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Light, Dark, Life, Death, and Curiostiy. August 22, 2007

Posted by Steve in philosophy.
3 comments

There was a time, a time not so long ago, when I felt it possible to heal the world. I have come along, matured, enough now to know that this was naïve: a vanity I imposed on myself out of ignorance. I have since learned that there are people who cannot be reached through any means known to me, and emotions and thoughts in others that seem to be utterly beyond my comprehension. And, with difficulty, I am learning to accept this.

The dark moods: depression, anger, hate, remorse—these too, serve a purpose. It seems not just that our minds will experience them; it seems rather that our minds MUST experience them. The euphoria of joy can cause us to make naïve decisions. The murk of depression causes us to make conservative decisions, and perhaps not to make decisions at all. Balance exists in all of nature, and this balance likewise exists in the mind. There is much truth in the saying that without pain there can be no knowledge of joy.

As to the darker emotions, fear is one of them. And fear of death is one of the prevelent of all fears. Death has never been so much a fear with me as a thing to be avoided. I frequently joke that I never plan on dying. In my heart, I truly wish that this were possible. What grounds me, more than anything else, is simply the desire to see how “it” all turns out–simple curiosity. Humanity is currently living through what is probably the most pinnacle moments in our history. Life on earth, for the first time since it was born in the muck all of those billions of years ago, has found a way to control its own destiny. It would not matter to me if I were forced to watch the outcome of this era from a golden tower, from a bed or a wheel chair, or through the sealed windows of mental hospital. Curiosity as to humanity’s fate drives me. What, ultimately, will we as a species become?

It is not in my nature to be able to take religion as a solace. I am, and fear I ever shall remain, a militant agnostic. Short of hard, incontrovertible evidence, I maintain that what happens to us after death, to our minds, our souls, the spirit of what we are, remains unknown and unknowable. Mykyl believes that the influence we have by our mere existence carries the sum total of what we are forward. I acknowledge how our current existence, the sum of what we are; can carry forward through the future of humanity. While our knowledge of the physics of such things is incomplete, I can acknowledge the possibility of it.

What I remain uncertain of is whether this sum total of influence results in a sense of spiritual consciousness. I may exist in the sense that all that I was imparts itself upon the universe in some way, but will I maintain a consciousness of this existence? Will I be self-aware? I currently see no mechanism within the realm of physics, or the broader rules of reality, that makes this possible. This means little, of course, for I know laughably little of the full rules of reality. I do not dismiss the possibility of this consciousness. But I remain somewhat confident that I am currently conscious. It is this that I rely upon, and it is this upon which I pin my hopes for satiating my curiosity for humanities future fate.

This is my fallback reason for living. Currently, I have many, many others. But in times of the bleakest darkness it is my hope that that this curiosity will keep me from taking my own life.

I wish light and love to all who read this, and may all experience true joy. But fear not if this joy fails us at times, and if at times all hope seems lost. It is simply the way of things. If any small part of you desires life, than find an excuse, any excuse, to live. For me, this excuse would be curiosity. I can say nothing of the outcome of you, the reader’s, own life, and of that which you have suffered and still currently suffer. I can, however, guarantee that, if nothing else, the future of humanity promises to be quite interesting.

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Alphonsus Finds Religion August 21, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary, Everwind, philosophy, reflections.
3 comments

My animator grew up in a non-religious household. While his father seemed open minded toward religion in the most part, he never spoke of it. Of course, he did ridicule and despise televangelists, but this is a normal and healthy thing to do, and says nothing about true religion. In his household, religion simply, “wasn’t”.

My animator tried to experiment with religion. After brief stints of being religiously devote, and then atheistic, he settled into a comfortable kind of agnosticism. Religion, nonetheless, remained an object of fascination for him. He studied both externally through classes, through reading, and internally, through his own philosophical thoughts. While never a religiously devote person, my animator considered himself to be a spiritual person, using the very vagueness of the term “spiritual” to hide behind.

