The great leveller

Death is supposed to be the great leveller – it’s hardly something that’s likely to lift the spirits though, and although there might be a wry sense of natural justice in knowing that at the end of the day we’re all equal, it’s really a little bit too late to derive any real sense of  satisfaction from it. Ideally, what we’d really like is to see a bit more levelling in the time that we’ve been blessed with before the stub end of our lives are consigned to the ashtray of the eternal. Sadly, that tends not to be the way of the world and inequality, injustice and downright bad fortune tend to be very much the order of the day.

Reality can, at times, be a bit of a bummer.

That’s not to say that virtual reality is necessarily any better – after all, you’re going to find pretty much the same people occupying the virtual world as you find in the real world – there’s not some magical script that changes people for the better when they enter the pixelverse. Just as in the real world, you’ll find rich and poor, privileged and disadvantaged, the good, the bad and the ugly in probably much the same proportions in sl. Nevertheless, i’ve always thought that sl puts us all on a much more level footing than the real world ever will and, despite our circumstances, whether they be chosen or imposed upon us, sl strips away much of the inequality that exists in rl.

In fact, i’d go so far as to say, it’s perfectly reasonable to assert that there can be circumstances in rl that create an almost insurmountable barrier, yet they are are of almost no consequence once we enter the virtual world. This faith i have in the virtual world as a powerful leveller was twice reaffirmed this week by two completely separate accounts that i came across – i’d be lying if i said that both pieces didn’t bring a lump to my throat, (well, maybe a little tear too), although not only in the sentimental ‘aww… isn’t that lovely’ sense, but also because they were inspirational pieces that demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, that something as abstract and insubstantial as a virtual world can be the most profound and remarkable enabler in a real world that is harsh, uncaring and takes no prisoners.

The first account i came across in Wagner James Au‘s book, ‘The Making of Second Life’. i’m afraid that i can often feel fairly antagonistic towards Hamlet and don’t always see eye to eye with what he says, (i daresay he would probably say the same about me!), but if there’s one thing that he can talk about with real first-hand, experiential authority and insight, it’s the people of sl, particularly the people – and the avatars – who have made sl the unique and remarkable place that it is. One such avatar is Wilde Cunningham.

Fortunately, Hamlet reproduces the story in his blog – so you don’t have to buy the book, although you really should… it’s good! i suggest you go there and read it right now, otherwise you won’t have a clue what i’m on about…

The Wilde Cunningham story isn’t just about triumph over adversity – although it most certainly is that – it’s also a real demonstration of how sl can overturn otherwise insurmountable real world obstacles, enabling those who in rl are disadvantaged because of circumstance to have the same advantages, opportunities and chances as any other person in sl – the level playing field that is denied to them in rl. The other, quite remarkable aspect of the story is how sl became the glue that brought nine people together in such a way that they were able to collaboratively work towards a mutually beneficial goal that, individually, they would never have been capable of attaining – i find that particularly inspiring. So often we talk of the collaborative nature of sl, but in many ways it is inward-looking and has only limited impact outside the virtual environment – here is an example of just how sl can inspire collaboration outside the virtual world, to remarkable effect. By the way, Wilde Cunningham writes too – why not pick up their work, inworld, and gain some insight into other lives, that many of us are fortunate never to have experienced? You’ll find their words challenging in many ways. Thank you, John S., Micah, Scott, Danny, John G., Johanna, Mary, Nichole and Charlene… you rock!

It’s not often that i find anything particularly inspirational in the official sl blog – usually quite the opposite, if i’m honest – however, my second account comes from guest blogger, Treacle Darlandes and, motormouth though i may be, i don’t intend to say a single thing about her piece… it says it all, and far more besides. You really must read it – right now.

That, my friends is what i’m talking about: for the great many of us, sl is just a distraction from the real world, an engaging diversion but, for others, it is a life that is denied to them in the real world. i really don’t know how many Wildes and Djduerers there are in sl, and i really have no desire to know – because here, for once, is a world where we all stand on equal terms… and that is, quite simply, the way it should be.

s. x

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… 
John Lennon – Imagine 

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