Monday, October 5, 2009
Running on Empty
The virtual world - is it real or not real? I know it's not a part of the earthly plane, I know you can't hold the virtual world in your hand, but I think it is real, depending on how you define that word.
Someone told me recently that you can buy virtual weapons used in internet games, on Ebay. It's true! Apparently if you're good at these games, you can win weapons that can subsequently be traded or sold. But on Ebay?? Wow. The person who told me this said, "Yes on Ebay - for REAL money."
But what IS real money? The paper and coins we trade back and forth aren't worth anything, except as symbols of wealth. They used to represent actual gold or silver stored away - maybe at Fort Knox? - but that ended long ago.
In recent years money has moved even further into the realm of the abstract. Now it's often represented by a number on a computer screen at the bank, accessible by using a number embedded in a magnetic strip on a bank card. When people speak of "identity theft," they're talking about numerical theft, actually.
Someone figured out how to access my bank card number last week, emptied my bank accounts so fast it's kind of amazing. My bank is pretty good about these things; they stopped the looting as soon as they could, and may even be able, at some point, to return some of my money to me.
I've had a few days to freak out about this; I'm feeling more resolute about it this morning, thinking how funny it is that I have nothing in the way of numerical wealth, especially in the wake of the trips I took last summer, journeys that took a heavy toll on my savings account. They stole all I had, but it wasn't much. I wonder if they were disappointed?
The truth is, my wealth can't be stolen by way of a bank card number because I am rich in family, friends, time, ideas, and health.
Kind of ironic, really. They could take my money, but they didn't touch my wealth, nor did they take my identity. In a way this situation is kind of liberating. Don't ask me to explain what I mean by that, I'm not sure myself. It's kind of weird.
As for the people who stole my numerical identity, I offer the only curse I ever dare put out into the world, a curse that can be a blessing, depending on the behavior of the people involved: May all you do return to you three times. Oh yeah.