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Ode to Joy March 29, 2007

Posted by Steve in philosophy, reflections.

A special note from Alphonsus’s animator, to the animators of the people he loves in Second Life.

“If only happiness could be dispensed with a few well spoken words–a kind of magic spell that, when intoned, would forever change the wiring of our minds that now finds comfort in darkness. I’ve never found the words, not for myself, and not for anyone else. And, as Alphonsus says in his tagline, I, too, experience the most pain when I am unable to relieve the pain of another. When others suffer, I suffer.

“All I have to offer to comfort the people I love here are words, but then, words are not just words. What we say is greater than the sum of the words contained in our sentences. The words we say to ourselves determine our self-image, and words are the only way to touch the soul of another person through this wondrous medium that carries the inelegant name, ‘blog.’

“So, here are the words I offer. Take from them what you can.

“I ask only that you remember the true wonder that is our lives in this, our real world. Remember the joy of the warmth of the sun on your skin on a quiet beach. Remember the smell of fresh baked bread, or the undiluted pleasure of a simple hug from someone you care about, be it a family member, a friend, or a virtual friend. Remember the majesty contained in a simple cloud as it passes over us in the sky, blown by the breeze into structures of unimaginable complexity. Remember the man on the moon. Remember and envision the colors of a setting of the sun. Remember the tenderness of a simple touch, and the glorious taste of your favorite pizza. And most particularly remember the joy felt when you know beyond doubt that you have helped another person in need, however fleeting.

“These are but an infinitesimally small sample of the simple beauty of creation, a creation in which we, too, are a part. These simple joys are genuine; woven inexorably into the fabric of reality. We have felt them in the past. They will be available to us again in the future. They are out there now, at this moment, being enjoyed by some other conscience entity on this little planet. And how different is this other, non-hypothetical person from us? We are grown from the same stuff; the genetic differences between us are so minute that they can almost be discounted all together.

“Can we remember these joys in ourselves, joys experienced by a past version of who we are now? Or, baring that, can we imagine the joy in another? As we do, we should close our eyes, breath slowly, and smile. Even if the smile is forced, it can still force our brains the wired themselves a little differently.

“There is nothing about us that is ugly or wrong in the eyes of the universe. We are wisps of frozen gases, each a complex and beautiful side effect of reality. We may be as a particle of moisture in the above described cloud; tiny in itself, but each particle necessary to the cloud’s overall beauty. In this, each of us is special. In this, each of us is important. And, when we fall from the sky into black puddles of emotion (as we always do), remember that the cycle will not keep us there. Remember that we can rise again into the clouds, or perhaps be used as a drink for a flower or a butterfly. We never leave the cycle of beauty even when down, but remember that we will rise again to a place more to our liking, if we only wait.

“I wish I could offer more than words. I don’t know how to reach in and caress and heal the soul of another. This is the best I can do.”


The Dare to Hope. March 28, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.

Over the weekend, my animator was able to once or twice log in via laptop to Second Life and awaken me. I found an IM waiting for me from one Tayzia Abattoir, wanting to chat with me. I was fortunate enough to find her in world at that moment, and she TP’d me to her platform. She told me that she was the curator for the Crescent Museum of Taber Tudor Village, which she described as the first and oldest art gallery in SL. She wanted to make an exhibit out of my paintings.

Aaack! Smile. Shiver. Silly grin. Aaack!

“Why, certainly,” I tell the fine lady. “I will deliver them to you either tonight or tomorrow.”

“Take your time,” she replied with a smile.

I went to visit the museum at once of course. It is smallish and somewhat eclectic, but the works on the wall are of fine quality. What’s more, a Starax sculpture graces the interior. To share museum space with Starax elicits, well, “Aaack!”

My animator drove out immediately afterward to keep his promise to me, and he bought oil paints, a pallet, pallet knives, odorless turpentine, a midsize, pre stretched canvas, and an easel. Total: $78, and this with a 40% coupon off on the paints.

In store, skimming a book on oil painting, my animator decided that cowardice was the better part of wisdom, and to start with a still life instead of a more complex work. It is a new medium for him, and he needs to learn its properties before he goes on with a work that would have deep significance for him.

