Digital Limerence

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, if you don’t mind a diet of nothing but empty calories.

As someone who has been crashing into virtual doors and falling into large virtual bodies of water in the virtual world of Second Life for over a decade, I am quite familiar with limerence. It’s such a lovely sounding word, isn’t it? It sounds like what happens when limericks and romance collide. Like lime green hearts.

And limerence feels good. It’s the best drug in the world. It floods your body with some awesome chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine. But in the end, it usually brings you nothing but pain and regret. That’s why in recent years I only go into Second Life twice a week, to catch up with friends.

Limerence is often mistaken for falling in love. But it’s love on steroids. It’s butterflies in the stomach writ large. It’s when you crave the other person. You ignore all the red flags. You fantasize about them when they’re not with you. They have all the power to lift you up or tear you down. It’s not steady and solid nurturing as real love will be. It’s dramatic and unstable and exciting.

The internet is rife with limerence. It’s a state that thrives when you don’t really know the other person. The more blank canvas they present you with, the more you are able to paint in what you really want to see. You turn them into the perfect purveyor of all your unmet needs. Your mind convinces you that your beliefs about this person are real so that it/you can continue to be flooded with those awesome chemicals.

Second Life is full of such stories. I knew a guy who spent money he did not have to fly from Australia to the US, thinking he was going there to meet the love of his life, only to find out that the person waiting for him was… a person. She was not the gorgeous voluptuous avatar that he danced with in ballrooms every night in virtual reality, without a care in the world. And for that matter, he couldn’t afford a tuxedo in real life, and neither of them really knew how to dance. Their happily ever after crumbled like the house of cards it had always been.

You can draw limerence out in a virtual world for years. It’s a heady experience. As long as you both continue to play the unspoken roles that each has subtly laid out for the other, you can binge on the testosterone and estrogen for as long as you want, even if your real body is too old or too unhealthy or too married or too far away to actually consummate your connection.

Cyber-romance can be quite satisfying, as long as you don’t mind a diet that consists of nothing but empty calories.  But when it starts to crowd out your real life, it can be trouble. If you use up the bulk of your time daydreaming about the object of your limerence, that’s a problem. If it gives you an excuse to not work on establishing or improving a real life relationship, it’s unfair to your real life partner. When it worms its way into your psyche and starts nibbling away at your mental health, it’s toxic.

And while you are in limerence, you assume that the other person is putting in as much effort and being just as vulnerable and honest as you are. But so many of my friends have been lied to in virtual reality that it stuns me that anyone indulges in it anymore. You can be whoever you want to be in a virtual world, and if you don’t truly care about the person behind the other avatar, you can make up all the stories you want.

You can falsify your sexual experience and proclivities. You can experiment with other gender identities than your own. If you identify as male, regardless of what your birth certificate says, it’s cruel, in my opinion, to role play that you identify as female, because you’re role playing with someone else’s emotions. Not that I’m saying there’s anything wrong with role playing. Just be up front about it if you’re engaged in a cyber romance. I really never understood people who delight in catfishing others. It’s heartless. No relationship can thrive if it’s based on deception.

And it boggles the mind, the number of people in there who are miserable and lonely and lying about their marital status. For many, virtual reality seems to be the land of quiet desperation. You don’t have to be you in there.

You can pretend to be successful or rich or even (for a short time) intelligent, when in fact you are none of those things. You can be utterly incapable of feeling real emotions, but you can make them up as you go along. You might even cut and paste dialogue from other parts of the net if you can’t think of anything to say yourself. If you’re a teenage boy, you can pretend to be in your 30’s. If you’re an old woman, you can pretend to be a model. If you’re four feet tall and wheelchair bound, you can pretend that you’re 6 feet tall and a professional dancer. If you’re a sinner, you can be a saint. If you’re a convicted felon, you can pretend that you are a commodities trader on Wall Street who lives in a brownstone in Manhattan instead of someone sitting in a trailer wearing nothing but an ankle bracelet and a bathrobe, on the outskirts of Detroit.

