It's December, the end of the year where the days are getting a a little shorter (well, at least in the Northern Hemisphere – daytime is always three hours long in Second Life). And, it’s a time to think about those things that have been best in life for the last year.
What still makes me happy is the Second Life community that I've been with for the past five years: UUtopia. We find our connection in our interest in the virtual-world technology of SL and our Real Life Unitarian Universalist principles that call us to renounce the ideas that some use to divide our real world, and to support each other as we search for truth and meaning in our lives.
UUtopia is a real community: several of us have met as our circumstances find us travelling around the real world – even those who never imagined they would ever make a real-world connection in Second Life. Like every real community, we've shared in moments of celebration, and have supported each other in circumstances of personal loss and tragedy.
The UUtopia community is the work of a lot of people. Ariel Ventura and Bizarre Berry started the community in 2006. We had set up a sanctuary on the mainland next to Bizarre's shop, then with CoyoteAngel Dimsum moved to a Calendon island, a few living close to each other on the mainland. When the Calendon island we were using was changing owners, Zyzzy Zarf created the UUtopia region where many of us moved together about a 18 months ago.
Lilith Yue set up our bonfire and dancing and drumming circle; Freda Frostbite continues with her meditation and poetry groups; Pomona Writer built her Library of World Religions which has a growing collection of documents to support those who want to taste other religious traditions. A band shell, some dancing platforms, and circles for discussion are scattered in the region. We have a hillside where we remember and think about people and events, past, present, and future.
The people keep changing: a few old friends leave SL and sometimes return, and new friends are always appearing – the community continues on. Avatars come into our lives for a few weeks, touch us as we touch them – and at least once have come in with a new alt so they can be more real. Even with the lag and the (thankfully less-frequent) crashes and the at-times-mysterious user interface, it's the human connection that shines through.
Second Life is an amazing place. Because we are surrounded by it we can lose sight of one uniqueness of what makes SL: an environment which we experience each other from "the inside out." When you first meet an avatar, we know that the person at the keyboard may not really be a dragon or a fox or a robot or a Gorean--the outside appearance is not as important. What we don't see is "the disabled person in the wheelchair" or "the young adult in the house with the abuser" or "the Muslim trying to figure out why people hate her."
What we experience is the person as they want to relate to the world: the dancer or the architect or the poet or the explorer. And sometimes we learn things about our real self: how we handle the griefer or the abuser or the one who espouses hate – and sometimes how we learn how we handle someone who comes to us in real crisis.