The next day (yesterday), I dropped off my works with Tayzia. She told me that she was also the curator at the NMC museum, and she asked me if I had visited it yet, to which I responded no. She said that she would also place some of my work there, as well.

I went to visit the NMC museum.

“Aaack. Aaack, Aaack!!!”

This is not a museum that could be described as small in any way. It is large, with many fine works scattered on many floors. After a few moments of ogling, the Princess informs me that Tayzia was the one who set up the Starax exhibition. She is a VERY big name in the arts in SL.

I was out of Aaacks at this point. I am torn at a place between pride and befuddlement, and am daring to wonder if perhaps these works may be of museum quality in the real world.

But, my animator has passed down this road of hope before, and he has always gotten lost upon it. SL seems to be taking me on a guided tour down this road on his behalf, and I will see where this tour takes me before I let him get ahead of himself.

In the mean time, the question looms; can my animator recapture whatever it was that he did 20 years ago in the works he does now? How have the years affected him? Has maturity honed his skills, or has the bright spark of youth faded with the intervening years of toil and trouble? His mind isn’t flooded with the overwhelming power of the Colors as it had been before–Colors that would fill his mind with such vibrancy that it made it hard for him to sleep at night for their intensity–Colors on a canvas that shown so brightly in his head that genuine surprise would fall over him when the painting did not glow in the dark when the lights where turned off. Will the entrancing power of the Colors capture him again when squeezes them out from their cloaking tubes?

Does he want them to?


Seeking the Starlit World March 25, 2007

Posted by Steve in philosophy, reflections.
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To change the world…

The prospect both excites and frightens me. My little discussion with Mykyl has left me on a brink that I have tried to jump many times before, but never succeeded. To change the world…to make it a better place…not just in my little corner, but all the corners of this little sphere we call earth, and all of the sims in this cybernetic blip we call second life. While I don’t know Mykyl’s animator’s true age, I make the assumption from her maturity and deepness of thought that she is past her starry-eyed twenties. For a woman of her intelligence and wisdom to still maintain hopes of changing the world forces me to try to break through my crusty cynicism and try to look at the problem again in a fresh light. I therefore have no particular point to make in the following blog entry. It is merely typing out my thoughts, the written equivalent of thinking out loud. It is my trying to find fissures in the crust that I can break open, and to try to see a starlit world again without cavalerely tossing my own accumulated wisdom in the process.

It can be argued (correctly, in my opinion) that our mere existence serves to change the world. Simply by living our lives the best that we can we serve to influence those around us, planting seeds and creating ripples which touch nearly everyone who connects with anyone.

To bring about change via this method is painfully slow, however. To affect massive change in a shorter time period, more direct action is required.

When my animator was first old enough to realize that the earth had a thing called a population, that population was in the 3 billions. I know it passed 4 billion some time ago, and seem to remember it passing the fives (it is frustrating to be non-networked. I am used to being able to access such minutia within seconds). The actual size is irrelevant, however. It is impossible for the average human mind to encompass numbers beyond several thousand. Three and six billion both fall into the range of, “gee, that sounds like an awful lot of people.”

Asking to change ALL of these people is, of course, a needlessly futile task. I’ve learned from experience that people such as the SUV driver who cut my animator off the other day do not change easily. I can’t imagine that it will be easy to affect the lives of people in outer Mongolia, wherever outer Mongolia is. The minds of the terrorist bombers will not be changed, at least in no way forseeable to my imagination. There are blocks that some people put up that cannot be penetrated.

It is not necessary to change each individual person. One need only influence the proper fulcrums of governance and influence to change the world rapidly. These fulcrums are full of people steeped in their own self-importance, some with minds totally(?) blocked to change. The key here is either move the immovable objects with an irresistible force, or to render the fulcrums themselves less relevant by creating more powerful fulcrums.

