One of the benches at my local railway station has a new brass plaque – it’s in memory of a chap who ‘spent many long hours watching the trains at this station’. I’m sure it’s a fitting memorial which would have been much appreciated by the gentleman in question, had he still been around to enjoy it, although I sure that many of the poor souls commuting on a daily basis would be be bemused by anyone wanting to spend a moment longer than necessary at this location, let alone ‘many long hours’! It’s a funny old life, as opposed of course to the alternative, which is rarely considered particularly amusing – death.
Coincidentally, the memorial bench served as a graphic illustration to follow on from this morning’s breakfast reading – an article discussing some of the more novel methods available these days for remembering loved ones. You can now amongst other things – have the burnt, carbonised remains of your nearest and dearest incorporated into a vinyl pressing of recordings from their life, drink from a mug painted with the ashes of the decreased, stick flowers in a vase glazed with their essence, or bling yourself up with diamonds pressed from their remaining carbon.
Whilst the methods may be modern, such attempts to capture a lasting tribute to those departed, are not. I vividly remember stepping inside Christies’ London auction house a couple of years ago and being fascinated by a collection of Victorian memento mori, which included such delights as pictures of the dead, woven from their hair and other such tangible fragments of those who had shuffled off their mortal coil. Even if we’re not disposed to the preservation of the physical evidence of those expired, throughout history we’ve attempted to capture their memory through stone, paint and prose.
Inevitably, we tend to follow the same conventions in SL too – we are, after all, human beings whose emotions don’t cease to function simply because we’ve logged in, and we do form friendships, attachments and relationships through the medium of SL. Indeed, the virtual world situation can be somewhat more complex, since our knowledge of those who may disappear from virtual life may be such that we may never know whether they have simply quit SL, popped out for an extended lunch or gone to that great cloud server in the sky – ‘The Big Quiet’. Sometimes, because of such uncertainty, along with the transient nature of the virtual world, the only memorial we may keep to ‘departed’ friends will be a poignant profile pick, an album of images, maybe a landmark that no longer points to anywhere… Perhaps the perfect allegory to illustrate departure from an inworld existence?
There are are however more public, tangible inworld reminders of SLives now passed. I’ve seen some incredibly moving tributes to those who have logged out permanently from both lives, including people I’ve known and shared time with myself. A club where you’ll find a chair that will always belong to its absent incumbent; an obelisk or flame dedicated to a much-loved resident; a garden of memories of those who are no longer with us; even whole sims put aside for the celebration of lives now over.
Some may think it odd, even distasteful, but grief and loss – even in a virtual world – need to be acknowledged and dealt with, and in a world where you can live your life however you wish, I don’t think anyone can be critical of how we choose to remember those whose virtual lives are now over. It’s not morbid, it’s part and parcel of being.
And, with that in mind, I can’t help wondering what my inworld legacy will be… Will somebody build a statue to me, light a candle or put my picture in their profile? I’d like to think someone might, but failing that, maybe just a virtual brass plaque, on a virtual bench somewhere, with a pithy inscription:
“In memory of Seren, now permanently lagged”
“We live to dance another day,
It’s just now we have to dance for one more of us,
So stop looking so damn depressed,
And sing with all our hearts, long live the Queen”
Frank Turner – Long Live The Queen