Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Spirituality in Second Life

I really am still researching Second Life. But only every other day, to prevent addiction.
It's very addictive. It's one of those things, for me, where I come home from work, sit down to play in SL for a little while, and the next thing I know it's midnight. It is good, I think, to have such a powerful pastime on one's life, as long as it doesn't take over.

The UU Church of Second Life is getting a lot of publicity, too. Apparently there will soon be an article in USA Today, and in a week or so in the on-line UU world. I was interviewed for the latter, and will make a link here when the story appears.

I volunteered to lead an in-world (second life world, that is) covenant group on Monday evening, instantly had 6 participants, and we had a discussion that left me with some insights. Hopefully the same for others. At the end, there were several attempts to get the Avitars to hug or hold hands, and it really felt good when we managed it. It was a very real connection we made in that hour, and they wanted to symbolize it with real movement. (they also wanted to go on talking, which presumably they did. I had to go.)

I was asked today what the spirituality of Second Life was, and what occurred to me is that there is a spirituality of good conversation and real connection with people, and that spirituality is not in the least dependent on whether the connection happens in person, by letter, or by playing with avitars in virtual reality. That real connection means that things like group moments of silence have all the extra power they do at church. Secondly there's a kind of analogy between Sl and Rl and Sl and spiritual reality that gives SL religious activities special power.

The entry into Second Life has a steep learning curve; moving, talking, creating, have to learn to do it all. You are forever getting completely lost, your camera focused into nothingness, you can't tell the black sky from your black shoe, and on it goes. You're not often quite sure where you are or what you are supposed to be doing.

Learning to pray was a lot like that for me, actually. The Spiritual life is about as "virtual" as a world can come, and I'm mostly lost there, wondering what I am supposed to be doing, as well. Camera always out of focus. Steep learning curve. But in the end, a sense that, despite all appearances, it is really real.


Anonymous said...

I only recently entered the SL world, and just happened to stumble upon a UU church service last night. I was greeted, but sat down outside the service not wanting to disturb the already seated congregation. There was music, a great discussion, humor, intelligence. How incredible is that? The parallels to my own spiritual life are do I find out how to join this church?; but first I have to learn how to hold hands and send instant messages (First I have to figure out my commitment to this world, this church!) -- and how about this one: I have no money (Linden Dollars)! How can I join this church if I have no money...should I even continue to attend and sit outside the service, is it OK to observe,if I'm not going to participate? This cyber journey is indeed strange -- the strangest being that I felt connected to the avatars there....

Christine Robinson said...

Here are some answers to your SL questions.

You join the church by using the search button at the bottom of the screen to search in groups for unitarian church. click on that to see the group card, and then click on "apply".

YOu send instant messages mostly by right clicking people's names above their avitars, then choosing IM.

A little money in SL goes a long way...I think I've spent $8.00 in the past three months...that's about $2,000 in SL. It adds to the fun to have some cash, and once you've given SL money, they give you a weekly allowance. it's ok to observe without donating but you'll enjoy it even more if you do give, just like RL.

Finally, the holding hands is programed into the pillows, so try sitting with the crowd next time and enjoy the feeling of connection.

V said...

Learning to pray was a lot like that for me, actually.

Your comments on UUSL were interesting, but this observation was truly profound. Thank you for adding another dimension of the experience for me!

Berrysmom said...

I'm probably not going to explore SL on my own computer, at least until I retire. But I really appreciate your forays into that congregation, and your sharing on my/our behalf.

I'm over 60 and not altogether tuned in (rarely use my cell phone, though I have one; don't own an iPod), but I see the potential in SL and all sorts of other electronic venues for making important connections and getting out the good word about Unitarian Universalism.

I'm not quite ready to suggest that people be UU's ONLY in SL; I want to see the UUA flourish and our churches grow in numbers of live bodies sitting next to each other. But I do think that the world of electronic media offers tools that we've barely thought about yet, tools that can serve to introduce younger people (and hey, LOTS of people are younger than I am!) to our faith.