Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mute swans and multiple lives

click photo to enlarge
When I first became aware of Second Life, the virtual world where people "live" an alternative existence and interact with other "people", I thought that the inventors of the software had chosen the wrong name. It seemed to me that "Third Life" would be much more appropriate because of the increasing tendency for people in the affluent world to already be living two lives.

The "first life" that people lead involves the daily reality of existence; looking out and interacting with the world in a straightforward way. The "second life" that many also live, and are encouraged to live by the forces of society and affluence, is one where they constantly exist outside themselves, always looking at their actions and reactions in terms of how it fits with who they want to be, how they see themselves, and, particularly, how they want others to see them. For people who have been seduced into this way of living no action seems to be undertaken for its own sake, they're always looking at the profit and loss it generates for their self-image and projected image. Work, hobbies, partners, purchases, education, friendships, holidays - everything is seen in terms of this second "virtual" person that they create both for themselves and in order to impress their friends and the wider world whose recognition they crave.

I've read a number of defences of participation in the online Second Life - it's harmless fun, it lets people be more than they are or can be, it's part of the future of the world, it's an alternate reality, it allows the housebound to step beyond the confines of their infirmity - there are probably more. I remain unconvinced. I think that those who "live" in this online world are likely to be a self-selected group for whom it will certainly be a "Third Life". For them, and for the many others who live the "second life" I describe above, my suggestion would be to make the most of the reality that is "first life" - it's all that matters!

This reflection was prompted by a search of Google to discover whether the mute swan (Cygnus olor) had ever been known to produce a second brood in the same season. I found the answer (yes) amongst a number of irrelevant links that were about people in Second Life who had the word "swan" as part of their virtual name! Why did it come as no surprise that none were called "mute swan"?

I photographed this adult bird by the River Slea in Lincolnshire. It was one of a family group who were resting and loath to move as we walked by. This one kept a watchful eye open until we were well past.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On