Am I getting older, or just more aware of time passing? Ruling out the fact that it would take a fundamental change to the rules of physics for it to be possible for me not to be getting older, I’m bound to conclude that I am indeed ageing, and it’s quite likely that I’m becoming more aware of the passage of time as a direct consequence of that unfortunate fact.
An awful lot of people whom I ‘grew up with’ – although thankfully, not my contemporaries, seem to be shuffling off their mortal coil in recent years though. Singers, actors, and other figures from my formative years seem to be dropping like flies lately, whilst others who remain fresh-faced and young in my mind’s eye, suddenly seem to have become terribly, terribly old. Debbie Harry is 70, Cindy Lauper is 62 and Billy Connolly is 72… When on earth did that happen? Scary stuff.
Many of us have had that rather embarrassing moment when someone has pulled out a photo album or old videotape and we’ve been subjected to seeing a younger, more obnoxious self – gawky, awkward and toe-curlingly awful, but there must also come a time in life, when the seconds have ticked away and we look back at ourselves when we were younger, fitter and far more capable and wonder to ourselves where it all went?
The problem is, the march of time is relentless and unforgiving and – try as we might – we can’t fight it forever: We can elect to grow old gracefully, or disgracefully, but grow old we will. At least we can do so in the knowledge that it need not all be in vain – those faces and voices from screen and recording studio who are no longer with us leave their legacy in the form of their art, as do those no less of note but without the fame whose lives have touched our own in some fashion. Friends, relatives and acquaintances who live on in our memories and who, in so many ways have left their mark upon the world – our world – even though they may no longer be part of it.
There is a permanence to real life, even though our time here may be short. The same is true of the world around us – there is something reassuring in knowing that though we may change over time, some things are far more permanent. Recently I came across film footage of the building I work from – the film was made over 70 years ago, yet nothing has changed, and I’m guessing nothing will change for the next 70 years either. Indeed, although scenery does change, there will frequently be elements that endure, sometimes for centuries and they can exert a profound effect on us: A visit to our childhood home can bring a leap to our hearts and a tear to our eye when we recognise a long-forgotten feature – I like that about the world.
Sadly, the same is not true of SL, where impermanence is the order of the day. Few things remain as they once were, and when time and tide steal away the treasured places and people around which we build our virtual world there is a very real sense of loss. We know that when something is lost from SL, it is lost for good and it is a rare thing indeed for anything of substance to remain – we have only memories and pictures.
Many of my inworld friends are veterans of SL – and over the years they have seen many changes and experienced many losses. Sometimes they’ll reminisce of their days hanging out at the Liverpool sim, or the good times they shared with friends long gone, and I’ll listen in, wishing I’d been to the places they once knew and spent time with those avatars from the past. But I know they are gone. All gone.
There is a shrine in Ise, Japan that has been in existence for around 2000 years, yet it is fundamentally impermanent – every 20 years it is torn down before being rebuilt from scratch; a profound and optimistic acceptance that impermanence is in the very nature of things, yet transcending that impermanence is a continuity and enduring quality that never fades. It’s all too easy to become sentimental about the changing nature of SL, yet that is the nature of the beast; there is a huge temptation to try and recapture, even reconstruct the past, but that really isn’t the solution. Instead, we rebuild – not the past, but the present – we create the sims that others will look back on with fondness, and the avatars that, in years to come, will be talked about with a smile.
In doing so, we live the present and create the future’s past… that’s not such a bad thing to be remembered for.
Some were born to greatness,
Some were born to die
Never knowing the difference
Never knowing why
Some were born to change the world
Some never even try
Jarvis Cocker & Richard Hawley – Born To Cry