Again, all well and good if you’re not playing with someone’s heart. But don’t lie to someone as you both suck on those hormones, baby, and you convince yourself that you’re the happiest you’ve ever been in your life. What a rush! Until the truth comes out and you devastate the other person.

While it feels better than anything you’ve ever felt before, limerence is an illusion. And it keeps you in thrall as your real life begins to atrophy from the sheer neglect. And then one day you get slapped back into reality, and you have to start all over again.   

Love enhances you. But beware of limerence. It depletes you. Check out these articles for more information.

Now is the perfect time to stay at home and read a good book. Try mine!

I Walked in Space!!!

An incredible, immersive virtual reality experience that lets you explore the International Space Station.

I have always been fascinated by the International Space Station. In fact, I have gone to to sign myself up for text notifications when the ISS will be passing over our house. (You can, too!)

If the station’s flyby isn’t at some ungodly hour like 3 a.m., and if the entire Pacific Northwest sky isn’t blanketed in clouds as it so often is, Dear Husband and I make it a point to spot the station from the hot tub in our back yard. I always wave. As far as I know, no one has ever waved back. Still, it never gets old, and it makes me feel connected to something much bigger than myself.

Having said that, just imagine our excitement when we heard that The Infinite was coming to a city near us. This is an amazing virtual reality experience that allows you to virtually walk around inside the space station, explore all its nooks and crannies, and even walk through walls into the vacuum of space. You get to eavesdrop on the astronauts as they go about their daily routines, and you really get a sense of what life must be like up there.

My main takeaway is that I think the station needs to focus more on aesthetics, so that it isn’t such a psychological shock being there. I know it’s zero gravity, and that physical space is at a premium, but every floor, wall, and ceiling was covered with sharp edged, cold, clinical-looking instruments. There needs to be one module where things are warm and soft and comfortable. People need that every now and then. (I wanted to check out the sleeping quarters and the bathrooms, but had no luck finding them. There wasn’t time to see everything, but I suspect I’ll be back.)

When we arrived at the Tacoma Armory for the event, we were given VR headsets, and once we had them on and they were properly adjusted, an assistant came around to see who in our group of 8 were actually family or friends. To avoid bumping into others as you wandered around, you “saw” everyone else as human-shaped, star-filled avatars. Strangers had a glowing blue star in their chest. Friends had golden stars. Facilitators had green stars. If, while wandering the station, you came anywhere close to a real life obstruction, it was covered in bright red lines. I’m proud to say I didn’t bump into anything or anyone during my visit. (A little girl did bump into me once, but no one was hurt.)

At one point I was standing inside a capsule and a ball came whizzing past my head. What the…? I turned, and there was an astronaut catching the ball. He then threw it toward me again, and I spun around to see another astronaut catching it. All the while, they were discussing their work on the station. Even though I knew this was virtual reality, and that a foam ball in zero gravity couldn’t hurt me even if I were truly there, I couldn’t help but duck each time it flew/floated by me.

I had an unexpected intermission when a facilitator approached me and said that the battery on my headset was running low, so they’d have to trade it out for another one. I took off my headset and came crashing back to reality. I was standing in a huge empty room, and oddly enough, its walls were covered with murals of palm trees. (I wish I had thought to snap a picture.) There were dozens of people wearing headsets who were slowly walking around me, obviously interacting with things I could not see. It was rather surreal. I was happy to get another headset on and return to space.

At one point I walked through a (virtual) wall and enjoyed viewing the station from the outside, and also had fun looking down at earth, both in daylight and darkness, from 200 miles above. And then, the next thing I knew, the station left without me! That gave me more time to focus on the universe surrounding me, but still, I wanted to say, “Hey! Wait for me!”

