When I set up a hug station on my virtual plot of land in Second Life, it was both an invitation and a reminder. An invitation to come, give or get a hug, and remember that no matter how much physical distance separates us we can wrap our virtual arms around one another and send love.
However, I never expected my little experiment to mean so much to me. I mean, I like a hug as much as anyone, but after four months and 28 days (but who's counting) of hiding in my apartment - only venturing forth after 11:00 pm when those who refuse to wear masks have gone to bed - I could really use a hug. These two, small rooms (shared with two precocious cats) have begun to feel like prison, and the world outside seems to have gone certifiably mad. I find myself thinking and feeling the strangest things:
- Could all this conflict and strife be a waking dream - my imagination's idea of practical joke?
- I want my mom. I miss our daily chats, her eclectic taste in books, and her belief in my inherent goodness.
- If cats could talk, what would they say about our current living arrangement? We went from polite co-habitation (in which I would disappear and leave them to their own devices for 10 to 12 hours a day) to tripping over each other at ever turn. Do they miss the freedom to shred the arms of the couch and vomit up hairballs in peace?
- Is it possible for laundry to reproduce on its own?
- Does my long, wildly out of control white hair make me look like a witch?
- Will anyone recognize me when I finally emerge sporting a tie-dyed mask?
- How is it possible for my grocery bill to have gone from $200 a month to $200 per week?!
- Is COVID-19 Mother Earth's way of saying, "I've had enough of you homo sapiens. It's time you got a reality check."
One thing is certain. Up close and personal human contact - i.e. the contact required to get and give a physical hug - is not only foolish but dangerous. Virtual hugs as an avatar, on the other hand, are not. They have become both a comforting reminder that people care and a way to safely socialize with all kinds of people from all parts of the world.
So I've been thinking. What if we could extend our virtual hugs to include those who have never heard of virtual reality and avatars? Is there a way to get and give hugs on their behalf - to extend our circle of comfort and care to include everyone and every living thing on the planet? What might that look like? How might we get the word out? And most important of all what would that massive hug look and feel like?
If the idea of a global hug tickles your fancy, sign up to stay in touch on the Braided Lives website: http://bit.ly/3pEuUyn
We'll not only keep you posted, but reach out for your thoughts and suggestions as well. Oh, and don't be a stranger. You can still stop by my hug station to take photos: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sainte%20Helene/141/70/4001
Or, if you see me inworld, ask for hug! They're free :-)