Something occurred to me recently, and it was so startling, I have to write about it. It might have an interesting scientific conclusion to it or it might not, but that’s beside the point. It’s a personal blog post more than anything else.
I just noticed that a table is the most useless piece of furniture in Second Life.
A chair animates you. It has some purpose to it, it’s part of a system of expression that you get to transmit symbolic information. A bed is even more so. A dresser is actually useful to keep backups of your stuff, that’s what I use mine for.
But a table serves no purpose. You can put things on it but they don’t really need it. You can pull the table out from under them and they still stay up. It’s purely decorative. It doesn’t need legs, even, because it hangs in the air too. We don’t need bathrooms or toilets, but we still have them. And we very definitely do not need food. But there’s no end to prop food in my inventory.
And then it hit me.
The term “Second Life” sounds so much like “Afterlife” for a reason. It is common knowledge that the Pharaohs took furniture and utensils with them because they believed they needed them. But I suspect this might need some rethinking.
We really are ghosts. We don’t need food, or furniture, we could just as well sit on the thin air. We can’t really hug each other, because there is no hope to compute the physics of a complex polygonal mesh, the servers aren’t even strong enough for a ragdoll model. It is our afterlife, a world with no body, or space, a world where time is distorted and fluid because of the network lag, where we can be anything, as long as that ‘anything’ is what others agree us to be.
There is literally nothing in this world except people, and we bring with us the ideas of a table, a spoon, a cup of ‘hot’ tea, because they allow us to think of the abstract prims, which are nothing but numbers, in terms of a familiar daily life. We bring the abstract prims meaning that we inherited from generations prior, in a different world.
Can we truly be sure that the Egyptians did not send their dead to colonize a lifeless world such as this, where everything is merely some abstract ‘substance’, weightless and invisible ectoplasm? Could it be that they didn’t give them things because they thought these things would be needed, but because they could not otherwise cope with thinking of a world of abstract virtuality where there is, literally, nothing except people?
Is Second Life, in truth, nothing but a monstrously big tomb?
It is depressing, to a degree, though I’m not sure it’s actually a bad thing if it’s true. The idea that I’m actually dead and was stubbornly refusing to believe it for ten years is not something new for me. It’s supposed to be Christmas, a time of happiness and merriment, and everybody sends each other gifts and greeting cards. It is supposed to be my birthday, but, I have nobody to invite over for it, and no time to be happy, because I’m forced to do mildly impossible, disgusting things of bureaucratic nature, to avoid worse consequences, working literally against the clock, to keep something I know has no future anyway.
Because I have had no future for years. This is my way to be invincible, it’s a very static position in a first life that I cannot break out of. It’s far more comfy than that of many other people, but it has no future to it, no growth, no chance of improvement unless something external happens to give me a chance. And there’s nothing that can do it but a person. This position has such a supply of stability that all attempts have, so far, failed, but it’s stable because there’s no way down from here. Eventually, as soon as I get a lucky break, something happens to make me unable to take advantage of it, or just takes it away from me, or… or simply the person betrays me for some other interest, that’s probably the most common. It’s a very personal kind of hell.
As if everything conspires to bring me into this dead end, starting in a few hours, where the last opportunities to ever meet living breathing people in a context where I’m not an outsider will be extinguished, and I’ll be left completely alone, in a day after day after day…
Any life takes you away from somebody else’s. Every time you think you have broadened your horizons, they have actually narrowed in some other place, the length of your horizon is finite. Every person you give your limited social ties to means that some other person will not get them. And all the friends I have and trust, have their own lives, their own problems to deal with. Peter said today, that “Most people are here becase they have a cross to carry”. I sure know I have mine, and you probably have yours. But if you still hear me… if my seasons greetings mean anything to you…
Go and live tomorrow like this is the last day of your life. First or second one, it doesn’t matter. Be nice to someone. Help someone. Save someone. Give your warmth to someone. And if there’s still anything left after you gave it all to a special someone, find someone else who needs it, too. Be a faithful lover. Be a good friend. Create something and spread it around. Share your knowledge and share your connections. Find someone’s problem and solve it. If you can’t do it, help find someone who can. Bring people together, there is nothing at all in the entire universe except people.
That’s the only kind of compassion there truly is. That’s the only way you are alive.
Find someone else’s cross and maybe together we can make a raft out of all this bloody wood. Failing that, we could all wear nice uniforms and go lynch Hallmark.
That, at least, will get some of us dates.