In the Presence of The Lord, Revisited

Author’s Note: I’ve been looking back over my three years in Second Life for the past several weeks, and thought it might  be fun to revisit some of the posts I’ve written along the way. So, to inaugurate this series, here’s a slightly edited version of a story from 2008 which, for the most part, really happened. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, the unforgiven, and the slightly sanctimonious.

I was sitting in San Francisco International Airport on the final leg of my journey from Chicago, where I had spent the weekend assisting in the preparations for an exhibit at the University of Illinois. It was good to be back in California, but not as good as it could be. I was almost home, and my arrival there had been postponed. The flight to Santa Barbara had been delayed – first, because it had arrived late, and then a required maintenance check prolonged the agony. It was not a good hour and a half.

As I sat in the lounge area, I noticed an odd-looking woman sitting opposite me several seats down, intensely absorbed in a book. No, that doesn’t quite do it justice; she was more or less carrying on a passionate conversation with the author; in fact, exclaiming from time to time, “Oh no, that’s not possible!” or “He was there all the time! You just didn’t see him!”

She had on a big, black floppy hat – one of those affairs that an older woman might hide beneath while working in the garden – firmly fastened to her head by a thin strap tied under her chin. Didn’t think much of it at the time, though; people like this pop up all over California, and I was a seasoned observer of The People Who Live On the Edge. Odd was somehow normal here.

Finally, our moment arrived and we were all herded onto the plane; a restive group, to be sure.. hot, grouchy and tired. It was a small twin-engine prop with two rows of seats down one side and one row on the other. I knew I had a window seat somewhere near the middle and, last time I checked online, the seat next to me was still empty. I was all set to relax, read, sleep; whatever it took to recover from the annoyance of the delay.

Everything was looking pretty good until the very last moment, when two women boarded and, after reaching the back of the plane, announced with some dismay that they were holding tickets to seats 11C and 11b. Their dismay was caused entirely by the fact that there were only 10 rows of seats. Some joker yelled out: Must be the bathroom! They weren’t amused.

The stewardess, after surveying the situation, said, ”Ma’am, would you mind moving to that seat over there?” The next thing I knew, the woman in the floppy black hat plopped herself down next to me and loudly proclaimed: “I’ve been praying for the last hour and a half that Jesus would use me in some special way during this flight, so it’s no accident He moved me over here to sit next to you.” Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners. Trapped by the hand of God. I had nowhere to go but up.

The engines – one mounted on the wing just outside our window – suddenly roared to life, and the floor beneath my feet began to throb. “I was saved eleven years ago when the Lord healed me. I had three fused discs in my back and He replaced them with new ones. Haven’t had a bit of pain ever since. Do you dream at night?”, she shouted out to me over the sound of the engines. “Good for you,” I shouted back. “You won the spiritual lottery. My dreams? They’re secret, even I don’t get to know what they’re about. Don’t remember a thing.”

“My brother’s mission is to save all the Muslims in the world; he’s been in the Middle East for over 40 years. He’s been thrown in jail twice.” “He’s still alive?” I asked, incredulously. “The Lord watches over those He loves,” she said. “He told me recently that I wouldn’t die in a plane crash, which was one of my worst fears. Do you know Jesus?” “Thank God for that,” I said, with some conviction. “I know Him fairly well, actually; in fact we’re on pretty good terms, but we don’t feel the need to talk every day.”

She rattled on and on as loudly as the engines required; in fact, the engines never had a chance. She reminded me of nothing so much as a child trying to explain how wonderful her imaginary friend was. From time to time someone’s head would turn and direct a knowing glance my way, communicating their sympathy for my plight.

I didn’t dare tell her that I had once been a born-again Christian myself after I had gotten out of rehab, kind of like the follow-up after surgery, for fear that it would unleash an even greater wave of evangelical fervor – as though that were even possible. I never let on that I knew a great deal about what she was telling me; far more, in fact, than she herself apparently knew. There were stories of miracles and healings, of numerological studies of the Bible (which I knew had already been discredited), of the many visions and dreams she had, that she and her husband were interpreters of dreams, and on and on. I merely nodded my head, which only made the pain worse.