In my discussion with Mykyl I stated that I felt that changing the nature of religion was the method with the most potential to change the world. I should correct this and say that this is the method I see with the most potential to SAVE the world. The world, I feel, does need saving. The war in Iraq rages on; terrorists seek ever more powerful weapons, and it is only a matter of time before they obtain true, “weapons of mass destruction.” I do not doubt for a moment that there are those who hold enough hatred in their hearts to use these weapons, and likewise do not hold the corresponding, simple minded wisdom that would make them realize that they would only ultimately hurt there own people and their own cause through their use.

I leave this blog open ended, without conclusion, for I still have much thinking to do, and hope to gain insights either through feedback or through the rapid ingestion of wisdom from a source as yet unknown.

Poem: A Little Piece of our Souls March 24, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary, philosophy, poems.
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Last night, Mykyl and I held a discussion that mixed Second Life casino owners with the fundamental nature of reality. The discussion itself was epic…books could be written about it, and I feel that we took turns bending each other’s minds. This morning my brain feels as twisted as the prim in Mykyl’s storefront.

Among the things we discussed last night was an alternate view of immortality…a view that permits its existence independently of any god. Mykyl’s reality view is still at a different level than mine…I am still trying to see if my paradigm is capable of shifting to that level. I feel that we share an outlook, although we approach that outlook from different directions.

This morning, as my animator lay in bed contemplating this, it occurred to him that, while I have shared a poem with both Catherine and Tyrol, Mykyl has never seen it. The poem is essentially a discussion of secular immortality, and, while not precisely related to the type of immortality that we discussed last night, it does share the same spirit.

This poem was written seven years ago for a dear friend, just before she was scheduled to for surgery to have a lung removed due to cancer. She told my animator that she received immense comfort from this poem, and that it gave her the strength to go through the surgery with much less fear. She survived the surgery, but her weakened body suffered a heart attack and she died soon afterward

It has been seven years since her death, and I still feel the pain of her loss whenever I think of her.


Everywhere we go we take our soul with us.

And every time we meet someone we wrap a little piece of our souls around them

And through them.

We go through life dragging and weaving this soul around and through everyone

Tying a complex, tangled web to the earth.

And this is who we are to the world around us.

Each of us, along with our own souls, has a thousand, a million other souls wrapped around us

and through us

And this is who we are to ourselves

We drag a little piece of their souls with us, too.

Sometimes we need to grasp these threads for all we’re worth to keep ourselves here.

Sometimes the threads snap

And we can’t weave anymore

But the thousand, the million threads we have already woven are still here

Tangled messily about the earth.

This is still who we are, and we aren’t diminished,

But it does leave a hole.

You have wrapped your soul around me and through me a thousand, a million different times.

If I gather all these threads in my hands and hold tight

And if you hold onto all the other threads that have ever pierced your soul, trying to stay here

Wrapping them like a protective cloak around you,

Anchoring you to the ground

Maybe the threads won’t snap, and you can keep weaving a little longer.

If they snap anyway,

I will take all the threads you have left me

And wrap them around my heart,

And I will carry you with me always.

But try not to let your threads snap

I’d like to feel you wrap your soul around me

And through me

For a little while longer.

A Weekend Away March 23, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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My animator and his wife plan to travel this weekend, so I expect to spend much of the time sleeping the cybernetic sleep of avatars when their animators aren’t around.

This means, alas, that I will not be able to spend time with my friends, and this will trouble my dreams to no end. I have come so much to enjoy the company of the good people here, and find myself craving it while my animator slaves away at whatever it is he does all day. I’ve never considered myself a social butterfly before, but I’ve found that I become distressed and restless when I’m by myself. Other people anchor me, and set my soul at ease. Perhaps it is a cry for validation, but validation is not a bad thing. We all are, after all, valid. Some of us need more reminders of this fact than others.

Still, I feel that it is necessary for my animator and his wife to spend more time away from their computers. The Princess’s animator, in particular, has been causing me worry. She sleeps too little lately, drinks a bit too many caffeinated beverages, and is going to bed far too late for my tastes. My own animator could use more rest himself, and needs to spend more time dealing with his own life and less time dealing with mine. Balance, sir. Balance. I will miss my friends, true, but I’ve come to trust the truth of the friendships, and know they will be here when you choose to awaken me.

