Saturday, May 01, 2004

The toxic mimic of community
I spent my May Day in seven hours weeding, mulching, scrubbing, drying, stretching and k'vetching with around 40 other neighbors in my cohousing community. We ranged in age from four to 78 and in ability from limited use of hands to whole body. We ate, we laughed, we argued, we sprayed each other with water (a high of 90) and at the end we had a May Pole and a drumming circle that lasted into the night.

I recently heard a story on NPR's Talk of the Nation or something regarding these "sim" games on computers where people spend hours under a fabricated identity living in a fantasy world (although it's not clear that it's really their fantasy, more likely the creators or "gods" of the simulated world. Plus, it has to be said that these places are no longer the shangri-las they once touted themselves as, they have crime, prostitution, drugs, nasty backstabbing everything I would think one might want to escape given a choice.).

Caller after caller described themselves buying and selling real estate, running for office, organizing controversies. They touted the ability to change their name, their body, their gender, their income and live out this simulated existence.

What was palpable for me was the degree to which a yearning for community was driving the need for these people to log in dozens of times a day. I was aghast as they described how the sims filled the void created by the emptiness and loneliness of their own lives.

As a listener who is deeply involved in real world politics, and genuine in-person community, I frantically dialed the 800 number over and over (to no avail) to tell my story, to offer my existence as a solution, a different choice.

If these people put half the energy they put into running for President in a fake world into organizing their own real neighborhoods, that would create real power, real change, real community.

I was reminded of something Caroline Casey (a wonderful inside-the-beltway astrologer for cynics) once said as she was trying to explain the inexplicable popularity of Princess Di and other celebrities: to wit, our culture lacks, and therefore craves mythology. We no longer have gods and goddesses to worship; therefore, just as fast food sucks toxic faux nutrients out of its stryofoam containers, we seek the toxic mimic of a goddess: goddess Diana. And we feed on her image.

So it is with the Sims. Human beings simply must have community. It is essential to our survival in every possible way. So, some of us who keenly feel the lack of community seek its toxic mimic in simulated on-line community.

Given a choice, would anyone really trade genuine tired muscles (at least one of them from smiling), full bellies and three-dimensional love of one's fellow man for the illusion of thin thighs, a faux castle and a thriving real estate business? I, for one, like to think not.

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