It came back, though, just in time to allow us all to participate in a mission. We were going to do a space walk to observe the astronauts as they made a few repairs. I got to sit there, with nothing but stars beneath my feet, and watch and listen to their communications. I really felt like I was right there with them. If one of them had said, “Here, hold my wrench,” I’d have reached for it.

But of course one cannot spacewalk for days on end, and so the experience came to a close. We were asked to place our headsets on a conveyor belt so that they could be sanitized for the next lucky visitors.

And then we were treated to an unexpected bonus. (“But wait! There’s more!”) That bonus was in the form of an audiovisual art installation by the Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda. Called “The Universe within the Universe”, it had us standing in a big circle, gazing into a mirror on the floor that reflected a projection of a very colorful, fast-moving, computer generated journey through his interpretation of everything from the micro universe to the macro universe, and back again. Still photos don’t do it justice, so here’s a short video we took of a tiny segment of the installation. ***If flashing lights cause you to have seizures, you may want to skip it.*** Otherwise, enjoy!

The Infinite is currently in Tacoma, Washington, and will remain there until about September. If you are anywhere close, you’ll really want to experience it. It’s out of this world. (See what I did there?)

If Tacoma is beyond your reach, you can go to the website and sign up to be notified of future tour dates. Keep an eye out in case it comes your way. It’s even better than watching the International Space Station fly overhead while you sit in a hot tub with someone you love (although that’s pretty cool, too).

If stuff like this existed when I was a kid, I’d have taken science more seriously. What amazing times we live in.

Like this quirky little blog? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

A Deep Dive into the Works of Vincent van Gogh

I wish this troubled man had known what an impact he would have on the world.

If you stick with me through this entire article, you’ll be presented with an opportunity to win a van Gogh poster! Keep that in mind.

In cities all around the world, the paintings of Vincent van Gogh are coming to life, and people are walking into them. Dear Husband and I recently did so ourselves, and we never wanted to leave. The exhibition is called Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience, and if it’s in a city near you (or even in a city far from you), make the effort to go. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

If you’re unable to attend in person, at least go to the Google Play Store on your smartphone and download the exhibition’s app. From there you can click on “search” and see a lot of the information boards and some gorgeous photos of van Gogh’s work. It’s not nearly the same as the actual, delightful, 360 degree experience, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

Since all visitors to this place are allowed to take photographs and videos, I’ll give you a taste of what it was like for me.

As you enter, you are confronted with a wall that is an homage to van Gogh’s iconic sunflowers, superimposed over what is perhaps his most famous painting, “The Starry Night.” Seeing that, along with the elaborate painting outside (which seemed incredibly extravagant for a temporary exhibition), made me realize that I was in for something really special, indeed. They pulled out all the stops for this one.

The information boards in the app will give you a lot of background on his short, tragic, and extremely talented life, so I’ll let you go there to get the full picture of the man. But I will say that the first part of the experience is a virtual museum that reminds you that he loved to paint things over and over and over again, changing them slightly each time, to study the various effects. Seeing all the sunflowers side by side really demonstrates his desire to learn and grow as an artist.

Van Gogh had an unsurpassed love of nature. Not only did he paint sunflowers, but he did a lot of studies of flowers in vases. There was a three-dimensional vase on a wall, and many of his floral paintings were projected on it.

He did quite a few self-portraits. There was one large bust of him, and the many portraits are projected on the bust, morphing from one to the other. Beautiful chaos. I suspect that was often how he felt on the inside.

Be warned that the exhibition shows you no original works by the artist. That’s unfortunate, because I had the privilege of seeing my favorite van Gogh painting, the Irises, at the Getty Center. Getting up close to look at the brush strokes really made me feel like I was standing beside the painter as he created the masterpiece. For continuity’s sake, Dear Husband also took a picture of me beside the digital display we were looking at in this exhibit. (Note that this time I’m wearing my iris face mask!)

