Notes from the Waxhaws


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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

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