Happy New  Year, 2021
Happy New Year, 2021

Happy New Year, 2021

Here are the front and back images and the inner text from the New Year’s card I sent to SL friends on 1 January 2021.

public art in virtual worlds

This Magic Moment

In Inception dreamers come together to share a dream.

In Second Life avatars come together to… share a dream!

This avatar realm can feel very natural, yet it is not our most basic state of being. We were born in a corporeal realm and one day we will die there.

Along the way some of us tie pointe shoes on our feet and experience a kind of flight. Some of us strap scuba tanks on our backs and experience the weightless wonder of the undersea realm. And some of us login to SL where we share almost limitless experiences both grand and simple.

At some point we retire to that corporeal realm from which we were born. There is a last time for dancing on pointe, even if you didn’t know it was the last time until later. There comes a day when you look at the scuba gear in the garage that you haven’t used in years and wonder if you should finally part with it. And be it through new and different activities, our own mortality, or SL’s mortality, we will at some point leave the magic of this virtual world.

The ecstatic moments of godlike dancing on pointe, or swimming through the cathedral-like sunbeams of a kelp forest, or regularly experiencing the “Impossible IRL” in Second Life, are not somehow less because one day they will end. They are extraordinary because they ever happened at all.

It is worth making the effort to take a moment when you login, or arrive at an event, to appreciate that this may be the last time you ever see a friend. Not to create a sense of fragility or foreboding, but simply to appreciate how special this world and the people here are. When we do something day after day it can seem normal. But being alive is not “normal”! It is the most extraordinary of exceptions! The chances of you and I experiencing our few moments of aliveness in a universe of infinite time, at the same time, is incredible.

I know one day this dream, like all dreams, will end.

It is our mortality that makes us cherish being alive.

I don’t “hate” 2020 the way some people are now expressing. Sickness, death, economic hardship, isolation, demagogues, George Floyd. Yes, 2020 has been a turbulent and challenging year. Wanting to blame our troubles on “2020” and hope that 2021 brings better things is understandable. I don’t really begrudge anyone their “fuck you 2020” if it eases their pain. Still, I worry that blaming our human experience on our planet, or it’s last orbit of our star, is not helpful. Pouring all our frustration, suffering and hate into Ares, or Palpatine, or 2020 might feel good. But it’s too easy. And takes agency away from ourselves.

Climate change, homelessness, misogyny, racism, the gap between rich and poor, they’re all on us. Headaches and death are not on us, they’re just a part of being alive.

2019 was a difficult year for me personally. I lost both my mother and my pet chihuahua in 2019. I thought 2020 would be an easier year. For me, 2020 has been “easier”, or less filled with personal challenge and grief. For humankind, it’s been a difficult year. Pain is one way we know we are alive. It shapes who we are. There is the pain of sickness, the pain of isolation, and the pain of financial hardship. But there is also the pain of our mistakes. The pain of love lost. The pain of paths not taken. We can’t just deposit all that in Ares, Palpatine, or 2020.

So, Happy New Year!

I won’t say that “I wish” for 2021 to bring you anything. Instead, I will say that I encourage both you and I to find in these next 365 chances whatever we choose. Perhaps it will be wonder, or discovery, or creativity, or new insights. Magnificent dreams. Moments, large, small, and occasionally magical.

Thank you for sharing this dream, this magic moment, with me!

I love you,

Vanessa Blaylock's signature

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