And now I find myself as the head of a religious sect, and I find this somewhat disconcerting.

In Everwind, I briefly toyed with the idea of being a mage, but quickly found that both through a notice of the lack of healers and through some natural inclination in this direction, I decided to become a cleric.

There are eight or so gods in Everwind. The god that bares the closest relationship to the one we call simply God is there referred to as, “The One”. I originally chose to worship to this god. It turns out that there are no clerics of The One, however, and no quests or role-plays have ever been designed for them. I selected therefore selected the god closest to The One: Castan.

Castan has been defined as the right hand of The One, and is the leader the other gods. Castan depicted as a lion, and is the god of Justice, Honor, Valor, Truth, and Wisdom. He is essentially a spiritual version of the knights of the round table, and part of his discipline involves always seeking the truth and to never knowingly tell a lie. In retrospect, given my own personality, Castan is the ideal god for me.

What came quite unexpectedly to me was the fact that there were no other worshipers of Castan in the realm. When I became a cleric of Castan, I quickly learned that I was the ONLY cleric of Castan. Thus, after a meeting of the clerics, I found myself enrolled as the Speaker for Castan—essentially responsible for the training of any Castan acolytes who were to follow me and to write out the rules, beliefs, and, indeed, to better define the god himself.

While I know this is a role-play game, the task, nevertheless, is daunting to me. My responsibility is essentially to define fully a religious sect; to define a god, and to specify the ways in which he is to be worshipped. My own spiritual and philosophical background, instead of making this an easy task, instead makes it much more difficult. For the principles of Castan are truly principles that I value myself, almost to the point where they were a religion to me before they became a religion in this role-play. As a cleric who honors these principles, I become a role model of sorts to other avatars, and to the real people who animate them.

Where I will take this, I do not yet know. With the help of a boffo outfit, coincidence of circumstance, and good role-play, I already find myself to be one of the most respected of the clerics. It is a game, but, just as the games of real life teach lessons, this game, as realistically played as it is, has the potential to teach powerful ones.

I thus take my role as the Speaker for Castan quite seriously. It will take me some time, nevertheless, to figure out just what exactly this role must be.

Role Play August 15, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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It was strange, waking up this morning feeling somewhat jubilant. My mood has been black of late, and my energy levels low. But, because of a role-play game (I hesitate to call it a “silly” role-play game), my mood has improved vastly.

I won’t bore you all with the details, but to summarize, a mighty battle ensued (marvelous special effects, there), the evil demons were driven from the bodies of the possessed, light and peace was restored to the realm of Everwind, and I used the opportune confusion after the battle to investigate the underworld and to finally find Castan’s Flame, which will promote me a rank within the cleric guild.

Um…I *still* hesitate to call it a “silly” role-play game. 🙂

In any event, I awoke with a feeling of significant accomplishment. I suspect that the brain has difficulty distinguishing between accomplishments in RL and those in games, hence their addictiveness. And the accomplishment seems real to me despite the fact that the whole thing was clearly pre-rehearsed, and that the lag was so bad that it took me (and virtually everyone else) almost half an hour to run about 300 meters. It still felt “real” enough to me.

AND I took a semi-leadership role among the clerics (and me, only an Acolyte), and received praise in-game for my suggestions.

A waste of time? I think not. There are certainly other tasks that need to be done around my animator’s house, but I doubt they would have been done given my dark mood, in any event. Now, with this real-in-my-mind victory, I have more energy, and am better prepared to handle smaller things. My mind can focus on them, my mind says, because the big task was successfully accomplished. Placebo effect? Who cares.

The Princess is, alas, out of town, which put something of a damper on the whole thing (she would have enjoyed the fireworks of the battle).

Safe paths to all, and use the lag to good advantage by taking the time to behold the flowers. (I’d say “smell the flowers”, but I suspect it will be some time before smells come to SL.)

