A Desert in SecondLife



"Our soul is a place; alas, most of its terrain is already build-up and inhabited."
Unknown Greek Gnostic, around 64 A.C


I happen to enjoy a Gypsy's life; I live in many places, from Los Angeles to London and Milan, and journalists constantly ask me which place I enjoy the most. Where do I spend most of my time, where I am actually "based".

 I find these questions of the most exotic and impossible to respond. I don't think that anyone "lives" in a single location for more than a few hours on a row. Most of us are probably changing places every 10 to 20 minutes.

Space is for humans an equation of our psychological Time - that is our inner time, a digital switch which is completely unrelated with clocks and the such.

It's easy to envision psychological Time because it has only two states, an On and an Off, "open" or "closed". Think of it as the switch of a fountain, we leave it loose and soon there is a flood; everything multiplies and a certain reality flourishes we keep it shut and that reality dries up and disappears.

Sometimes - not always - we control the position of the switch or at least the intensity of the water's flow.

 But we can never control the details of the landscape because it's always generated in the spot. The space we find ourselves in is generated when psychological Time interacts with the characteristics of the many possible scenarios that succeed our each and every choice.
 Say I am on my computer, ready to Mapquest Egypt and in that very moment I also feel a need to go pee. Contemporary Science tell us that in that case, two spaces will materialize in my future; one will be my bathroom and the other - where I ignored my needs and hit the "Go There" button on my keyboard instead, will be Mapquest's Egypt. According to Quantum Physics, I will be in both, or rather, a copy of me will, because the Universe will split into two versions.

 In this sense, there isn't any fixed place such as London or LA - or even our room for that matter - but there are possibilities of such places and its not only by physical traveling that we can turn those chances into reality, but also by mental or simulated traveling. Reading about a place, checking it on a computer, merely thinking of it can bring us there.
Space - our room, a bathroom, a prison's cell or a vast beach, a Museum or a whole Country- are simply Options and ultimately they shouldn't really matter and we should not defend them in any way because we can re-build them out of nothing at any time. Still, we can't ignore psychological Time because it is somehow connected with the flow of events or at least with that flow of events that gives us Reason and Consciousness. What we need to remember though and try to keep ourselves focused on even if we barely can see it is what I call the "Desert".
Desert is where Jesus went before he initiated his celebrated performance as a savior, and it's also the place where irascible spirits like John the Baptist were waiting for him to arrive.

John wasn't just waiting there: he was expecting for someone who could become Jesus and he was determined to baptized him, and in some way "activate" him like when we activate a new software and then its ready to surprise us with what it does.
This should be our position in the Desert, we need to be ready to Baptize and to Activate. Now that we have computers, we are Gods, and we can abolish religion without any second thoughts.  We will need of course to first change our behavior towards our computers and maybe establish a common ground with them, a knowledge that goes beyond us "using" them, and that's what I call Existential Computing.

We will also have to upgrade our ideas on Art and Beauty and find the subliminal state of mind that we can share together with our non-human creations, and I call that State of mind Neen. Some very early samples of Neen can be found already on the interface of certain programs and videogames, on the design of some gadgets and in the courageous website-Art produced by a new generation of artists, architects, web-designers and programmers as well as poets and music composers. But most of them are hardly aware of their own differentiation and easily step back to obsolete solutions, such as Contemporary Art, Telic utilitarian Design, and boring commercial videogames. To make a radical difference, we need to locate, start visiting and learn how to spend time in the Desert.

 This will not be Jesus' desert because times have changed; it will not even be on this planet, or at least it will not be part of what we call real space. Eventually, we will find Desert that confines even with what we call Reality all together, but it's probably too early to start talking about that. Same time next year, when hopefully we'll start digesting the overall surprisingly new descriptions of this Universe, offered by the Large Hadron Collider experiment, we may want to start fantasizing about the nature of the Desert.
 Until then, it may be naïve, of course, to suggest that the Desert is inside the simulation of a videogame, but it's a start, and it feels OK, so I am going to invite you to search for it in one of the most ugly and frustrating environments that Man ever created for himself and his software pals, at Internet's Second Life.


Miltos Manetas, 2008