Though I was rapidly descending into a migraine, I let it all wash over me as though listening to a child reciting nursery rhymes. In truth, I respected her beliefs; or perhaps I should say: I understood her need to believe them. I was once in the very same place; I was in no position to judge, and had no idea what lay buried deep in her past which may have led to her leap of faith. In fact, I appreciated her childlike qualities and her deep, unwavering passion. But man, the price I was paying for my kindness. My head was killing me.

As we approached the end of the flight, she probably began to realize that there would be little time left for me to be saved, and that she would probably never see me again. At last, she confronted me directly: “Would you like to have a personal relationship with the Lord and be born again in His Spirit?”

Then a strange thing happened. I don’t know exactly what came over me, or why my mind turned in this direction – perhaps it was the migraine – but I told her that I already had been born again and had even been filled with the Holy Spirit. I said that I had discovered a place called Second Life, that I had entered into that world and was given a new body, clean and untarnished; a body that would never die… that I had wandered the length and breadth of that land and had met many of my brethren who had come before me, and, lo, they taught me many things. Once I had reached a place of some maturity, I said, I began to help those who had come after me, those who were newly born, those who could barely walk or talk.

I told her of my experience one day as I sat on a stone wall in that world talking to a group of initiates, when a sudden surge of electricity and joy went through the crowd around me. “A Linden is here!” someone shouted. “A Linden is here!” I explained to her that Philip Linden was the creator of this world I now inhabited, and that a group of higher beings now known as The Lindens were his helpers, his disciples, so to speak.

governor linden

Suddenly someone flew up from the grass below and settled on the wall behind me. In this new world, I explained, my being was more spiritual than physical, and that it was not unusual for objects to pass through me, or I through them. I looked behind me and saw that Philip Linden himself was seated behind me, and that our bodies had merged – that we had become one. I had become one with the creator of my universe! That meant that my being had been infused with the spirit of his being, and his with mine.

At this point, just as the plane landed, I noticed she had a rather strange look in her eye. She had grown quiet, and I could tell she did not want to hear another word. Judging by the expression on her face, she seemed shocked and dismayed; in fact, she never said another word and began to quickly gather her things together, and once the plane taxied to a stop, she bolted into the aisle.

Before she got away, though, I called after her, “But wait, wouldn’t you like to have a personal relationship with Philip Linden?” She never looked back. As the rest of us shuffled toward the exit door, the guy who had been sitting in front of me turned to me and said, “I have to hand it to you for tolerating her for the entire flight without telling her to shut the hell up. I certainly couldn’t have done it.”

“I didn’t dare insult her until the plane had landed safely; God, after all, is her co-pilot,” I said, smiling weakly. He looked at me for a brief moment, then turned and merged into the shuffling crowd. I would soon be safe on solid ground.

One last note: I think it’s now safe to say that the celestial being who drifted through me that day was actually the generic creature known as Governor Linden, an alt used by Lindens to travel anonymously throughout Second Life; kind of like using a company car. In fact, you could say that I commandeered that vehicle for my own purposes when I evangelized on behalf of the Holy Family that day. Of course, now that I think about it, it is still within the realm of possibility that it was The Master himself.

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Wild as the Wind

It’s been an interesting coupla weeks out here in the interland*. As you may recall from my previous few posts, a brushfire of sorts was started by my new friend, Karima Hoisan, who wrote a poem based on my painting Bang!, giving me a fresh view of the work itself. After mentioning that backdraft of inspiration in one of my blogs, Karima asked me if I’d like to try creating something from one of her poems. I said, Hell, yeah! She chose a poem about a fiery stampede set loose upon the world, apocalyptic in all its thundering fury and yet containing a sense of relief at tumultuous inner forces finally having been set free. This is the poem:

Galloping Horses
for D. R.