It’s shocking that van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime. Most of them he gave as gifts. He did barter some of them to pay bills, and I bet the ancestors of the people who received these works are eternally grateful for them, because one of his works fetched 82 million dollars at auction.

Something I learned from this exhibit is that van Gogh was fascinated by Japanese prints. He never got to visit Japan himself, unfortunately. But now that I am aware of his interest in Japonisme, I can see its influence in much of his work. (Japonisme is a French term that refers to the popularity and influence of Japanese art and design on Western European artists during that era. And yes, it’s spelled with an o.) One cool display shows one of his works sliced into pieces, and when you walk in front of it it resolves into the actual panting. Quite fascinating.

Another thing I didn’t realize is that van Gogh was color blind. Perhaps that’s why his color choices seem so otherworldly. There was a video that showed what his own paintings must have looked like to him. It was quite an eye opener.

The exhibit also turned one of his most famous paintings, the Bedroom at Arles, into an actual walk-in display. It felt kind of sacrilegious to walk into this painting, but the sign encourages you to do so, so I did. I couldn’t bring myself to sit on his bed or chair, but I did go in, and it felt like I was entering his head somehow. I did notice that once I broke that psychological boundary, other visitors were able to do so for photographs as well.

The exhibition also describes his psychotic episodes and his fraught relationship with Paul Gauguin, which led to his famous ear mutilation. This caused Gauguin to take off for Paris, and they were never housemates again. (Who could blame him? I’d have done the same thing.) But they did still maintain a correspondence after that, and from those letters it appears that there were no hard feelings on either side. Nothing along the lines of, “Why the hell did you cut off part of your ear, you nutjob?” Talk about an elephant in the room, though.

I was kind of disappointed by this exhibit’s treatment of his death. It’s been long believed that he committed suicide by shooting himself. There were no witnesses. They say he aimed for his heart but the bullet was deflected by bone, missing all vital organs and stopping somewhere near his lower spine. He was able to walk home. He actually died 30 hours later from the infection. What a horrific way to go.

He did struggle with some sort of sporadic psychosis and depression, and had been in and out of a psychiatric institution, the last visit occurring the very year of his death. But this just always seemed like a really weird way to commit suicide to me.

A new theory that makes more sense to me has recently emerged. The people of Arles, after witnessing his bizarre and erratic behavior, including the ear incident, had been trying to get rid of him for quite some time, and mostly they did their best to avoid him, even though his paintings indicate that he was out and about quite a bit. He was the subject of ridicule by one of local boys, who used to mock and tease him relentlessly. A new theory is that this boy was bothering him, and perhaps because he had had enough he waved the gun at the kid, and in the subsequent melee, the gun accidentally went off. And then van Gogh, knowing he was dying, saw no point in getting that boy into trouble, so said nothing.

Either way, we lost a tortured talent way too soon. Who knows what beauty we would have been provided with had he lived on another 50 years. It makes me sad whenever I contemplate it.

But there was much more of this exhibit to see. The true immersive experience, the one that you see in social media, is the big room where his works are projected on the walls and floor, and they have come to life. As I walked into this room, I found hundreds of people there, looking awed, sitting back in lounge chairs or stretched out on the floor as the images swirled and danced around them. The paintings interacted with one another. The trains in many of them trundled from one painting to the next. Birds flew. Boats floated past. This sensual delight was accompanied by beautiful, hypnotic music.

I never wanted to leave that room. It was magical. I imagined van Gogh lying there, observing his works in a way he never could have in life, as rudimentary motion picture shows didn’t come out until 5 years after his death. I think he’d have been rendered speechless like all of the rest of us. I would like to think he would finally feel vindicated in his profound talent.

No words can truly describe this room, so here are some videos for you.

After this profound experience, you kind of have to come back to reality slowly. To do this, you get to have a little art therapy. You enter a room where you can draw your own van Gogh masterpiece. The work covers the walls, and it was fun to look at the various interpretations. I’m including cropped photos of some of the color sheets in case you’d like to try this at home.

