It’s rather cliche for those who spend time in virtual worlds to gripe about how those who don’t cannot understand the sense of community and purpose that we experience in-world. It’s all a game, some say. None of it’s real, others argue.
But when there’s a loss … it’s felt keenly, as much as friendship, affection, anger and pride. And perhaps even moreso. One can anticipate the latter emotions, but few of us are prepared to consider death and its effects on our relationships. Should it matter that the person who has passed is someone you’ve never seen, never touched, never even knew their legal name? As some who’ve experienced such a loss — it does not matter. The loss is felt. It is a concrete thing, weighed heavy in the chest and displacing the air, tendrils pressing behind the eyes.
I must honestly say I didn’t know Sumie Kawashima, let alone the human behind the avatar. She was a voice on the group chat of the Independent State of Caledon … like many others in the community, she was a source of good humour and enthusiasm. She flew and built airships, was active and involved with the community, had friends and projects and was social. Many people have many things to say about her firsthand, and I will not appropriate them for here. What I can say, speaking directly and only for me, is that she was part of a community and that community … as strange and artificial and based on fictions as it is — it will miss her. Many of us will have no way of knowing how much the person invested themselves into the avatar of Sumie Kawashima, but it was enough for her to leave her mark on us, individually and in toto.
Diogenes preceded a small remembrance for Sumie at the Falling Anvil in Caledon Tanmenwith the following:
I would then like to say, that while I did not know Sumie personally,
I knew of her…
and after all, what makes this world of ours..this virtual world as well as the real one, such a remarkable and wonderful place
is not the things and stuff and bits and prims
it is the people who add life and creativity and joy and dpeth to the society we have formed here
this odd little civilization
when we lose any of those people who have made it such a special place
we are all diminished
And as suggested by my friend, Alastair Whybrow:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
John Donne, Meditation XVII
We are an odd little civilization. But like all others … we feel and we mourn and we lift each other up.