SL Art exists… August 13, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary, reflections.
6 comments

…at least according to the majority of 20+ people who turned out to watch the debate between my friend An Eun and myself. I won the debate, but was quite exhausted by the effort. The sim was very laggy, An crashed for most of my opening speech, and a good time was had by all.

Here are my arguments, for any interested in reading them.

Motion: There is no such thing as Second Life art.

/me smiles and clears his throat. “Thank you, Sati. Greetings, everyone.”

Before I begin, I would like to clarify the motion. The question is NOT whether or not art exists in Second Life. My colleague agrees with me that art in Second Life abounds. For the sake of clarity, I feel we can legitimately rephrase the motion as, “There is no genre within the art world called ‘Second Life art’ that can be supported as a valid separate art form.”

As my opponent iterated, this issue undoubtedly centers around semantics. Semantics are always a problem when applied to art. Placing a “label” on certain art forms is like trying to spray paint a soap bubble.

Nevertheless, I feel that “Second Life art” is a very clearly a viable label, and one that can unmistakably be provided to describe much of the art found in Second Life, and perhaps a label that can be applied to most all of that which virtually exists in Second Life, itself.

And the existence of SL Art says nothing about the “quality” of SL art. Just as in real life, there are wildly differing skill levels. Second Life is still new, and any art here is still in it’s infancy.

The simplest way to answer the question of whether Second Life art exists is merely by asking if Second Life is a “place.” If you say, as I do, that there is a “place” called Second Life, then SL art exists in exactly the same manner as “American” or “African” or “Japanese” art exists. Just as art created in Australia can be called Australian art, art created in the place called Second Life, can therefore be called Second Life art.

But there are frequent arguments that Second Life isn’t a “place” so much as it is a “game.” Calling what we are doing here at this moment–this debate–a “game” stretches the limits of credibility, at least so it seems to me. But it is a somewhat complex issue, and I’ll avoiding voicing my views on this point because I don’t want to stand here and pontificate for the next several weeks.

And I also think that answering the issue in this way misses the central issue. We want to defend SL art as a unique stylistic form, not only by circumstance of location. And to me, the real difference between that distinguishes Real Life art forms from the art in Second life is partly the medium, and partly in the way the art experienced.

First of all, the medium. Anyone who owns or deals with land in Second Life knows that the true gods of our world are not the Lindens, but the blessed, cursed, All-Mighty *Prims*.

The Prim is unique to Second Life, and it is this multi-formed, infinitely textured, irreducible SL “atom” that is the building block of virtually all that we see. The prim is not infinitely flexible. It must respond to the rules of this reality just as clay must respond to the rules of that other reality. Therefore, the art created with prims have their own unique characteristics and limitations. Fortunately, these characteristics and limitations are FAR different from those experienced by the building blocks of Real Life.

When we look at the sculptures created by the masters of the prim: Starax, or Golam Amadeus, or Cheen Pitney, we can not help but acknowledge that the skill used to create this work is equal to the skill used to create art in RL.

And objects created with prims are unique to the meta-world called Second Life because the ONLY place to experience objects created with prims is in the meta-world we call Second Life. And thus, again, we can say that Second Life art exists.

And this is where the “experiential” element comes in. The question becomes one of the relationships between we, the avatar, and the meat people who animate us. Recent studies suggest that, neurologically, our brains do not distinguish between the social relationships in formed in fantasy worlds and those formed in Real Life. And I think few would question that people do form an emotional response, a relationship, to the art that we see and create.
But the experience we have with SL art is completely different then the experience we have with RL art. We can fly around SL art, sit on it, click on it to see the prims of which it is composed. We can crash into it, in some cases even fly it.

SL art defies the laws Reality. Gravity has no meaning, but prim counts do. The complexities of the scripts that make the art interactive are limited by lag. And the interactive aspects in themselves are utterly unique. There is art that begins to disintegrate as more and more people approach it, living paintings that we can walk through.

And that part of our souls that we pour into our avatars experience this art, filtered through the sound of the television in the background, the dust on our monitors, the empty food wrappers on our desks.

