You know the sort… there’s mad catwoman across the street, with her bright red lipstick liberally applied in the general region of her mouth, but somehow framing her lips, rather than adorning them – she shouts at the postman and waves her fist at aeroplanes. The man in the pub who drives a Volvo and drinks only orange juice – nothing interesting about that, but his beard puts ZZ Top to shame and his table is littered with tiny model houses made from beer mats. Or the unlikely couple walking down the street: he’s about 18 and 7 feet tall, thin as a rake and pallid in colour, whilst she is a shade over 4 feet, in every direction, in her fifties and rosy-hued… perhaps she’s his mother; but not holding hands like that.
These are the people we secretly smile about, we joke about them among friends and we concoct wild stories about their lives – consequently, they make our life that little bit brighter just because of the strange things they do and the oddities and quirks they possess.
There are interesting people in sl too, and if you think about it, in a place as inherently wacky and way out as sl, that can be quite an achievement. Even so, rarely a day goes by that i don’t find myself doing a virtual double-take over some of the more exotic and interesting antics/dress sense/language/bodies that pass my way.
In much the same way as an unusual trait will trigger questions and inspire particular thought processes in rl, something out of the ordinary in sl is also going to provoke a reaction… ‘what on earth?’; ‘why?’; and ‘excuse me?’ are some of thoughts that pop into my head when faced with this situation… i mean, when somebody turns up at an event dressed as a banana, wearing a tin of baked beans on their head and insists on telling those assembled all about their bowel movements, it’s only natural to wonder what on earth is motivating such behaviour.
In rl, it would be all to easy to dismiss such displays of interesting-ness as being an indication of some form of mental misfortune, environmental influence or upbringing but i’m not entirely sure that the same holds true for sl. Part of my reticence in accepting real world explanations for inworld eyebrow-raising behaviour lies with the type of people that sl attracts and retains – a significant proportion of the sl community are highly intelligent, creative, knowledgeable and erudite people, probably more so than you would find in a similar representative sample in the real world. Does this mean that intelligent, creative people are more bonkers than the rest of society? Well, possibly, but even if we assume that they’re not, given an environment like sl to explore – an environment without limits and one which can tap into that intelligence and creativity – these are precisely the sort of people who will take the opportunity to express themselves in ways denied to them in rl. For such people, sl is a liberating experience that allows them to escape the cages that rl imposes physically, through societal norms and expectations, and through the need for self-moderation. This is why you can still have a rational conversation inworld about the price of petrol with someone who may look like a giant fairy and have tentacles growing out of their ears.
There are rare occasions when you can see the same process at work in rl – given a situation where anonymity is assured, where the normal ‘rules’ don’t necessarily hold sway and where there is an expectation of the unusual, it can happen. Take an event like Glastonbury – i can pretty much guarantee that the ones high on dope dancing round naked, apart from the body paint, fairy wings and tinfoil hats are those same people who, back in the real world, hold weighty, high-profile or academic style jobs. That’s not to say it’s exclusively the preserve of that sort of person, but i wouldn’t mind betting that the less creative/intelligent bunch are the ones high on dope, wearing hoodies, vomiting, getting themselves locked in porta-loos and stealing your best socks from your tent when you’re not around.
So, don’t knock the crazies when you bump into them in sl; embrace them instead and be thankful that they’ve found an outlet for that wonderful inner person that rarely gets an outing in rl. Coming to think of it… it could so easily be you – i only mention it because, i’ve just realised that my own behaviour in sl is hardly what you might call ‘normal’, unless of course, driving a school bus madly down the street, whilst sporting tattoos of childishly drawn stick people and big smiley faces, all topped off with a lush green wig out of which a large tree and velociraptor are poking would probably be considered less than normal in most circumstances.
Oh dear… i seem to have become ‘interesting’!
My mind holds the key
My body is a…
My body is a cage
Peter Gabriel – My Body Is A Cage