Well, for only $9.95 a month you can now do all those things and more from the comfort of your own swivel chair. and there’s no chance of getting a sunburn. Or a tan. Or any sun at all. Hey, don’t even worry about shelling out for new clothes you’ll still be wearing those old wrinkled sweatpants smelling vaguely of Doritos from last week. What else would you be wearing if you’ve been staring groggily at your computer screen since Tuesday, maneuvering a tiny pixellated version of yourself around with your mouse? That’s right: The place where over five million people now like to have a good time is Second Life, a 3D virtual online world created in 2003 by the San francisco company Linden Lab.
and if you’re thinking, “Well, it must be a good game if it’s played by over five million people,” Second Life is not a game it doesn’t have points, scores, levels, winners or losers, or any other game elements. Get a Spiritual Life, Why Don’t You by Madhava Smullen It’s just, well, that thing most of us do between birth, death, watching sitcom reruns, and logging on to the Internet: life.
In hopes of enticing you, the official website says brightly, “Imagine tinkering with the steering and handling program of a motorcycle while your friend tweaks the shape of the fuel tank and gives it a wicked flame paint job, in-world and in real-time, before you both take it for a spin down a newly created road to look for some land to buy.”
Which makes you wonder: Could you also work for a living, get stuck behind old people in traffic jams, and spend quality time with your mother-inlaw in Second Life? Woohoo! This could be the start of a whole new age of not actually doing stuff!
blogger Darren barefoot hit the nail on the head so hard that it said “ouch” when he published his Second Life parody www.getafirstlife.com. His fake web links include “find out where you actually live,” “access your closet to build your first life look,” and my personal favorite, “Go outside, membership is free.”
“Oh, he’s so right,” I hear you chuckle, shaking your head. “These people could be experiencing so much in real life, and instead they’re staring at a computer screen day and night, with their only real sensations being the occasional slap upside the head from their indignant wife or, if they’re under thirty-five, their mother. What losers!”
Well, stop it. firstly, that’s extremely politically incorrect towards geeks, nerds, and dweebs.
and secondly, that’s probably exactly what Krishna is thinking as He sits in our hearts. “They’re so lovable, but what a bunch of nerds!”
This is because He knows we’re creatures of spirit encased in matter and that our inherent makeup cries out for us to be serving Him in the spiritual world. The pale reflection we’re trying to enjoy just won’t do. Think about that Second Life player hunched over his keyboard in a dark room, watching a bunch of pixels schmooze at parties, play beach volleyball, and hit on attractive lady pixels, while the real thing awaits him just outside his door.
That’s us. Srila Prabhupada described the real thing to a disciple in a 1970 letter: “One who is in full knowledge desires only to fulfill his constitutional position of eternal existence as servant of Krishna, and such service is complete and perfect and the supreme pleasure for the living entity. Who can enjoy more than one who is always enjoying Krishna?”
Perfect and supreme pleasure. Sounds like more than one could expect from first Life, what to speak of Second Life. So how do we make the upgrade?
The first step is awareness. We are already covered by a material body, which the Bhagavad-gita likens to a coat thrown over our true self, and are living in the material world, a pale imitation of the spiritual world. and now some computer whiz-kid’s gleefully yelling, “Hey, guys, I’ve got the solution! Let’s get a second life that’s a pale imitation of a pale imitation!” Sure, another layer is what you need as long as you’re the sort of person who enjoys wearing a blindfold, a pair of sunglasses, and an industrialsized saucepan over your head and running headlong into lampposts.
but if you’d like to really see where you’re going and what life’s all about, you must enquire. an intelligent person wants to know who he is and why his existence in this world is never a completely happy one, never feels quite right.
When Sanatana Gosvami got the chance to speak with Lord Caitanya, he immediately asked, “Who am I? Why do the threefold miseries always give me trouble? If I do not know this, how can I be benefited?” and of course, Srila Prabhupada repeatedly emphasized that the human life form is the perfect chance to find out who we really are as opposed to lesser life forms such as, say, gossip columnists, who think that human life is the perfect chance to find out what kind of cornflakes brad Pitt had for breakfast.
Once we’ve enquired about reality from an authorized spiritual teacher, the way to discover the true meaning of life is by starting to do the things that are true to us: serving Krishna and His devotees. It may be hard at first, but we’ll start to find that when we chant Hare Krishna, or dance in a kirtana, or hear stories about Krishna, or help and care for fellow Vaisnavas, it feels right. We may still be attached to our pale, pixellated second life, but little by little, the more we do, the more we’ll want to do.
Then we’ll look out the window and discover that there’s a whole world out there, where people are experiencing real happiness, real sensations, real love.
It’s time to get a spiritual life, dudes. Let’s stop being such nerds.
Let’s go back to Godhead.
Madhava Smullen grew up in the Hare Krishna movement in Ireland. He now serves on the editorial staff of BTG.