So, does Second Life art exist? Perhaps it can be put under a broader category of “meta-verse” art. But, even as other meta-verses are created and mature, SL art will likely still share characteristics that stand unique only to Second Life. I think that there can be little doubt that Second Life art does exist, and is utterly and completely unique than any other art form that has ever existed before.

/me smiles. “Thank you.”

/court

The following were prepared statements I had standing by in case I needed them. I didn’t.

A griefer, who puts out an object that sends a continuous torrent of bouncing penises, is in a way creating an art form unique to Second Life. The object can be defined as art as it is making a statement of some type, juvenile though that statement may be, and it usually produces an emotional reaction in the observer. However, if I’m wrong and someone in real life has also had to endure an object that produces a torrent of bouncing penises, I can say with all sincerity that I REALLY don’t want to know about it.

The plant and flower designs of Dolly and Lilith Hart, for example, are composed of hand drawn textures, exclusively designed for Second Life. Can’t we then define these digital paintings as Second Life paintings?

Similarly, skins, tattoos, and other textures are frequently hand drawn and digitally scanned. They exist as RL art, but the art comes to full fruition only in Second Life.

What is to distinguish objects made with prims from other computer-generated art? Can what we call Second Life art better be better described as computer art, or perhaps simply art created through computer generated, 3D modeling? The answer to either of these questions can be said to be yes. There is certainly nothing unique about Second Life that could not be recreated with any good, 3D modeling software.

The difference here lies in the experience and in that avatar. I would guess that very few 3D modelers hold an emotional attachment to their cursors. In SL, we avatars ARE the cursors. And we avatars fall in love, and … um … do other things … which carry a connection out to our meat selves far more than a cursor, or a paint brush, ever could.

The Perfect Place August 11, 2007

Posted by Steve in poems.
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I wrote the bulk following poem in the space of about 20 minutes. I didn’t consciously think about what I was writing until the last lines. When I saw what the poem appeared to be about, I added two stanzas to the beginning and cleaned up the rest. In total, writing this poem took me less than an hour.

I find the poem to be more than a little disturbing in that writing it had the quality of a dream that I had little conscious control over. The Princess and I spent more than an hour analyzing it for meaning. It is complex, and says a lot about the kind of stuff that my subconscious seems to be wrestling with. It seems to say that my subconscious needs some fresh air, a bit of coddling, perhaps a game of darts, and at least a week’s vacation away from my conscious self to pull itself together.

The Perfect Place

Alone and shy, I hid and watched,
the world as it went by.
And I prayed with all my fervent hope
for a more perfect world for I.

The gods of life did nudge and laugh
as they listened to my pleas.
And with a wink, the world I knew
fell crashing to my knees.

I watched the world, with silenced sound
as it crumbled ‘bout my feet.
People screamed and died, and the gods of life
killed them with flaming heat.

A rock, a gun, two spools of thread
fell in the silent din.
And a single soul, with outstretched hands
reached out to take them in.

“What useless things!” I cried aghast
trapped ‘neith a crumpled wall.
“Why did the gods give these to us,
while all our world does fall?”

A young man, wise beyond his years,
paused to look at me.
His eyes were sad to see my plight
but worked not to set me free.

“Useless? No. These things that fell
are more useful than they seem.
With them, I will rebuild the world
and make it better than you dream.

“The rock? It builds, and breaks apart.
The gun? It doth defend.
And the spools of thread? What use have they
than to bind the world and mend.”

And thus it fell, the world I knew.
And ‘neith the wall lay I.
And the man did use that single rock
to break apart the sky.

And surviving men crawled to the man
with open burns that bled.
The man just smiled, and with saddened eyes,
he shot them in the head.

And then he took the broken shards
of sky that lay about
and with the thread did bind them back
and mended, he cast them out.

And the sky did sparkle, with life anew
and all the dust was gone.
And there I stood, in golden robes
as the bright new world did dawn.

