I hurt myself playing a video game. That sounds really dumb, doesn’t it? Or clumsy, or something? How can you physically hurt yourself in a simulated world? Oh, let me count the ways!
My younger son loves car racing. He’s involved in a team that builds cars and enters them into collegiate level competitions. He even has a driving simulator. He took an abandoned car frame from the team’s graveyard, put a seat into it, replaced the windshield with three concave monitors, added a computer where the engine went, and replaced the game controller with hydraulic gas and brake pedals, and—this is where the rub comes—a force feedback steering wheel. In the right mode, the realism of what you experience with those monitors can make a weak stomach seasick. It’s really amazing what the graphics can do!
My problem was with the steering wheel. I was scooting around the Sebring racetrack in a supped up yellow Corvette. The gas pedal requires the same amount of pressure that a real race car does. So do the brakes which is actually quite a lot. And the steering wheel, that fancy piece of machinery, fights you when you steer. It literally has its own motor that counters your input, getting easier to turn the faster you go (like a real car).
But around the last corner, I decided to try a burnout, or at least make the rear end break loose. Well, it worked, and too much, because I crashed the car into the wall. In a simulation game that should just end the race, or mess up the performance of the car, but in this case, it also simulated the rotation of steering wheel, which went crazy in the collision with the wall. And my thumb wasn’t ready for that jolt. Ouch!
This may all sound quite technical…and it is, really. But the bottom line is that the equipment may simulate car driving, but it physically hurt me. The notion that a simulator should not hurt you is kind of like that lie of a dictum – “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Did you ever hear that irreversible binomial before? (Sorry – look that up).
It’s not true! While you can understand why a kid would say that to the jerk that is insulting him or her and the premise seems accurate that it takes physical objects to inflict physical harm, the conclusion that words can’t hurt you is about as sound logic as expecting not to get hurt in a car simulator. In Proverbs 12:18 the writer of wisdom says: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The connection between the physical pain of a sword cut and words is direct here. And the converse carries as well – a kind word can heal the body. Pretty amazing.
Jesus took this truth and gave it a deeper spiritual meaning when he said “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt 15:10,11). Now, obviously Jesus had not been introduced to Watermelon Hard Mountain Dew. But he suggests that what words are what get us into trouble, and hurt us not just, say, in childhood, but hurt us eternally.
We live in a world where a machine asks us (I’m thinking Facebook here) “What’s on your mind” encouraging us to test Jesus’ dictum every time we log on. Job wisely said (in Job 13:5) “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” This is good social media advice.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can ruin me” should be how the irreversible binomial children’s rhyme goes. As adults we should pay attention.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14