Friday, August 24, 2007

Shift

I am sitting here, at something like 3:30 in the morning, just hours before fall convocation...some, of much, of which I will surely miss. That is okay, as the meetings run all day, and I will sit my butt in hard wood seats plenty. That first day, the Friday before classes begin, is often my least favorite day of the entire year. I do not know how other people hold down normal jobs, where meetings all day long are normal, perhaps good, as they pull one from the cubicle.

But now I sound silly.

So much has changed in my old online community. Hence the title, Shift. So much has changed for me.

Looking at my last couple of posts, I see a certain agony, and a certain something almost priggish. That last is an odd word. What is Second Life that it has derailed a blog habit I had, and shared, for something like two years? What have I done in the cartoon world? That could keep me writing until dawn.

I spent a lot of time using sl weapons systems, bonding over the combat in that potent esprit de corps which holds all fighting communities together, from martial arts schools to online ones where all the fighting is done with fingers on keys. Being good with weapons on sl provides a strange sensation: power, security, competence. One senses wherever one goes in that vast landscape, one can take care of oneself. The reality is not so precise, but there it is. Also, it is fun just to learn, to get better, to acquire new skills in a supportive environment. Usually, that is how it has been. We call that fighting with Honor: keep a good attitude, encourage each other always, lose and win well. Below that, or above it, as I have noted above, is the sense that one could throw down if required at any time in the role play communities I inhabit. I never have....except for one mini battle months ago, but that readiness is frankly an extension of my rl (or real world) personality. It grows exponentially in sl, as most things do.

When I was a boy, I had complex, serial fantasies. I was a spy, with a secret support staff and espionage electronics in my attic....I would stop activities to go into the closet to send and receive special communiques....these fantasies would continue for weeks, even months. Develop plot lines. And always, soothe. I do not know if this is true for the thousands of others who role play in sl, but that cartoon world has become a very creative, and truly interactive, extension of that childhood habit, and of my personality as it is and as I'd like it to become.

For I am genuinely a nice guy, temper in the game notwithstanding. I try to act in a loving way, in a way which uplifts all those I interact with. And in the community where I own land and live, where I actually bear a title now, the people are not college students blowing off exams, they are for the most part adult professionals, sharp, unbelievably creative, and I live and move there wrapped in an aura of principle. I don't know how else to put it. I live there, where decisions are less complex perhaps, in a sea of chivalry and Honor and comedy.

Forgive if this post drifts, those friends who will eventually stumble back here and read this someday, some week, some month even. It is late, and I cannot rewrite. Or early in the diurnal scheme, which for me is much worse.

Sitting here and writing, though, is so refreshing. This is not role play. This is not a projection of my personality, whose positive, even prodigous reputation I sit back and bask through and in. This is the real guy. Stripped of the fantasy, grand as it can be, close as it can be to my real personality and that of those around me. And I have to ask, what negative things has sl brought to my life?

For one, lack of fitness! My back is now for the most part healed (but still now 100) and I had two pretty tough workouts this week, trying to pare the 10 pounds, maybe more, I gained laying around all winter and then discovering sl. I have long needed exercise to mood manage, and have taken pleasure in developing my body, in learning martial arts, in the incredible release of cardio work. I've missed too many workout sitting in front of the cartoon screen, and I miss it and want my body back. Not in appearance, I mean, but just the sense of my body, working as it should, straining and healing. The heart thumping over time, lending me a peace I know almost no other way.

For two, I have quit blogging for months, though I never abandoned this site. I would have posted a note, if I had. Ideas for blog continue to flit through my head. And though I bemoaned the lack of responses, the fact is I know I was regularly heard by at least five very amazing people: Chris, Scott, Sherry, Romy, Amanda. And others, I am sure. What a priviledge that was. One I have taken for granted. For now I see not all are blogging as they once did either. Chris, yes, still going off. Sherry. But what has happened to Romy's site? Scott is not posting much. Funkiller has resigned, tragically, and I have not spoken to him since his move. The Fellowship seems to have broken, or moved on to other fellows. Or, dare I say, to real life.

I have stories I never finished here. Estella's for one. The story of my own suffering and recovery was never really written. I danced around it, but never put it down. I cried out here, and I wrestled here with ideas, striving to understand why I can and should have faith in Christ, in light of issues with scripture, the problem of suffering, the random nature of death and life in human experience. Did I get answers? Some. But then I left, abruptly, and have not considered many of these questions for six months. Do I still have doubt, and question? Oh yes.

For that is another thing sl has taken from me. Though I live there as a Christian, complete with iconography and an attempt to live by Christian values, (oddly complemented by all the weapons play) I have fallen out of faith practice in many ways. In the Episcopal church chalice bearers are called EM's, or Eucharistic Ministers. I can hardly describe the spiritual force of giving communion to the parish a couple months ago, my first time as an EM. I do it again soon. And yet that spiritual reality, for there is no better word, was sandwiched amidst hours of role play online a week....buying land, buying a house, shopping for furniture and art (hey, don't laugh, I have a nice place...you all are invited). I have good friendships in sl, a few of genuine power. And serious topics come up in discussion, including religion at times. But the immersive power of the cartoon world somehow has seperated me from more authentic spiritual sense. It is not true for everyone there. It may not always be true for me. But sitting in an sl chapel cannot, cannot, compare to the real thing (and now my dear wife calls out, at 4, are you coming back to sleep...she probably thinks I'm in sl).

One thing I'll say is that my weekly time there has slowly diminished. The occasional six hour day (yep, I said six....during break between terms, left home all alone for the day....it has happened) has been cut in half. It's not good for my back sitting that long. I have learned to make better use of my time while in there.

There are times I have thought all is vanity, vanity, and what does it matter if I spend hours a week in an avatar. There are times I think my own principles of life, charity and service, are compromised by doing so. Sure I have given of myself in sl, personally, financially, even spiritually....but again, is is the same?

Now I truly begin to tire. A good use of blog. The lullaby of the soft keystroke concerto.

My wife will sleep better if I am beside her, and she is up at 6.

I have enjoyed this, and I have barely begun to cover the ground I need to cover here. In general, I am well. My marriage gets stronger in fits and starts as I learn, slowly, what it means to really love a person. My greatest phobia of all, flying, was faced this summer as I flew seven times on two different vacations. I saw places I never thought I'd see: namely, the midwest and DC. What an accomplishment that was, flying; I cannot even say. My son is very much a teenager, and I grieve the loving little boy he once was, but also see that same boy beneath the surface of his frustration and enormous energy. I am lucky to be alive. Mostly healthy. Still able to think. My birthday comes up soon; I will be 43. Every year I count a gift, now, as I have seen some younger than me go. Where did they go? I admit, right now, I am not sure.

All my NT work, Wright's second book, has been on hold since sl. It has been a nice break, under the pressure of my wife' grad school schedule and the ton of housework I do to supplement. She is doing very well in her program, and is in her final year.

Oh, I am still a pretty good teacher. I look forward to seeing those little buggers next week :)

But now, I must sleep. I'd like to see myself posting once a week, or at most every two weeks...beginning the blog again. How odd it is to find such little material at Romy's site, but maybe I don't understand how it works now. How reassuring, to see Sandalstraps still doing his thing. I used to see blog as a step away from real intimacy, an attempt to have it in spite of where I lived and my busy schedule. Believe me, this is pretty damned real. I miss it. May God give me the grace to pick it up, eve just a little, this semester.

Love to each of you. Miss you all.