I spent much of the evening listening to Catherine practice on her guitar, and then shared in the delight of Mykyl’s statue, which now rests in our sandbox. If only I could find a way to kidnap it. I later hung out in a jazz club with some of Brielle’s friends, while the Princess spent the night preparing her rental properties.

My animator’s stomach is churning right now from an overabundance of poor diet, another thing that needs correction. The roughly drafted painting nags at him. He hopes to purchase some art supplies over the weekend. Mykyl’s little nudge of a comment has inspired him to try oils…there are some that dry quite rapidly now and the prices are compatible with acrylics. He needs paints, some kind of cleaning solvent, an easel, a smock, and perhaps a canvas, depending on whether he chooses to try to paint over his unfinished salt and pepper shaker work. He needs to check on the condition of his palette and brushes. Art can become quite an expensive hobby for those who don’t use free prims to create it.

When I do return in world, I think I will spend more time with the Brotherhood. It is a company of good ideas and high motivation, which I have been lacking of late. I find it lonely to build in isolation, and I have thus been avoiding it. I’m hoping to help out in some projects that need doing…training my own mind while helping out others is win/win, and it will perhaps inspire me to lesser levels of slothfulness.

Exhaustion and Adventure March 22, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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My animator has been pulling out his few remaining hairs trying to launch word processing in his library at work, and thus has been letting me play all night…something about which I have few complaints. I’ve danced with Brielle and have hung out with some of her friends, swam and shopped with Mykyl and the Princess (obtaining some boffo new clothes in the process), built a couple of simple bridges, decorated our house (at long last), and attended a couple of jazz concerts with some other excellent performers (none brought me the joy that Catherine’s performances bring me, however). Mykyl and the Princess have been spending more time together, and I really enjoy watching their friendship blossom.

I also attended a Stephen King book discussion, which I had little hope of enjoying in that I don’t read Stephen King. I am not a horror book fan, and cringe at the thought of innocent people getting hurt. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion, as it diverted to the definition of evil, and some people who are considered evil are just attention seekers. I tossed in a comment here about “griefers,” which, for better or for worse (better from my point of view), changed the entire course of the discussion. We started philosophizing about the motivation of griefers and their ilk, which put me into very comfortable ground. In general, I had a wonderful time.

I visited FD and Catherine one evening, who were busy cleaning up shop in a Brother’s sandbox. I am a trifle concerned by Catherine’s sudden obsession with earning money. While I don’t hold that money is the root of all evil, nor even that the love of money, more correctly, is at the root, I do hold that obsession of the obtaining of cash can lead to an unbalanced life. I trust, however, that Catherine knows what she is doing, and I certainly can’t fault her creativity…the way she has trained Daisy is astonishing. Her vigor has left me feeling guilty. I should be learning more scripting. Still, my animator is not ready to relinquish my playtime just yet.

The animators’ of both the Princess and myself have recently obtained hardware upgrades for their computers, making our lives much less choppy and considerably more beautiful. I now can experience the great pleasure of watching the reflection of the sun on the rippling water as it sets, and to dancing with smooth grace instead of my previous Frankenstein-like choppiness. The difference in quality has been amazing.

Nothing deep and insightful in this post. Just an update, and an effort to keep my hand in.

Perspective… March 17, 2007

Posted by Steve in philosophy.
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I sometimes need to sit back and regroup, and try to remember that the reality that my animator lives in is the same reality shared by the animators of all the avatars I see around me.

I have made it my habit, and will continue to make it my habit, to treat my fellow avatars exactly as how they appear. I treat a woman avatar as a woman, even when I know that the avatar’s animator is in fact a man. I treat a dog avatar as a dog, a child avatar as a child, a dragon avatar as a dragon. This is my reality, as it is theirs. The physical world shared by the animators of these souls matters little to me. It is that part of the soul that the animator has placed into this world that I deal with.

At the same time, there is a danger in taking this thinking too far. The very existence of an avatar in SL says something about the reality of that avatar’s animator. To create an avatar, an animator must have a computer of some power (or at the very least work at a job that gives them access to a computer of this power). They must have high-speed Internet access. They must posses a reasonable level of computer literacy.