Now the ending ends,
all words exchanged, the gate latched,
they are not wanted back,
those galloping horses, galloping away

Columns of flames, oranging the onyx sky, cobalt blue
Running riderless. unsaddled, reins askew
crossing river rapids in one  moon-glazed splash
wild whinnying with  their heads thrown back
trampling just about  everything in their path.
The gate now padlocked securely latched,
they are not ever wanted back,
those galloping horses galloping away,
their long black manes, sparks flying,
while the bridges are burning behind them.

Karima Hoisan
April 25, 2009
San Jose, Costa Rica

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Above: the painting, entitled War Paint (click to enlarge; the bigger it gets the brighter it gets:)

*interland: a new world brought about by the intertwining of two existing worlds. at least, that’s what I call it.

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Then It All Goes Bang!

.   .   .
A poem for the painting “Bang” by Chrome Underwood
.   .   .
Then it all goes Bang!
The ingredients get switched..
the exploding seeds of  faraway forest floors,
release pungent reminders of peach petaled births of pyramids mixed with dried -brown crumbling decay..
All the while at the very bottom
of my thoughts,
a repeating melody that the notes
play and play..
ripped out of their context,
the words like sharps and flats find harmony  in the splashed chaos of starting over
The  Garden of Eden… minutes after
the first frightening make-over blast.
Banana green morphs to yellow corn stalks, now  as the dust and silt blow out of the way, I see as never before what it all could mean.. how we can bathe in everything while eating it all in through our eyes,nourishing new organs that begin to pop out in some genome of our  future days.
We  still whirl and float and decompose and mold and then
up from the ground we spring renewed again,
the music always below us..always above us. The precarious planets and stars trying out new formations like orbital dancing bears and constellations of  haze and myth perhaps  stained in pastels  by our  organic earthy shrapnel.
Poems  attach to open hearts that beat in a limp with them inside,
All eyes are on  each others’ as we focus in surprise.
How many times will it take to get it right?
and then it all goes Bang!
.   .   .
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is not of the substance of elements.
It is an organism, indivisibly
by elementary objects of a divergent character:
if you
were to attempt division, these parts
would die.

for instance: an entire dramatic company.

Enter an ancestor, prophetic;
enter a hero, brutal
a rake, alcoholic, to argue
with a learned professor.
A lyrical beauty, rolling her eyes
heavenward, a case
of chronic infatuation —
enter a heavy father,
to take care of that.
enter a liberal uncle — to arbitrate. . . .
Aunt Chatterbox gossiping in a corner.
Chambermaid Lewdie, giggling.

And I, watching it all,
astonishment in my eyes.
Poised, in my left hand
a sharpened pencil.

A pregnant woman!, a mother
is planning
her entrance —
Shushhh! you
don’t belong here
are divisible!
She fades.

– Paul Klee, Some Poems by Paul Klee (Translated by Anselm Hollo)

.   .   .   .   .   .   .

Above: Ad Parnassum by Paul Klee, 1932

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the show goes on…..

Nina Camplin (Fuschia Nightfire) has just completed a machinima film based on the recent Ambiguity of Identity exhibit, held at Caerleon Isle in Second Life. The timing is perfect, imho, because the show in all its pixelated complexity was disassembled the night before last and became a collage of wonderful memories in the minds of all who participated. A fitting and lovely tribute, especially with the hauntingly beautiful voice of Mommaluv Skytower providing the soundtrack.

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The Explore It! educational sim will open its doors in Second Life this Saturday… as reported by Chestnut Rau in her picks of the week on New World Notes today. As she notes in her post, “The village was created by an all star cast including DB Bailey, Keystone Bouchard, Desdemona Enfield, and Douglas Story working along with several other talented content creators.” The additional creators she is referring to are…. Flimsey Freenote (video trailer), Hildo Diavlo (website development), Zil Jewell (Project Coordinator), Persia Bravin (Press and Promotion), and…. remember all that stuff about building 21 avatars in 34 days? Yep, that was me.

The Explore It! project is an innovative way to provide high school students with a glimpse into some of the career choices ahead of them, a way to give them some advance insight which will not only help them to make those tough career decisions, but to provide it early enough to help them chart their course before they enter college – ensuring they get the proper educational foundation for a particular career. It should prove to be a challenging and valuable experience for the students, as well as a great help for high school faculty and advisors. They will get a preview of Culinary Arts, Automotive, Environmental Horticulture, Hotel Management and Multimedia careers.

