(This is a reworking of a private article I wrote a while ago for my Second Life colleagues. If you’re looking for the promised follow-up to my weekend “grouchy” post, I expect to post it tomorrow or Thursday, along with an explanation for some of the cognitive dissonance that’s crept into this blog in the past year. Thanks to all who have written me about my “grouchy” post — your comments and conversations have been very helpful. And yes, I’m still grouchy.)
I sponsor and belong to an Intentional Community in Second Life, an island that is so realistic and so beautiful that we have had film crews use it as a setting for animated productions. Cheryl and I set it up to learn about (and to the extent possible in a virtual world, practice) the principles and challenges of intentional community (i.e. a group of people living and/or working together towards a common purpose).
With all I have on my plate in real life, and given that I am so fortunate in all I have and all I have experienced, I am often asked why I am willing to spend time and money in Second Life, a virtual world, a place that is ‘not real’.
My answer comes down to my ‘Sweet Spot’ — where my Gifts (what I am particularly good at doing), my Passions (what I love doing), and my Purpose (what is needed in the world that I care about), all intersect. Over the past six years I have learned a great deal about myself, about how the world really works, and about some possible better ways to live and make a living. I’ve learned that I am meant to do eleven things, things that are at or near to this ‘Sweet Spot’. I’ve also learned that there is no such thing as mastery; there is only practice. So I spend my ‘real’ life, as much as possible, practicing doing these eleven things.
What I’ve discovered is that Second Love is a wonderful place to practice doing these things, in ways that are often not possible in ‘real’ life. Here’s a brief summary of these things, and how they apply in Second Life.
- Exploring and Discovering: Second Life has thousands of sites, each the invention of its creators, that represent every conceivable geography and biology, not restricted by what can exist in the real world. It also has, at any point in time, sixty thousand people, most of them quite bright, most of whom are looking to meet people who share their interests, ideas and passions.
- Reflecting and Imagining Possibilities: In Second Life you can create anything you can imagine. You can take tranquil walks among some of the most stunning scenery imaginable, and think, meditate, conceive, refresh, and see from a completely different perspective. And you can co-create, with others, what you imagine collectively.
- Writing: Some of the conversations that have been written here, typed out one line at a time together, are masterpieces of collective thinking, creativity, collaboration, romance and imagination.
- Loving: In every sense — intellectual, emotional, sensual, erotic, spiritual — our island is a place to find and express and ‘make’ love. You can fall in love in Second Life, perhaps more quickly and deeply than in ‘real’ life. And that love is real.
- Learning: This is a place where you can learn by teaching, by showing, by studying, and by just trying things out for yourself. It is, perhaps, the future of higher education. It’s a place where you can learn about the most important things for the future of our world: collaboration, consensus, community, conversation, and love.
- Conversing: No matter what language you speak, or how articulate you are, here you can practice being a better conversationalist, sharing ideas and feelings and knowledge and beliefs with others, with the written word, voice, music, art, and movement.
- Sensing and Being Present: Second Life is a dynamic place, with much happening at the same time. It requires you to learn to pay attention, to focus, to ‘listen’ for nuances in conversations. Presence is about the capacity to ‘let go’ and then ‘let come’, and here you can do both, powerfully.
- Playing: Although some denizens of Second Life get too concerned with rules and procedures and roles, Second Life was created as a place for play, and play is how all creatures learn best. We all need more fun in our lives, and this place makes that possible, even inevitable.
- Coaching and Showing: Second Life is a great equalizer — almost everything is free or nearly so, so what has value here in this world of abundance is the one thing that is scarce, and that we all have the same amount of — our time. What we give to others, with our time and our energy and our hearts, determines what we get out of this remarkable place.
- Self-managing: Second Life can be addictive, and heart-breaking, and one of the things we learn to ‘survive’ here is how to manage our time, our emotions, and how to give vent to our ideas in a constructive and disciplined way. We can learn to be more self-aware, self-knowledgable, and ultimately more self-sufficient here, which is a skill we’re going to need in the real world.
- Building working models: Our ‘real’ world is fragile, broken and full of struggle and suffering. Second Life gives us a place to build small-scale ‘models’ of a better way to live and make a living, collaboratively in community with those we love. The future of our ‘real’ world may well depend on the types of working model we construct first in places like this.
So now you know why I love Second Life, and why I spend time here. To all my Second Lifers: Thank you for the important work you do here. You have made, and continue to make, our island a place of astonishing beauty, joy, communion and discovery. So take a bow, beloved friends — you are a part of something very important, a model for others to follow, one that is evolving, innovatively, collaboratively, to be something magical, and wondrous.
(If you want to know more about what we do in Second Life, you can endure my very amateurish and low-res first YouTube video — 10 minutes long.)