I have been spending quite a bit of time in RL lately.
I am very familiar with the faces that surround me in everyday life. My family, my colleagues, I see their faces so often that I have stopped thinking about all this. What a face may actually mean. I mostly love the faces around me, at this point they are as familiar as my own face in the mirror. The Boss’s face, a conglomeration of emotions, expressions, a mobility that runs the gamut from total contempt to mad faced hilarity. My sister’s face: Naivete and romanticism personified. A beautiful face in its cleanness and its mobility. My mother: Sad beyond sad. Always sad – and yet mobile. Even within the sadness there flit these spurts of other things, emotions, good and bad. My grandmother: A vastly intelligent face, one of the most remarkable that I have ever encountered. Other faces: Erdag, Murat, Selim, Bayram. Wonderful mobile faces. And quite recently I met two more such. Wonderful that was. An afternoon in a park.
Mobility. I think that is it! All these faces that I love, that I trust, have that. There are shades of expression, levels and layers of emotion that co-exist as well as follow each other in rapid succession. Everything moves, it is liquid. Muscles rearrange themselves infinitely to express emotion. The faces that I love and trust are faces that have many many many, countlessly many states of being. Fine gradations of being. …
Then there are faces that really scare me. They are the ones where the expression is more or less fixed, you always see the same state of being – or at best, very minor alterations to something that is largely fixed. Could be the world’s most wonderful expression too, doesn’t really matter. Could be a lovely, impish smile. If it is always always always there I get nervous. In fact, I get more than nervous, I become revolted. Because then there is something else there, that is concealed. That refuses identification. Things that refuse to be identified are things best left alone.
… Today I went back into Second Life after a lengthy interval. I looked at Alpha’s face. Her expression too is fixed. As are those of all the avatars around me, of course. But none of the faces that I love in Second Life give me the sense that they conceal some evil that had better be left alone – obviously. So, what is going on here? I need to think about this one.
Especially since I have lately been thinking about how accurately we actually get to know each other over there, in Second Life. It seems to me that the level of recognition amongst close friends in the metaverse is something that really does need to be remarked upon. We tend to reveal our warts to quite an extraordinary degree to our nearest and dearest. Far far far more than in Real Life I even think, to be honest.
Could it be precisely because we cannot rely on our faces to conceal things? Could it be that it is far more difficult to conceal your nasty little quirks and idiosyncrasies and downright objectionable characteristics when there is no face to hide behind? Or do we simply become far less inhibited when the expression is fixed? Like you suffered a massive stroke or something? What happens then? Has anyone ever investigated these things I wonder? The correlations?
Here’s the thing though: You express yourself through what you do as well as what you say in the metaverse. And I think the doing bit is way more important than the bla bla bit. People that just speak and do not do much of anything else? Who wants to even know them in Second Life? And could this have anything to do with the fact that speech is not accompanied by expression when you are there? So that in the absence of facial expression, for speech to actually acquire meaning and interest it needs to go in tandem with action in the metaverse? That action itself becomes expression? Could it be then that actions really do speak louder than words after all? At least in Second Life?
So, could it then be so that the ultimate indicator of who you are is what you do? And, could it be that when doing is all that you can rely upon for self expression you really have no place to hide? Could it be that the avatar, far from being a concealer, is actually a revealer, in its absence of facial expression? …
I really think that I am onto something here you know.
Yes yes yes. I know, I know. You can build yourself a persona that has absolutely nothing to do with who you really are. Sure you can. I mean look at all those transgender avatars. I have one too, who doesn’t anyway? Or alts? And as long as you stick to public events and places you can probably conceal yourself ad infinitum. But that is a very superficial take on Second Life, hardly worthy of a hardcore Resident’s consideration even. The minute you start to do; to build, start groups, make music, rezz – whatever it is that one does around here that ends up making a Second Life even remotely meaningful, that gives it an identity, you will start being seen in action. Action that clothes your chatter in meaning, that creates a context, an expression.
And then you are so busted. Oh, by all means, please do continue to wear whatever your particular cloak of concealment has been… Who cares? Anyone around you who has gotten close enough to give you a serious moment’s thought will still know all of what you are all about. And what’s more, here’s the divine irony: That famous cloak you have so tightly wrapped around you will be the first thing that is giving you away – your innermost being, your fantasies, your illusions and delusions, your fears, your confusion, your very need for concealment or identification, your vanity (this one would be me, alas), your hopes, your lies, your imagination, your self perception, your level of individuation… You see, you took action when you built that avatar, that persona. It wasn’t a god given thing, you made it. You created yourself and now you stand there holding the can.
Second Life is bloody uncanny that way. It really is.