The official launch of the Explore It! project in Second Life will take place this Saturday, Nov 6, from 11am to 3pm, festivities to  include music by DJ Allenclive Beaumont, as well as live performances by HatHead Rickenbacker, Aubryn Melody and Bones Writer. Come on down and join the party!

To reach the Explore It! sim: SLurl teleport at this link.

The Technical Pathways the project has been designed will provide students with a sense of what they might experience in careers in the fields of Culinary Arts, Automotive, Environmental Horticulture, Hotel Management and Multimedia.

. . . . . .

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bang sparks fire

When I logged on to Second Life yesterday I found a notecard from Karima Hoisan, a well-known SL poet, containing a copy of her latest poem, Then It All Goes Bang!,  inspired by one of my digital paintings, Bang! (seen above), currently on exhibit at the Criss MOCA. I must admit it’s a pretty heady experience to glimpse  one of your own paintings through the prism of another artist’s eyes.

When I contacted Karima to thank her I learned the story of how that poem came to be, and wound up chatting about how one visual spark can start a verbal fire and create a backdraft, blowing heat and light back to the source of the spark. The poem actually revamped my view of my own work, giving it kind of a new inner glow.

Apparently Karima has that effect on a lot of people. After hearing her read her poetry recently, Happiness Merryman wrote, “Karima Hoisan’s poetry, read to music, is indeed a buffet of… food for your soul. When I first heard Karima read her work, I was in tears. Her words enter like lightning and open your eyes, to see ‘what others do not see.’  I felt seen into, as Rilke has it.” Magic indeed.

Karima will be introducing the poem at her next appearance at Galaxy Isle, a not-for-profit sim aimed at heightening awareness of the impact of virtual worlds on hospitalized people. The reading will be held in the chapel venue at ground level this Wednesday, November 3 at 7pm SLT.

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now showing

Quin, visiting my new show at the Criss Museum of Contemporary Art in sl (click to enlarge).. it’s actually kind of a ‘greatest hits’ show (not old enough for a retrospective yet), which includes a selection of pre- and post-sl work. It may very well be the last one I have for a while; I’ve been experimenting with new forms, and will have to produce a new body of work before I hit the streets again. Just for the record, the text on the sign next to Quin reads, in part:

“All of the images in this show are purely digital in origin. My work is based on the fusion of many components, cannibalized and recycled from a variety of sources, including what I call ‘found imagery’, my own art works, and that of the past masters. Roughly half the pieces in this show are derived exclusively from Second Life and focus on the avatar in all its ‘seeming’ humanity. The other half, well, it’s like the 20th century thrown into a blender.”

The Criss Museum of Contemporary Art slurl:

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Living the good lives

Since I seem to have spent as much time creating avatars lately as I have creating art (actually, I consider the avatar an artform in itself, but that’s another post), I’ve decided to switch gears for a little while and drop in on some of those celestial beings who grace my blogs, my comic strips and my paintings – i.e., my alts.

While I’m at it I might also touch upon their individual tastes and idiosyncrasies (if they don’t object), as well as the delicate subject of what it’s like to be a multi-gender, multi-personality artist in a virtual world… all in good time. I haven’t been in much of a hurry lately for some reason; moments have become larger and richer and I seem to be reluctant to leave them. (Proust may have been in search of lost time, but I seem to have found it.)

In the photo above, Vanilla Titanium in one of her latest incarnations (click to enlarge)

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Yeah, that’s me, resting on my laurels. Actually, thinking about my creative journey thus far and the options that lie ahead. The final push for the Identity show and its emotional climax left me kind of, well… spent. So, I thought I might use the opportunity to take a break from SL, to get some much-needed rest, and then contemplate my next move. Not sure what it will be yet, but I suspect it will involve some combination of art and writing. Been sorting through three years worth of paintings, photos, notes and blog posts to try to make some sort of overarching sense of it all.. and then maybe even find the next rung on the ladder. Heading upwards, of course.

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