In other words, few of the, “unwashed masses” are here in SL. The animators are not children who are starving in Bangladesh, or homeless men starving on the streets of Chicago. There are many wounded souls here in SL, and widely varying levels of emotional maturity. But, while there are also many levels of income among animators, it is reasonably safe to assume that very few live at the poverty level.

Which ties to another perspective that is easy to lose…the value of the Linden. I am currently charging L$1500 for one of my paintings. I originally charged L$100 for the same work, and even then felt guilty about the amount I charged. I did this until some art friends of mine reminded me that, to the animator of the avatar, L$100 was only about 37 cents US. One would be very hard pressed to find a candy bar for this cost in RL. My L$1500 work of art is less than $6 US. Art of ANY quality is not available for this cost in RL.

When I charge this much for a painting, I am not keeping the underprivileged masses from possessing it for the underprivileged masses are not here. I merely say that this work is something of value, not something to be tossed into a freebie box and put up as an afterthought into some McMansion. The work is there for all to see; no charge is made to view it. To posses it requires merely requires a touch on animators’ bank account. For less than the cost of lunch at Denny’s, one can possess a work of art that both avatar and animator can enjoy for years to come. I should not charge more than what the market will bare for the work, of course, but neither should I undervalue it just to make a few extra Lindens.

An item of value should be treated as such, otherwise an item of value will not be recognized as such.

Happy St. Urho’s Day! March 16, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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My animator was composing the previous little piece of prose last night and fell asleep at the last sentence. He awoke at 3am, with a stiff neck and a blurried sense of proportion, having let me fall into inactivity, my neck hung in the same position as his, until the Lindens in their wisdom decided to pause my existence. He published last night and cleaned it up this morning.

His next painting is well into the planning stages, it’s innitial scetches show promise, but also give me cause for worry. I see where he is trying to go, but subtlety is the key with this work. It will be subtlety that will seperate this work from being either halfway decent from a overladen piece of schmaltz. The balance, however, seems correct…eye movement and focal point work well, and the overall painting has the potential for high impact. Colors and manipulation of light will be key, as it is in all of his works. He can see the yellows and the maroons, but much of the other colors are undiscovered in his mind, and may need to wait until the first bit of paint is slopped onto the canvas before they can be found. He plans to recycle a unfinished and hopeless work to use as a canvas for this one. He’s debating oil, but it remains an unfamiliar medium to him, and acrylics are both cheaper and much easier to work with.

Second Life Validations March 16, 2007

Posted by Steve in philosophy.
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Second Life is a world where those living lives of “quiet desperation” become loud and vocal.

Throw away the mortgage, the kids struggling through school, the failures, the lost hopes and dreams. “Validate me, make me real,” cries the collective consciousness of this brave new world.

And people put on their cybernetic Pinocchios, and they tell lies to their hearts content because their noses won’t grow, and they try to get from an artificial world the validation that has eluded them so thoroughly in reality.

Man-boys enter the world wanting to have sex with anything that looks vaguely female. “Validate me. Prove to me I’m a man!” And the puppet grasps at validation, but the puppet remains a puppet, and no amount of cybering will cause the blue fairy to appear to make the puppet real. Men sit in their chairs, overweight, lonely, neither knowing nor really caring if the woman av they are cybering with is another overweight, lonely man.

We wear our desperation in our perfectly formed, idealized, twenty-five-ish armors. Perfect appearance means nothing in a world where everyone is perfect. “Pay no attention to the man behind the keyboard. See me as this. Love this, and I will try to pretend that it is I.”

How often does true validation occur? Only in so far as the av in-world reflects the truth of the souls on the other side of the curtain. For it is we as we are, not the artificial self we want people to believe us to be, that needs the validation. To validate the artificial is empty. The only part that is real is the truth of our souls that we pour into the metaverse.

Unto our own avs be true. Reach out and explore the outer edges of the possible. Try to attain the idealization of what we are, and beware of temptations of that which we think we want to be.

Please watch this… March 14, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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My animator’s uncle just sent him a link to this site. Wow!