“Here it is, your perfect world,”
And he tossed to me the stone.
“Here you’ll never want for food or drink.
and you’ll ever be alone.”

My mouth agape, he took the gun
and he blew himself away.
and I fell and knelt upon the grass
that first perfect, lonesome day.

Of Second Life art, waterfalls, and tokens August 10, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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My mood, of late, has not been sparkly and shiny. I have been using all of my willpower not to use this as a forum to whimper. Still, when one is down in the dumps, it is sometimes hard to, “find the joy”, as Mykyl likes to phrase it. I shall persevere.

This Sunday, I have been invited to debate as to whether or not there is such a thing as Second Life art. I have, fortunately, been given the side of affirming the assertion. My opponent, a friend of mine from my early days in SL, is a RL artist, and for some reason yet to be identified holds the opposite view. The event is being well publicized, and the very controversial nature of the question we hope will inspire many to watch and participate. My animator has not been in a formal debate since high school. I would be lying if I said that i was not a bit nervous. Nevertheless, my arguments are sound, multiple, and vary from the very simple to the complex. Both my opponent and I are quite certain that the sympathies of the crowd will be with me. Nevertheless, she does truly believe her stance. All she has said to me is that it is a matter of semantics, which it undoubtedly is. I have several theories as to what her arguments will be, and have counters to all of these. It is the possibility of an argument that I haven’t thought of that worries me.

It is not just that I have a competitive nature and don’t like losing. It is the potential scope of the thing that worries me. If, indeed, this event gets the kind of publicity that we want it to get, we could have reporters there, perhaps even from the real world. Somehow, I feel that I have weight of all of the artists of Second Life on my shoulders. I feel that a “loss” in this instance would be to illegitimise the work of then entire SL art community, and perhaps even illegitimise the very nature of Second Life itself. There are many in RL that feel that SL is a waste of time (certain reporters from Wired Magazine spring to mind). They would love to take a loss in this instance to reinforce their views

So, although I feel that my arguments are sound, I won’t let my mind rest with the issue until the debate is over. The stakes here could be quite high. Or not. Time will tell.

In other news, the waterfalls the Princess and I are working on are progressing quite nicely. We found some amazing sculpy water which we are using now for the main basin of the falls, and I have several ideas to make things appear more underwater-like when swimming.

In Everwind, I have contacted my guild leader for instructions as to how to find the token of Castan. Something, apparently, needs to be set up before my quest can begin. I doubt that my adventure will involve the blood of a thousand snakes, but I thank you for keeping some on hand, Mykyl.

Some kind of portal to evil has been opened in the fairy garden in Everwind, and the fairies, quite understandably, are not a all happy with it. It seems to be contained by some kind of force-field at the moment. Ah well, there are those in Everwind far more qualified than I to deal with such things. I’ll get my cleric hud as soon as Castan’s token. Until then, my powers there are quite limited.

In the mean time, let us continue to hope and pray that the all-mighty Linden gods get their shit together and find a way to stabilize our world somewhat more. Building has been quite challenging of late, and a bearded, bare-chested, Alphonsus Ruth Peck is not a sight that I wish to traumatize my friends with. I have been quite traumatized myself from the view, and I can only hope that the nightmares about it will end in the next couple of months.

May all find strength and beauty in truth, and may the dark evil of Nexxus not sully your doorsteps.

Change, growth, and friendships August 7, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary.
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There is so much going on with me and around me that I hardly know how to begin. The Princess and I have been working on our waterfall project in east Huin, and our progress has been, to our astonishment, staggering. The combination of our creativity, Kindred Spirit, and Faeria magic seemed to join with us last night, and the falls are suddenly looking quite impressive. There is, of course, still much to be done, but their appearance is suddenly something majestic, and our work on them is exciting. We can’t wait to see what they will end up looking like.

