Some of life’s greatest pleasures can be amongst the simplest ones. I’m not talking about the sort of pleasures that come at a price, or those manufactured moments designed with pleasure in mind. It’s those often unexpected joys that are fleeting and often very personal, but which give us a lift, ease our day and bring a smile to our faces.
The smell of new-mown grass, that moment you fall into a freshly-made bed, the first draught of an ice-cold cider in the summer sun, the feel of a cat snuggling up to you – all fleeting, but immensely enjoyable nonetheless. One of my particular favourites is to hear the falling rain outside, whilst I remain cosy and dry – even better, to hear and smell the rain through an open window, as was the case as I lay in bed one morning recently.
To me, it’s such a relaxing, soothing sound – the soft patter of raindrops upon rooftops, the swish of the leaves in the rain and and the splash of puddles – I love it. It’s such a comforting feeling, knowing that it’s all happening just within reach, but I’m safe and dry, and warm.
I suppose there are some things that simply can’t be replicated in SL – the sort of experiences that connect at a very fundamental level with our senses, emotions and deeply rooted feelings of wellbeing. Certainly there are many things that SL can be extraordinarily good at when it comes to making us feel good: There are a vast array of pleasurable sensations that the virtual world can stimulate, whether it’s the good times shared amongst friends, the fun of exploration and roleplay, the satisfaction of creating, the enjoyment of the sights and sounds that surround us, or the million and one other stimuli that abound within. But do any of them achieve what those simplest of incidental, accidental, serendipitous moments of pure bliss that RL chooses to gift us can do, like a great big snuggly hug, when we most need it?
I doubt it – it’s one of the fundamental differences between the virtual and real worlds that some things are, by their very nature, no matter how well replicated, unique to RL. Which is not to say that sometimes we can’t be caught off guard inworld and encounter something that very nearly approximates that special feeling, just as happened to me recently whilst wandering around my own little patch of virtual paradise.
Nowhere Land has its own weather, designed to mirror my real world location: When it snows in RL here, it’s snowing in Nowhere Land; when the rain falls outside my windows, the puddles are forming inworld too; and, when it’s sunny here… actually that may be a bit optimistic! However, this being SL, synchronicity isn’t a particularly reliable characteristic, and I’m frequently surprised by unexpected rain showers, blizzards and the occasional meteor storm when I log in, which is how I materialised recently in the midst of an inworld spring shower, whilst outside the sun was blazing down. No big deal, it’s not as if I was going to catch a cold, or need to towel myself dry in front of the fire and it certainly didn’t stop me going for a stroll in the garden.
And then, it happened.
The audio stream dropped, and suddenly I became aware of the ambient sounds surrounding me: The gentle patter of raindrops on greenery. And unexpectedly, I found myself pausing, caught up in the moment, just like the real thing. I could almost smell the damp earth… feel the moist air. It was – just a little bit – extraordinary.
Just let the red rain splash you
let the rain fall on your skin
I come to you defences down
with the trust of a child
Peter Gabriel – Red Rain