Monday, October 15, 2007
Gods and Godlings
An artist in Second Life named Torin Golding created an entire Roman Sim from the era of Caesar Augustus. It is extremely detailed and accurate in most respects. One actually does have a sense of revisiting ancient Roma, apart from other visitors from various times and cultures and apart from all the usual SL vending machines that offer wares.
When one visits a Sim like that, one realises again that building is rather close to godhood in Second Life. One can create a world, determine its appearance, its laws and rules of conduct and one can regulate visitors and residents as well. One can 'orbit' the unwanted out of the Sim, effectively sending them off into the void. One can charm visitors, terrify them or impress them with any type of atmosphere or emotion. This particular Sim obviously was a labour of great love. There are intricate reconstructions of ancient public Roman buildings as well as little notecards giving historical information about each. In the local taverns, one can be served any number of choices in wines of ancient vintages. Litters are available for transportation. Flying is not permitted.
He does sell some very intriguing items, though. Among them are a craft purporting to be 'Cleopatra's Funeral Barge' and a 'Chariot of the Sun'. I could not resist the latter, with vivid childhood memories of the tales of Phaeton and Icarus.
I put it to the test at the earliest opportunity, setting off into the sky in my light chariot, pulling the orb of the sun behind me.
What an incredible 'high' that was! The sun actually smoked and radiated intense light as it bowled along behind the chariot. In these photographs, you can see that
the sunlight is a white glow in front of the golden orb that is pulled by the chariot.
One is aware that it is nothing more than an illusion, of course, in a world created and ruled by Linden Labs. In one photograph, you can see that I am steering the chariot towards a horizon on which one can see the sun rising. If the sun is tethered to my chariot, what light on yonder horizon breaks??? Even so, it was a lovely, heart-racing illusion.
I hate to admit that navigation was not very accurate. The chariot veered wildly from side to side and did not respond quickly or well to the controls. Of course, that makes perfect sense, given the fact that a mere human was attempting to control our planet's Sun and to pull it along like a child's toy!
It made me think of the human desire to be more than human. Some people are content to exist without ever considering other dimensions, but there are those who aspire either to become gods themselves, to meet gods or to make love to a god.
I always realised that godhood must be the most burdensome responsibility imaginable. I do not crave the power of life and death over others. In fact, many of us find that we do have the power to affect the lives of others for good or ill and sometimes our actions and decisions can lead to life or death, but power and responsibility are two different matters.
A human being must assume responsibility for his/her own fate. As a young girl, I was placed in a situation in Asia where I was told that I was a goddess and had saved some one's life. The man died a week later. Obviously I neither had saved him nor been responsible for his ultimate death but it was a very traumatic experience for a child.
That experience affected me profoundly even though intellectually I knew none of it was any reflection on me really. It was not really much different from the woman who was a friend of my mother who told me repeatedly that she had known me in ancient Egypt and that I held a position of great authority. (Where did all the peasants from ancient Egypt go???) The same woman later tried to commit suicide. That had nothing to do with me either. I was simply a child who apparently drew bizarre individuals and situations into her orbit by some mischance.
I often wonder what the power of life and death does to perfectly ordinary decent individuals. Often it is something that goes with public service and authority. I do tend to believe that only the worst people gravitate towards public office ultimately but there have been leaders and officials who have been pushed into it by circumstance. Certainly there are men and women who have fought in wars who never intended to hold the power of life and death in their hands. Once upon a time, people accepted that as a necessary evil. Now, it appears to lead to all sorts of permanent psychic disorders.
In any case, it was quite thrilling to drive the sun round the heavens. I did not meet with an untimely death myself, but I was cast summarily from the skies when the chariot suddenly met with an unseen barrier and was not allowed to continue into the next Sim.
I plummeted from the sky. The chariot hung motionless in the air, the sun dangling impotently from its tether... and that was the end of my brief attempt to emulate Phaeton or his father, the Sun God himself. When I returned to the sky, I was unable to find the chariot anywhere, nor was it returned automatically to my inventory. I suppose I should accept that there is a price for a brief moment of godhood! It somehow makes the experience more mythical to 'lose' the Sun Chariot at the end of the journey.