Hatsune in apparently an anime character who’s been used in some video games and a few music videos. She is supposed to be a 16 year old, big-eyed, blue-haired Japanese girl.

Akihiko says he has trouble meeting girls…that is real, human ones … and many of them have made fun of him in the past, calling him an “ataku”, which apparently is Japanese for “nerd” of “Sheldon Cooper-like.” So his solution was to escape further into a world of make believe and make his life partner a fictitious one.

He says “I’m in love with the whole concept of Hatsune Miku,” saying they’d “dated” for ten years before he asked her to marry him. “I will never have to see her ill or die,” he enthuses and she’ll always “be there for” him. His greatest day, or at least besides his “wedding” day, was when a tech company called Gatebox rolled out a $3000 device that allows people to have little holograms, so with it he could see a 3D Hatsune and talk to her. Ahh, young love!

So then he asked her to be his one and only, and we’re told she said yes, so they had a wedding, with a certificate and all. He had his little hologram of her by his side, but since he realized that he couldn’t actually put a ring on a holographic finger, he got a plush toy version of her and put the ring on that as a surrogate. One imagines the doll also stood in for his bride on the honeymoon. He does add sorrowfully that his mother wouldn’t attend the wedding. She “wants (me) to meet and fall in love with a real person.” Poor Hatsune might not get along with her new mother-in-law, methinks.

He’s taken the hologram “wife” on dates and holidays with him, but then crisis arose. During the pandemic, Gatebox stopped offering service for his device and now he can “no longer communicate” with her. Sad Akihiko! He still proclaims his love for her and undying devotion but laments not being able to talk to a 3D representation of the already fictional creation.

Now, it would be easy to write him off as either a hopefully harmless but sadly deranged individual or just a savvy publicity hound looking to get interviews and his photo in magazines. Perhaps he is one or both. But reports say there are thousands more just like him now, particularly in Japan where being “fictosexual” is being looked upon as a fairly normal way of living life. I wonder if Betty Boop is still single?

I’ve met men who joke about Betty Rubble and her Flintstones body, but emphasize “joke”. And while there’s probably not a straight man around who hasn’t watched a Jennifer Aniston or Julia Roberts or, insert actress of your choice’s name, movie and let their mind wander a little and think “boy, wouldn’t that be nice” , they also know that it is a fantasy. Not reality, even though Ms. Aniston, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Your Choice are in fact real humans, which is more than we can say about Hatsune. They age, get sick, and sadly one day will die like every one of us, including the real mates we love in real life.

Video games are entertainment, but not real life, and teenage girls in them are fictitious characters, not soulmates. Real life involves real people in real settings on this real planet. Real relationships mean putting up with bad, including things like illness and losing one’s looks as age marches on. Most of us know this and agree to the terms of this big “game of life.” Alarmingly though, as Dr. Phillips says, more and more people seem oblivious to those things, as they live in their “virtual worlds.” I see signs of it increasingly frequently in the youngest generations amongst us, who might well see Akihiko as some sort of role model, oblivious to what they may be missing out on.

Is this making them happy? Far from it. A body of evidence shows that depression is rising among the younger generations and affects more under-30 types who have their whole lives ahead of them than elderly people. If you know any Millennials or Gen Z’s, you probably don’t need scientific studies to tell you how prevalent depression and “stress” issues are among them. 

It makes me hope the Nature Prescription may be the next wonder drug.I hold out hope that we as a species are smarter than your typical Cardinal. Or at least smarter than your typical video game avatar.  One final bit of advice from the docs at Nature RX – when you fill your “prescription,” leave your phone behind.

8 Replies to “Reality , What A Concept”

  1. I agree with the nature bit…remember I told you about going outside this past weekend with hotdogs and marshmallows? It did feel good…so good that we are doing it again this weekend. It’s a nice break from this screen and the world we live in.

    Now…for Mr. Kondo… it’s hard to tell what he is up to if anything but geez. I’ve known guys to joke about Lois from Family guy lol. But…like you said…joke.
    Who knows…maybe this is a way for him to meet a real-life woman! Some lady might take pity on him.

    Yes, it’s nice to have someone to grow old with…that is the gift out of it…we don’t like growing older but it’s nice to share it with someone who can relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that sounds like a nice evening, outside around a campfire, especially where you are, where I guess you have a bit of nature around you. Here we’re in a subdivision but might actually still be a good little activity around one of those metal firepits… occasionally we have owls flying around here at night, and lots of nighthawks, sometimes fireflies… also see a surprising number of stars on a clear night for in a city.
      Kondo, yep, if he was the only one of his type, I’d ignore him but reading the various articles about him it seems like he’s part of a growing trend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We had one of those metal fire pits…they work… I’ll try to snag a picture of the place we cleared out…and yea we cleared it out…cleared limbs and rocks and took the riding lawnmower and got the rest.

        And our world will be run by that generation…it’s scary.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A very thoughtful essay, Dave. I’m worried about the younger generation and their electronics also. I’m sure you’ve heard of realistic sex dolls and also “sim” environments where the people create avatars to represent themselves in virtual worlds. Thankfully I grew up before the electronic age. My kids were near kindergarten age when Nintendo system with Mario and Duck Hunt came out. Although my younger son is an avid anime fan, thank heavens he has a real life with a real wife and child. My older son also lives in the real world, although he does love playing multi-player games on his computer with multi-user domains (not sure what the modern name for that is now.) I can’t think of a better antidote for anomie than nature. I hope this guy finds real humans to connect with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. the extent of my video game history is occasionally playing Tetris in the 90s at a bar table (one bar near the store I worked at in a mall had several tables that had video games built into the surface) and a couple of games of video golf. I just never got into them… must admit I did not believe when I used to read what a big business they were until I got a PT job at Radio Shack briefly one Christmas (2008 I think) and saw how many under 25s were literally obsessed by it… it’s all they did outside of work. Which I don’t see as any way beneficial but at least most of them seemed to know how to socialize a bit (even if only to play the games with their friends) and understand the difference between it and reality. Now some can’t do either, which is worrying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dave, I don’t think not playing video games is a disadvantage. They eat up time. I’ve played quite a few of them on Nintendo but that was back in the day for the most part. One modern exception is when Covid hit, and my kids and I, who love to play strategic board games (in real life) were not able to do it. Thankfully they found an online version of one of our favorites (Talisman) at a game platform, and we’ve been playing it that way for awhile. I agree that socially inept young people who are lost in cyberia are a very troubling phenomena 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. agree totally. I guess the big difference between when we were kids and played Monopoly or Risk and now with kids and video games is that we’d play, with friends, in person for a couple of hours and then do other things. Now so many of the youth do nothing at all , all day outside of sleep and work if they have to, but play video games online. Not a healthy lifestyle in any way

        Liked by 1 person

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