The Came Trader and the Therapy Dog
"Virtual Reality is not a fantasy. It's just another place we go to explore what it means to be human," - Jenaia Morane
Yesterday I stumbled on an obituary written by Uccello "Blue" Poultry for herself. She knew she was dying of COVID-19 and had some things she wanted to say to those she was leaving behind in virtual reality. Blue became a resident of Second Life (SL) back in 2006. She was introduced to SL by an astute therapist who suggested that Blue could practice much needed social and life skills there. Thus began an extraordinary, 16-year odyssey. You can read her final letter here: https://poultryreport.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/logged-out/ .
But today's post is not about Blue, whom I regretfully never met. It's about a young man she reminded me of - Namav Abramovic. In his real life, Namav was a disability rights activist, a writer, and a Talmud scholar. But his real passion was helping the disabled make their way into Second Life.
Namav wandered the metaverse as a camel trader, offering encouragement and advice to anyone who needed it. I met him shortly after changing my avatar to a border collie. After the novelty wore off, I realized there wasn't much to do as a dog in Second Life. The only thing I really enjoyed was chatting up strangers and making new friends. So when a dark haired avatar sporting a beard and a turban asked if I'd like to join his group, the "Open Gates Peer Support Community," I said yes.
Namav was a good teacher and it wasn't long before I was doing what therapy dogs do - providing unconditional love and a listening ear. The one thing that puzzled me was how slow Namav was to respond to my questions. Sometimes it would take him days to get back to me, and long minutes would pass between texts when we were working together. It finally occurred to me to ask one of the other volunteers why he took so long to reply. "Oh, I thought you knew," she said. "Namav is on a ventilator 24/7, and the only part of his body he can move is his thumb."
Surprised doesn't begin to describe my reaction. Shocked, impressed, and intensely curious would be more accurate. I already liked and admired Namav. He'd shared some of his poetry and we'd had a couple of good discussions about relationships in Second Life. But this was almost unbelievable. I texted him and asked to find a time to talk. "Sure," he replied. "Wanna go dancing?"
Dancing?! Suddenly that delightful ability in Second Life took on a whole new meaning. What was it like to be able to dance, fly, drive a car, surf, and take long walks on the beach when your physical body was so immobile? Would Namav be willing to talk about all this? I switched back to my human avatar and accepted the invitation. This was going to be a heck of a conversation!