It’s funny how some things can be out of place, but nonetheless are perfectly suited to their situation. This morning, whilst sat waiting for a train, many miles from home, I spotted a little black cat making his way along the opposite platform. He then, very astutely in my opinion, made use of the footbridge to cross to my side, whereupon he carefully traversed the length of the platform, making his way along the white line on its edge as if he owned the place, unconcerned about the people around him or the immanent peril of passing trains. I almost expected him to climb aboard when the train arrived!

Although a cat is certainly not something I’d particularly expect to see parading along a station platform, and it struck me as being a little unusual, somehow he seemed to fit in perfectly… The very archetype of the railway cat.

Those of us acclimatised to SL are well-practiced when it comes to accepting weird and wonderful juxtapositions and the unexpected appearing in otherwise normal situations. We scarcely blink an eye should we come across a vampire at the mall, an exotic dancer on a motorcycle or a talking dog on the dance floor, and very few things that would undoubtedly cause something of a furore if they were to occur in RL succeed in fazing us at all when we’re inworld. Our virtual mindset is far more tolerant to the different and the departure from what might be termed normal than our real world acceptance may be, and I think that we can perhaps learn something from that and when we find our RL selves making assumptions and falling into the trap of unconscious prejudice, we might like to pause a moment and consider how we react in SL to such things first.

In RL I have moved at various times of my live among diverse circles of people. Some might be considered, at the very least, off the wall or niche, whilst others could be thought of as ‘underground’ or subcultures, rather than mainstream and wholesome. I have learned much from those experiences about myself, others, and the world in general, and I’d like to think that I’m pretty tolerant, open-minded and unprejudiced as a result. I’ve also had friends and colleagues over the years who – through no choice of their own – might be considered by society to be different: A construct that only arises out of what people choose to consider as normal or, to be completely frank, majority rule. In other words, in a world where 90% of the population are hexagons, if you’re unfortunate enough to be born a square you are, by default, abnormal.

And yet, no-one would argue that every one of us is unique, and different to every other person; we consider that to be something to be celebrated and embraced, as long as we get to choose to what extent we are prepared to accept that everyone else with whom we come into contact with has that same privilege afforded to them by ourselves. There’s something fundamentally wrong with celebrating our own uniqueness, but avoiding, denigrating, or holding prejudice against those who – whether by choice, or otherwise – do not fit within the confines of our own definition of normal. You can’t have it both ways, yet in the real world, it seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

In life, we will often come across things that appear to be be out of place, like my unexpected railway cat. The trick is to let such occasions become opportunities to expand our own world, rather than moments when we claw ourselves away from reality into our cosy, defined and parochial understanding of the world. The cat has as much right as myself to be walking the platform, just because it’s not something I’ve seen before does not make it abnormal, something to be avoided or ignored – it is an opportunity to question, explore, investigate and learn… Whether we’re talking about cats in odd places, race, gender, disability, faith or talking, dancing dogs.

It’s a principle I’ve learned to embrace in the real world and one which quite definitely holds true in the virtual world too.

s. x

Though he was big and fat,
All the world was good to him,
And he pointed out on the map
All the places he had been
The Kinks – Phenomenal Cat


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