Archive for October 2012


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Avatar: In computing, an avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user’s alter ego or character.

~ Wikipedia

When I first casually entered alphaworld on a whim, nearly sixteen years ago, it took a while to realize that each of the cartoonish characters loitering around ground zero in that three-dimensional virtual world had some sort of intelligence animating them. And the more time I spent in that strange world, the more it began to fit together and become an alternate version of life…and a novel way to explore the relationships that develop between people. The avatars that people chose as their personae within alphaworld were highly stylized, imperfect representations of who they actually were in real life. There was a high level of indirection going on here. Each avatar was a pointer…to use computer programming jargon…that merely pointed to an intelligence in some other dimension. The intelligence behind the avatar that was standing right in front of you, engaging you in conversation by typing text messages, could in reality, be anywhere…France…Canada…Australia…California. One thing I learned in this world was that one couldn’t take others at face value…that beneath this seemingly simplistic and sanitized…and anonymous…virtual world lurked another, more vastly complex and intricate dimension waiting to be explored. So…I explored…and eventually met my late wife Sharon in that world. The two very different worlds collided in a manner of speaking…bleeding over into each other.

I happened to think of all this again recently while reading through John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara. In Gaelic, anam cara means soul friend. While it’s possible for one person to be the intimate soul friend of another, it’s also possible for us to be a soul friend to our own soul. O’Donohue writes that…

Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No one else can bring you news of this inner world.

When reading this passage once again, along with recent thoughts of my former travels in alphaworld, it finally connected in my mind…the proverbial light bulb over the head (I have to admit…I’m a bit slow when pondering the meaning of such topics such as the human soul, and by other’s standards, this may be a bit late in coming). But…I thought it to be a good analogy. Are we, in this present reality, imperfect representations of who…or what…we really are? Avatars that point to our real selves…our souls…that exist in some fantastic and unimaginable other dimension? This thought has given me pause, when I look at other people around me…people with whom I interact on a daily basis. What incomprehensible…and precious… inner worlds do these people hold within themselves?

When exiting from alphaworld, it was usually customary to type in the word poof…letting others know that you were leaving. I know from experience that after poofing out of virtual existence…when my avatar vanished from sight before everyone’s virtual eyes…there still was an I that remained in this present reality.


Written by Jim

October 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Still life

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…with Pomeranian.


Written by Jim

October 14, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Dogs, Pictures, Pomeranians

The best of days

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On the best of days, life itself turns into a prayer. Sitting on the porch on this glorious October day in the Carolinas…gazing out at the dark cedars, the sweet gums, the pines…all manner of plants and animals, bathed in the warmth of the sun. Orange fritillaries skipping between flowers. A sudden, invisible burst of breeze sends tiny white seedpods  sailing into the air…performing a chaotic ballet before my eyes…and then slowly drifting into the distance in search of a place to put down roots. A small green anole lizard basks in the sun on the porch railing. The hoarse, plaintive  whispering of a Phoebe. All under an azure sky streaked with cirrus clouds high above.

These are all living things…and the sheer amount…and diversity of life that surrounds me is overwhelming…astounding. I realize that I’m not alone.

Written by Jim

October 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Time passages

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Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages.

~Al Stewart, Time Passages

There are moments in life when the reality that we’ve known slips out from under us…replaced by a new reality that is essentially the same…but with slight differences. Differences so small…and seemingly insignificant enough…to make us wonder whether any change  has occurred at all. But these minute changes color everything going forward. It reminds me of a story by Ursula Le Guin called The Lathe of Heaven, about a man whose dreams affected reality. After awakening from one of his dreams, the world would be changed, unbeknownst to everyone else who blithely went about their lives  as if nothing had happened.

After awakening early this morning, I was sitting in bed with my cup of coffee, listening to Living on Earth on a local NPR radio station. They were talking about the Fall migration of Canada Geese. It brought back fond memories of the large flocks of geese that would pass through and occasionally put down on the small lake that we lived nearby in Northern Illinois. There would be a cacophonous honking as they made their brief stopovers.

They then started talking about the migration of Cackling Geese. Cackling Geese? I rummaged through my somewhat still groggy brain cells…but couldn’t quite recall any details of that particular species. It was only when they mentioned that Cackling Geese were once thought to be a diminutive sub-species of the well known Canada Goose species that my memory was somewhat jogged awake. Evidently, in 2004, the Cackling Goose species was split from the Canada Goose species, based upon differences in DNA. I’ve always had more than a passing interest in birds, but somehow this had escaped my radar.

So…my reality changed this morning. Sure…it’s nothing momentous…but just another indication that things are constantly changing…whether or not we’re aware of them . Other such things have caught me somewhat unawares in the past. I vaguely recall when Pluto was demoted from being a planet. And I was somewhat recently shocked to hear that the Milwaukee Brewers were now in the National League, playing the Cubs on a regular basis, instead of their old arch-rivals the White Sox. But this goose thing…I never saw it coming.

Written by Jim

October 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm