Second Life, Real Life, Dreaming Life, Waking Life

Chuang-TzuI’ve been exploring Second Life recently, and continue to be amazed at how compelling and real the emotional experience is. I know that these avatars, including myself, are slightly cartoony 3D-ish figures, but the quality of interaction seems just as real as in, uh, Real Life (which is what SLers call the life you who are reading are in (but what if you’re reading this in Second Life?)). This is a real tribute to brain neuroplasticity (example: an amputee’s phantom limb pain can be reduced by watching a therapist’s arm in the location where their arm would be, which seems to restore missing feedback loops): mirror neurons at work.

Second Life also has a dreamlike quality, partly due to the fact that you can fly in SL, and flying is often associated with flying while lucid dreaming. And in dreams the bodies and forms are as illusory as in Second Life, but also as emotionally real as in waking life. But the brain neuroplasticity example shows that my sense of the reality of my arm in “Real Life” is also illusory!  And then Second Life has further twists, such as the default viewpoint, which is slightly above and behind my avatar – slightly out-of-body.

Add to this Analog Sundays – this is something my wife and I have started doing: no computers on Sundays. That’s also a really interesting, different experience: Third Life? My “Real Life” is actually a mixture of analog and on-line life, so going analog-only for a whole day is a sensory experience in itself.

This is fertile ground for awareness practices such as that of Illusory Body (one of the Six Yogas of Naropa). And reminiscent of the butterfly dream of Chuang-Tzu, where he couldn’t tell if he was Chuang-Tzu dreaming of a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming of Chuang-Tzu. My first, inadvertent experience of lucid dreaming took this form, with the terrifying experience of really not knowing whether I was actually awake or had woken into yet another dream.

The consolation, of course, is the Buckaroo Banzai saying, wherever you go, there you are (although Thomas à Kempis said it in 1440, as have many Buddhists in just so many words over the last 2500 years). Identity: as Bucky Fuller said, I seem to be a verb.

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5 Responses to Second Life, Real Life, Dreaming Life, Waking Life

  1. Mark Szpakowski says:

    PS You might enjoy this Coca Cola Avatar ad which ran during the recent Super Bowl.

  2. Mark Szpakowski says:

    Heh heh, life imitates… second life 🙂

  3. Ezra says:

    The mind which identifies with the body as the source of identity, can easily adopt other forms – notably mental forms – as an alternate basis for the same habit of mis-identification. Until the root is cut, the vines continue to grow.

  4. Mark Szpakowski says:

    the root is already cut
    with its own root nature
    the vines do not grow elsewhere
    than in their own proliferation
    inseparable from that nature

    remembering, recognizing, and sharing that
    is the play of insight / compassion
    that heart of all sentient beings

    (that’s the way uh-huh uh-huh I like it… 🙂

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