Since DH and I had purchased the (highly recommended) VIP experience, we had an additional treat in store for us. It was a virtual reality walk through the town of Arles as it looked in van Gogh’s day, if the entire town had been created by him. It was sort of a day in the life of the painter.

This was my first authentic VR experience, and the minute I placed the visor over my eyes I was fascinated. It started in his iconic bedroom, and then you walk down the stairs and out into the streets of the town and the surrounding countryside. You can turn your head and look down side alleys, and look behind you at the retreating view. You even feel as though you might trip on the cobblestones if you’re not careful. It really felt intimate to me, like I walked with him and he was showing me the views that had inspired his work. Again, I didn’t want to leave.

But as with all things artistic, one eventually has to exit through the gift shop. I wondered what van Gogh would think of all the coffee mugs, key chains, umbrellas and magnets. Would he have laughed, or been flattered, or enraged by the trivialization? Impossible to know, now. I strongly suspect that if he has any ancestors, they are not seeing the profits.

Because we had VIP passes, we were also given a complimentary  poster, shown here.

Since we received two of the same poster, I’m giving you an opportunity to win one of them! Simply answer this question in the comments section of this post on my wordpress site, or in the comments below the link that I’ve placed on my blog’s Facebook page:

What is the oddly spelled French term that refers to the popularity and influence of Japanese art and design on Western European artists during the era that van Gogh was a painter?

Deadline for participation in this contest is February 15th, 2022. I will randomly draw one of the names of the people who answer the question correctly. I will then contact you to get shipping information (I promise that I’ll make sure that your address doesn’t appear publicly on WordPress or Facebook.)

If I don’t hear back from the first person chosen within 24 hours of contact, I’ll move on to a second, and so on. If you reside in America, I’ll ship it to you for free. If mailing it to you includes international shipping, however, you’ll have to pay for that shipping in advance.

If you have been enjoying this journey into the world of Vincent van Gogh, here are a few other links you may want to check out:

Of course, the song Vincent (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean has been running through my head the whole time I have been writing this post. Here’s a beautiful Youtube video that shows many of his works as the song plays. It gives me goose bumps.

Another great Youtube video is a clip from a Dr. Who episode in which the doctor takes van Gogh to a museum to see his own art on display, and to listen to an art curator sing his praises. Van Gogh is moved to tears, and so am I every time I see it.

Many movies have been made about the troubled life of Vincent van Gogh. The best live action one, in my opinion, is At Eternity’s Gate with Willem Dafoe. The performance Dafoe gives us makes you forget he is Dafoe. He inhabits Vincent in such a way that you feel like you’ve been transported to his very soul.

But if you can’t go to the exhibition I’ve described above but wish you could, then I highly recommend that you see the movie Loving Vincent. This award-winning film is animated by 65,000 paintings in the van Gogh style by hundreds of artists, and it took years to complete. It is a masterpiece. I think van Gogh would be very proud.

I wish this troubled man had known what an impact he would have on the world. I’m sure the complex emotions van Gogh would feel as a result of that would have inspired him to create even more amazing paintings. I will forever wonder what might have been, and because of that, whenever I view his work, I am left with a profound feeling of having tasted the pure bittersweetness of this world.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library!

One HONY of a Debate: My Thoughts on BDSM

If you do Facebook, you’ve probably come across at least one post from the “Humans of New York” page. The stories are always fascinating. Sometimes tragic, sometimes triumphant, they never cease to make you think.

But a recent post is causing quite an uproar. This one is about a 21 year old girl whose parents think she’s in New York with friends, when actually she came to see a 55 year old married man with two children to engage in a BDSM relationship with him. She’s a very troubled girl, and according to Humans of New York, she feels that she has absolutely no one to talk to because people judge her.


[Image credit: HONY]

I don’t judge her. I judge the 55 year old. He’s preying on someone with profound problems, and is being a sick role model for his two children while betraying his wife. He obviously has no one’s best interests at heart but his own.