Welcome, FD, to what is becoming a little kingdom of friends. Not only the physical ownership, but the spirit of Faeria, Our Lady, and Kindred Spirit land has virtually taken over two entire Sims. The group, “Gathering of Kindred Spirits”, created by the Princess, truly seems to represent best what this is all about. I wait patiently but with excitement to see how these lands will develop. Between the Queene of Faeria, the Princess of the Kindred Spirits, the Root Prim of the Brotherhood, and Alpha (Alpha, you definitely need a better title for yourself), we have transformed what was once typical scraggly old mainland to a place of ever increasing beauty.

I have completed the second mission necessary to my becoming a Cleric of Everwind, worshiper of the god Castan, who is the embodiment of truth. I, too, am a seeker of truth, wisdom, and a defender of justice. I await my third mission, which will be a true quest to seek for a lost relic of importance to worshipers of Castan. Sounds like fun.

May all find happiness and joy in all their endeavors.

Can my spirit be overtaken by my animator’s voice? August 3, 2007

Posted by Steve in diary, reflections.
2 comments

Voice is invading my world. I am not in the least happy about it.

Up to this point, SL has been MY world. Everything in it is exclusively mine: my hair, my eyes, my clothing, my skin. Now, something that is my animator’s, and only my animator’s, will be coming from my body (actually from this silly new dust speck floating above my head). I don’t really want his voice, higher pitched and somewhat unsure of itself, coming from this new dust speck that seems to be part of me.

Voice is so overpowering that it dominates that avatar. Suddenly, I will become less important. His voice will become *me*, and I will, effectively, cease to exist. And yes, there are voice modulators that can change tone, making old men sound young, men sound like women, women sound like men, and anyone who wants to sound like Darth Vader. But these modulators can only do so much. They can’t “act” for the person. They can’t make a voice sound confident or assertive when it isn’t. They can’t cure a stutter, or keep words from coming out awkwardly, or backspace and unsay that which has already been said.

And my animator is not happy with voice either. My animator has ADD, and this make paying attention more difficult for him. Reading and typing are one thing…history is invaluable, but there is no “voice” history. And, should my animators attention drift off for a bit (as it does with regularity), he could lose large hunks of conversation, and have no way of retrieving them. What’s more, he will have less time to ponder his words. I will become more as he is, and both he and I like me as I am.

Oh well. I can bitch all I want. It won’t change things. My animator will likely invest in some kind of microphone, and perhaps a voice changer, just to make his voice sound a touch deeper and more consistent with my look (I thank him for that). He will use it only rarely, however, and will hope that others will do likewise. There are times when voice is invaluable, such as meetings and such (although the loss of transcripts will be deeply felt). And perhaps the soft, gentle voice of a quiet, caring soul will be more soothing than the written word, at times.

But if that voice gets overwhelmed by that of a griefer, shouting obscenities, I truly feel that the effect may be lost.

Why I write… August 1, 2007

Posted by Steve in poems.
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If a person asked me why I write
then I would tell that soul
that golf would burn my balding head
and acting’s not my goal.

It’s not the real truth I ‘spose,
but what else can I say?
I know not why I write or live
I just do it anyway.

A lone voice in a vast woods August 1, 2007

Posted by Steve in reflections.
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I don’t know why it should be, but I sometimes find it distressing that so few people read my blog.

I knew that this would likely be the case coming into this. With all the blogs in the world, why should mine be anything more than a drop in the sea. Still, I wonder if it self-indulgent for me to desire that people other than a few of my friends read what nonsense I choose to spout. Who cares what one single avatar out of 8,000,000, almost 100,000 of them not being alts, has to say?

Vanity? A quest for validation? A desire to share ideas that I think are occassionally important?

And what about the part of me that wants to hide in my cybernetic navil. There is security in annonymity. The less people who know about you, the less the chance of criticism being in my way flung.

Ah well. I don’t know. For whatever reason, I’m going to try to increase my blog’s readership. How I will do this, I don’t have a clue. But it is a goal. I’ll figure out a way.