He’s gone – and he’s not: to Keebo, with love

Randy watches Keebo's house chimney (by Randy Firebrand)

Randy watches the chimney on Keebo’s house (by Randy Firebrand)

Someone really important in my life – whom I met in SL – recently left us. I don’t intend to speculate here whether he is in a better place or in no place at all. He is gone, and I’ll leave it like that. But then, he is not really gone.

As I stated from day one, I don’t intend to make this blog a diary or a confessional. I don’t see why my eight readers would be interested in my daily life. Well, five of them may be, for they are my friends, but, then, they don’t need to read this blog to learn about my life. And if I start to be too personal I’ll lose the other three readers I have. So, let me try to explain the reason for this post.

The death of Keebo made me elaborate on something I’ve mentioned before, on another post. When I visited the virtual American Cancer Society Memorial Garden for the first time – accompanied by Keebs, by the way – I could feel the presence of the people who were represented on the pics there, for, even though they had died, they were still remembered, they were still part of other persons’ lives.

American Cancer Society in SL: a survivor visits the garden

Keebo visits the ACS Memorial Garden

Under the effect of the loss of Keebo, I can go further and say: on the one hand, part of me is gone with him. I don’t intend to be dramatic here, but this sadness is somehow a tiny death, too. And it’s not just a feeling, it’s an objective loss: I’ve lost a friend and, as if it weren’t enough, soon I’m gonna lose my home in Second Life, because the sim where I’ve lived during most part of my virtual existence belongs to him and will soon disappear (just to make it clear, I don’t think it’s wrong that his sim disappears with him, I’m not complaining about it).

On the other hand, part of him stays with me. He marked my life, he taught me a lot, he made me happy, we partnered each other and lived under the same roof in SL for years – and eventually we were not a couple anymore but we remained close friends. I have gifts he gave to me, messages he sent to me, things he created – testimonies of whom he was, of how he was, things from him that haven’t and won’t completely disappear.

It all may sound too personal, but my point is more general: it seems that life and death are closely related and do not represent two completely separate moments. We die a thousand times while we are living, and not because our time is passing, but because we do experience a number of tiny deaths on our way. Nonetheless, we also partially survive our deaths, for, at least for some time, we don’t completely cease to be.

To SL and to our virtual existences, it also has a consequence: atomic world is their limit.

The Western Front, 1917, in SL: "I found him"

Keebo and me at The Western Front, 1917, in SL: tiny deaths and endurance

The virtual reality in which our avatars live is detached from its base material. Let me be more clear here. In the atomic world, when we make a sculpture from stone, we testify both presences at the same time: the sculpture and the stone block which it is made of. Nonetheless, technical progress started blurring the materials that serve as support for our symbolical products. In photography, the silver grains started to “disappear” if compared to the brush-strokes one can see on paintings; then cinema hid not only the silver grains, but also the small photos which movies consisted in; television came after that, and so on… and now, on virtual reality and other forms of technologically advanced symbolic products, what we see is completely different from their materials. I’m not referring to the support, to the computer screen, but to the materials that build these products: the different types of code. We do not see code, we don’t even “feel” its presence, even if we may intellectually know it’s there.

Still, in what concerns virtual worlds, the technical progress made them share their nature with their material: both virtual reality and their codes are abstractions. This may give us the impression that we can do whatever we want with them, as long as we can correctly codify them. But then, reality comes and says “no”. Reality is the stone of our virtual sculpture, not as its material, but as its limit, as what puts an end to it – for we die, don’t we? – and at the same time as what gives sense to it – for, if we die, we can’t actually do and be everything, we have no time for that, we have to choose what we will be and do in our virtual existence, we have to eliminate certain possibilities, we have to attribute value to the options we have and discharge some of them in favour of others.

The great Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares wrote an impressive story on existence, The Invention of Morel (La invención de Morel), first published in 1940 if I’m not mistaken. I won’t reveal the story here – it’s an amazing book and if you haven’t read it yet, it’s better if you don’t know the details – but, comparing what happens in it to what will happen to Keebo’s avatar and his sim, I can say: there is actually some justice in the fact that both will disappear. This way, Keebs can live in me and in his friends.

Thank you, Keebs. For everything.

Good bye, Keebo (by Randy Firebrand)

Good bye, Keebo (by Randy Firebrand)

PS: Many thanks to Randy Firebrand, my husband, for contributing to this post.

PSS: I know this blog has never been so active and that lately I have written even less here than I used to do. This has been so, because I’ve been under some RL changes that have been keeping me from exploring SL as before. I don’t intend to abandon this blog. As soon as I can resume my exploring journeys in Second Life, I’ll start posting a bit more often again.

5 thoughts on “He’s gone – and he’s not: to Keebo, with love

  1. Pingback: What is a home for in a virtual world? | Second Sighting

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