Have I ever been into BDSM? No. But as a long-time resident in the virtual world of Second Life, I’ve seen a lot of people who are very much into it.

I’ve seen women with dog collars around their necks, being led around on leashes. I’ve seen people drop to their knees on command and grovel. If this turns you on, fine, but it breaks my heart.

I was having a hard time speaking my truth about the matter until a dear friend in Second Life helped me put my feelings into words better than I ever could have. So what follows is something I’ve had prominently displayed in my Second Life profile ever since.

Power and Unequal Vulnerability

I like to think I’m open minded, but I can’t agree with enthusiasts of “Gor” or bondage or sadism of any kind.

Wanting someone that you love, or even just enjoy, to be disempowered & vulnerable is an illness. Valorizing “ownership” of people, even as fantasy, is depraved. Slavery exists in the world. It’s not a game.

Unequal vulnerabilty does great harm in real life. Tyranny, coercion, war; despair, collusion, debasement. The world does not need more people practicing the mentality of either domination or submission, even as fantasy. When you embrace any role, you give it more power over your inner being and your world.

I find it painful to be around people who are doing this. Especially if I care for them. I respect people who challenge hierarchies & heal inequities. I want friends who treasure their own agency and that of others.

Thank you to my dear friend Bau for putting these thoughts so eloquently into words for me, with only a few modifications on my part.

More than anything, I hope that young lady finds the support and love that she needs and deserves in this life. I wish her well.

Walking Between Cultures

One of the things I love most about the virtual world of Second Life is that you get to meet people from all over the world. One friend, C.N., is a young man who is an amazingly talented artist from Vietnam. I met him just as he was finishing his secondary education and applying to universities abroad. I remember how exciting that time is. You have a world of opportunities in front of you. You can go so many different directions. There so many possibilities.

I was even more intrigued because his experience must be all the more heightened as he was going from one cultural extreme to another. What does that feel like? How does it impact you?

He just successfully completed year one and is back home on holiday, so I asked him to talk a little bit about his experiences. What follows is what he was kind enough to share. Thanks C.N.!

My first year in UK has just passed – I feel like it was just one week – with a lot of enjoyable experiences.

Though the university had got seven Vietnamese students before me, many people told me that I was the first Vietnamese they had ever met, after constantly mistaking me for a Chinese. I can say that I have busted a lot of misconceptions – very funny ones – that British people hold about Vietnam. Many of those who are old enough to have lived the period of the two wars in my country thought that we spoke French as the primary language instead of a unique mother tongue. When they learnt that we have our own language, Vietnamese, they asked me if its pronunciation and alphabet are similar to Chinese or Mandarin, and were pretty surprised by the big difference.

Before I left for England, all that I have heard about British people had been their posh manner. My parents – not sure from whom they got the idea – kept warning me about being bullied and discriminated by native students. They were also very worried that I would become tight–fisted and ‘starving in a sense’ as a result of being discouraged by the extremely expensive cost of living, which is also a common misconception in Vietnam and which had almost made my parents reconsider letting me go to England.

All those misconceptions seem to originate from different people’s experience in big cities like London. I myself went to London once, and I must say I didn’t enjoy it. Not only prices are costly; a smile is also something people cannot give for free. The atmosphere of the small city where I stayed is just the opposite. The people there are very friendly and adorable, which immediately made me feel at home. I’ve got to know many local people – here everyone knows everyone! – who very often invited me over for meals. I experienced the same friendliness on campus; one of my loveliest memories is getting yelled at by a professor for addressing him too formally.

After all, there’s no big difference between the lives I had amongst the small communities in UK and in my country, since – you know what they say – the people make the places!


