Friday, March 14, 2008

Second Life & RL

Here we have a bona fide technogeek post.... get ready!

About two weeks ago, I decided that I had some free time, (which I most certainly do at work now that we're not traveling for a couple weeks... stupid Holland America - another story for another time) so as I do, I thought I'd scour the internet for some new community in which to meet some new people and experience their ideas, their cultures, and their philosophies.

I like doing this from time to time anyway as many of my international friends will attest, having met them solely because I am unafraid to go online and find some new people and engage in lengthy discussions. Recently, I've met a transvestite filipino, a fun local LA girl that I went on a date with in real life a few weeks ago which ended well (though not really well enough to make up for the hassle of traveling/being gone all the time and being poor - we will end up friends though for sure) and a number of people more recently... some of whom I dedicate this blog to. Ok... one of whom... who I discovered two weeks ago while entering my first foray into the online game/community called Second Life.

Now, many people are aware of this phenomenon and others like it, but for the uninitiated, Second Life is a community of people which is kind of an over-glorified (and processor-intensive!) chat program. In said program, your first step is to create an avatar - in real terms, that's the incarnation of a god on earth. I suppose that's accurate to the computing world because here I am essentially a "god" manifesting myself in a simulated world. What this really means is that Second Life is a place almost like real life where people have shops and interact with eachother - get apartments and land if they want... build things, sell things... live, play, love, have sex with eachother... just about anything people want to do in real life, you can do in Second Life... plus you can fly!

The trick with Second Life though - and online communities in general - is that you wind up (if you're honest and seek out honest people for real conversation of course) meeting people and caring about them outside of Second Life. Now... for some people, this isn't the case... it's just a fake world where you can be fake, do fake things and have fake experiences with other fake people.


I have to ask. What the hell is the point? I mean really... if you're just going to be completely fake, then you don't have any real experiences with the people on the other end of the network of machines - and if that's all you want, why bother with a world like Second Life? Why not just play Leisure Suit Larry 42 or just watch porn or something if you want casual, fake, in-game sex - or mess around with google earth or World of Warcraft if you want to see different places?

My point here is that Second Life and programs like it offer a unique opportunity to interact with people you never would in real life because of geographical or political distance. I always choose to take advantage of those situations to meet new and diverse people.

My question though, is it possible to ever really love people you've met in worlds like this? Clearly, you can get emotionally invested... People's emotions and thoughts can't really betray them in here. Not really... Of course if you never look beyond the surface, you can see whatever you want to see... but in Second Life, I've met one or two interesting people - and a ton of idiots like in RL. I've met some sweet, loving people - and more than a few ice-cold jerks. If you're like me, you are primarily attracted (sexually & platonically) to hearts and minds, even more than basic physical stuff. At what point do you decide you can really care about someone in RL that you met in Second Life or its equivalent?

I just don't know...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"This I Believe" -Penn Jillette

...This I also believe:

I believe that there is no god. I'm beyond Atheism. Atheism is not believing in god. Not believing in god is easy, you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love, and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself, has to start with no belief in god and then look for evidence of god. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write emails to often, are still stuck at this searching stage. The Atheism part is easy.

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe - I believe there is no god."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I?m raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no god, means I can't be really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no god stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without god, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But, all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no god lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no god means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn?t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No god means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no god gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-o and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."

~Penn Frasier Jillette, November 21, 2005