Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gone, But Not Forgotten

I started this post a while ago and had forgotten about it, until I visited Phay last night who reminded me that tomorrow is a day of remembrance in world. Phay is volunteering her time to help make the day a success.

(started on 5 April 2008)

I rarely read the official blog of, well, of the world where I live (thank you new ToS because of which, to cover my own ample ass, I am no longer referring to certain trademarks) but I saw a recent post about a day of remembrance in world on April 17th. Predictably, it has generated a lot of negative emotion, judging from the comments. I'm appalled that people would (a) attack the person who thought of this idea and (b) attack the person who was the impetus for the idea. What the hell is the matter with you people? I realize that many of you have an ingrained knee-jerk reaction to anything sanctioned by our corporate overlords, but carping about someone thinking there should be a day to remember those who have departed this world? Please.

The objections to a day of remembrance range from the moderately sensible (a random date should have been chosen rather than the rl birthday of the person a friend wanted honored) to the bizarre (how do we know the person has really died?). I'd like to address the latter question, because it encompasses a number of issues that have been floating around in my head but I haven't tried to organize systematically.

Our world progresses concurrently with real life (RL). They're not joined universes--an action in RL doesn't necessarily have a concomitant effect in this one--but the AV of a close friend leaving the world with the RL person behind the AV surviving qualifies as, if not the equivalent of death, a significant emotional trauma. We've all had people disappear from this world and for me the reasons are unimportant as is the RL status of the departed. Now I hear what you're saying. You're saying, "But Dot, people can reappear under new names so it's hard to say if someone is really and truly gone so why should I care?" I don't have a good answer for this. I suppose I don't feel the same way about people who announce they are leaving the world because I know RL takes precedence and the announcement gives some time for emotional buffering. But just disappearing? As a friend said to me "the unknown is almost always more difficult to deal with."

I may be unusual in that I take the position that there is no reason to think that the relationships developed here are any less significant than those in RL. How many friends do you have that you haven't seen in years but correspond via phone or email on regular basis? Is that different than talking with friends you've made here? I've made wonderful friends in world, friends who support me, encourage me, and take an interest in my well being. Does the fact that they're not available to come over and help me move my apartment make them less real?

The wellspring of these emotional responses is worth exploring. I try to separate one world from the other but the two always seem to blend, often in unpredictable ways. As much as we might try to be one way in world, RL personality always seems to bleed through. Sometimes this can be jarring: I have a number of female friends in world who are men in RL (my one tip for guys trying to pass as women in world? Never, ever, say "sup?" I don't think I've ever heard a female friend of mine say that. You might also want smaller breasts, lose the interest in guns and motorcycles, and the preoccupation with certain sexual acts.) Other times RL incursion is much more subtle but in the end it is easy to lose sight of the AV mediating our experiences and begin to identify the RL person behind the AV as the AV itself. The net result is that even though someone might disappear from this world, they are likely still out there in RL, and this can be hard to accept. Our emotional sides keep saying "If they were really my friend, they'd still be here. Mourn them? Hell no!"

Ultimately, there are people who I've met along the way who are no longer in world, and I miss them and the joy they brought me--I've read books they've suggested, listened to their music, tried new things. A dear friend suggested to me that their status is more like that of a missing person than having died. While I understand that philosophically, if your emotional bonds were strong enough you're eventually going to have move "missing" to "dead" (as in not returning) and we all know that the longer the former, the more likely the latter.

I often think how long can this world continue? Will I be here a year from now? Five years from now? What becomes of the emotion I've invested? Of the emotion invested in me? In RL I am not Dot Lane but in some very basic ways I am--she is a subset of me, my own creation. I keep asking myself, "Who will miss Dot when she's gone?" And for that reason not only do I want to remember those no longer with me, but also to say thank you to everyone who soldiers on with me now. We're in an odd position: people, yet not people. Here, but elsewhere. Pixel projections of our idealized selves, yet always constrained by our human emotions. We've shared experiences, all of us, and the little pieces of ourselves we've given and received have made our real lives richer. Why wouldn't we feel the loss?


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