[Image credit:]

Virtual Reality Tank Guy

I love the virtual world of Second Life. If you are feeling lonely, it’s a great place to meet people, make friends, find romance, have fun and pursue interests in art/music/religion/culture even if you can’t or won’t leave the comfort of your own home. I hate it when it’s referred to as a game, because you may be using an avatar that looks like a cartoon, but there are real people with feelings behind those avatars. You’re not there to earn points or prizes or virtual power or rise to a higher level. You’re there to socialize with other people.

In a wheelchair? In Second Life you can dance! Agoraphobic? In Second Life you can explore Paris or outer space, anxiety-free! Want to own a mansion and sit on your veranda overlooking the ocean with good friends? All you need is a laptop.

One thing that Second Life has taught me, though, is that a lot of people are living lives of quiet desperation. I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people in there who are unhappily married or unhappily single, and come in to Second Life because they’re desperately lonely. It’s been so long since someone has touched them with even the slightest bit of affection that they’re willing to settle for virtual touch, virtual companionship. Is this healthy? That’s a topic for another blog entry. But it’s a fact.

I have to admit that I am one of those people. When I first came into Second Life more than 6 years ago, I was trapped in a depressing and loveless relationship, one in which I was never touched, never heard, never understood. I was so lonely it was actually physically painful.

I’m a lot more jaded in that virtual world than I once was. I’ve seen it all. I’ve pretty much done it all. I have an inventory full of virtual t-shirts to prove it. I’ve made good friends and established myself in the virtual art world, so my Second Life is fairly stable, and I’m therefore less apt to suffer fools gladly. But in the beginning I was much more tolerant and open and patient and understanding of people’s needs to connect.

That’s how I met a guy who called himself Aeon. In hindsight I suspect he was a very young and extremely lonely guy who was just trying to impress me. He claimed he was somewhere on the west coast, in the military, wearing some virtual reality suit and floating in a sensory deprivation tank, doing experiments for the federal government. Yeah, right. Whatever works for you, I suppose. I just accepted him as another lonely person trying his best to reach out, and we would dance for hours on end. Sometimes you just need to be held, you know? We would dance our way through my graveyard shift, night after night. I hope he derived as much comfort from that as I did.

Eventually, though, he strained my ability to suspend disbelief to the breaking point. One day he said one of his coworkers, a female, was going to test out the suit, and she would be talking to me through his avatar. Okay. The only problem with that is when “she” started talking to me, she made the exact same spelling errors that he did. I had no doubt that this was the same person. And then “she” proceeded to tell me that she was in love with Aeon, and that I needed to back off or she would hurt him. That’s when I knew this guy was a) wanting to move on, and b) a lot more disturbed than I was capable of dealing with. I quickly exited stage right. In spite of that, I hope that where ever he is now he’s found happiness. And therapy.

Everyone has their own reality. Everyone wants to connect. Fortunately most of us don’t need a sensory deprivation tank to do it.

virtual suit

[Image credit:]

Location, Location, Location

The first time I fell in love I was 19 and in Europe for the first time. Everything was exotic and new and delicious and exciting. We held hands and made out and explored that world and each other, and everything was magical. So magical, in fact, that the rest of my life has paled by comparison. How can you possibly compete with being in love in Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam?

The second time I was in love was in the virtual world called Second Life. In that amazing place the moon is always full, your house is always waterfront, everyone dances well and dresses well and is always young and gorgeous, and you can be in Morocco one minute and in the hanging gardens of Babylon the next. But you can ask anyone who has spent any time in Second Life and they will assure you that the feelings are real. The connections are real.

This time around I’m in love in Jacksonville, Florida, a city I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get away from for the past 30 years. It’s not an exotic love. It’s not a gorgeous love. It’s a more realistic one, and perhaps that’s why the relationship is more rocky, more roller coaster-y, more uncertain, but priceless nonetheless.

What would love be like while dodging bullets in Compton, or on the crowded streets of Bangladesh, or starving in a slum in Rio de Janeiro? How much of love is strictly a function of location? I wonder.

Shanties gutted in the city

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