I went to Roche↑ today partly because I don’t have to describe it or spend any time introducing it to you (and if you don’t know it then you should). My primary reason, however, was to illustrate some idle thoughts.
We’re all (I think) drawn to ‘beauty’. It pleases the eye and satisfies something inside that needs nourishment. Imagine, though, if the only acceptable definition of ‘beauty’ was pretty flowers. The creators of this sim would be considered failures, the region would be avoided and many, many individuals would feel inadequate because they won’t or don’t ‘do’ gardens. A world where only colourful beds of petals were acceptable would be stupid. Right?
I started thinking about this topic (again) after watching the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics↑. Anything which includes Stephen Hawking↑, Isaac Newton, sway poles↑ (which are really cool) and Shakespeare is my kind of event. This was fabulous. Most people don’t know that because they didn’t watch and, if they lived outside one of the few countries to broadcast it live, they couldn’t without access to an online stream. There wouldn’t be any outrage over this because most people aren’t interested. It’s not the “real” thing after all.
In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you now that I spent 10 years walking with a cane when I could walk at all. In my case it turned out I didn’t have some dread disease, I was misdiagnosed and actually have dozens of food allergies (sigh). I know what it’s like to be “disabled” even if I wasn’t born that way or didn’t acquire a injury through war or accident as many of these athletes have. I experienced life as somebody who wasn’t ‘whole’ or ‘right’ or ‘acceptable’.
There is a school of thought that believes that art must challenge. If it doesn’t disturb you then it isn’t ‘good’. I don’t ascribe to this all or nothing philosophy but I do believe that some art does challenge our notions of ‘beauty’ – if I find something disturbing then I have to ask myself why and wonder if there’s something in my belief system that should be modified. (I’m not referring to stuff that is sometimes called art and is probably self-indulgent garbage by the way.)
A good example of this was present during the Ceremony, a 48 foot tall representation of Alison Lapper Pregnant↑. The original was displayed in Trafalgar Square and incited much controversy – after all a portrait in marble of a heavily pregnant woman born without arms wasn’t beautiful to many. If that statue is disturbing to some one then I think they might be the type of person who only likes pretty flowers.
You rarely see somebody in Second Life who uses a wheel chair. We also almost never see an avatar that is overweight or with less than perfect features although they do exist. I think this is in some part due to the fact that we’d all like to be beautiful – we just find it easier to buy in to the commonly accepted definition. There is also a very vocal minority that will heap scorn and abuse on those who don’t fall into line. People get enough hassle and lack of acceptance in real life – they don’t need it in the virtual as well.
Ask yourself – if you’re a sports fan – why you aren’t interested in the Paralympics. Ask yourself, if the answer is that you cringe away from a group of people so different from the accepted norm, whether this is an opportunity to broaden your thinking.
I’ll leave you with a video of the finale (I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles). If you get a chance – watch the entire thing, there are streams of the full Ceremony all over the place. You might have to add more variety to your garden. :)