5. The Opening of the Mouth

In this chapter I am going to explore the contrasts between individual approaches to the greater goal of establishing a fun, authentic role play community. While most people in the community expressed a desire for an authentic experience, each had a different understanding of, and motivation for pursuing, authenticity. Each person’s understanding was accompanied by an individual purpose for their presence, a purpose revealed by their actions and their understandings.

I shall reveal these contrasts by examining a ritual that I had no part in constructing or performing, but in which my role was that of interested spectator. By examining this ritual I seek to understand not only the purpose of its creator and realizer (though this is necessarily limited as my reality tunnel is not hers), but to examine my reception of it and explore what this tells me about my participation in the community. This will also allow me to revisit my earlier theme of the unknowing that characterizes life in the world. Not only do we not know who the person behind the avatar is but we don’t know what their motivations are. Even if they tell us. Often they don’t know. I will show how not knowing is not necessarily a fatal flaw, but rather the doorway to the creation of new meanings by means of remixing, a process that has been going on since the dawn of human history.

The creation of this ritual is an example of what St. John calls remixticism, a process he describes as one “where a desirable experience of universal connectedness relies upon cut ups and disassembly, where the experience of ‘unity’ and the sublime derives from destruction and breakdowns”1. The author of the following ritual has remixed ancient Egyptian texts, inserting her own contemporary Pagan sensibilities and conceptualisations in order to create a new ritual which, while echoing its ancient forebears, is a new creation to serve a new purpose. I will show that what has been called reconstructionist Neopaganism does not always have the goal of an exact reproduction, rather it often seeks a new form for a new meaning which, while it draws inspiration from ancient sources, is created through a process of destruction – solve et coagula.

Second Life is not independent and set apart from meatspace. Rather it is interdependent, the same processes that we see in meatspace culture are present in Second Life cultures. People construct meaning in the same way in the world as they do in meatspace. What may appear on the surface to be a poor recreation of an historical milieu is rather a remix produced to create new meaning for new purposes. What I wanted from the world and what my fellows there wanted was not exactly alike. These differences were responsible for the conflicts and successes we experienced there. Just as they are in meatspace.

  1. St. John, G., (2013), “Aliens Are Us: Cosmic Liminality, Remixticism, and Alienation in Psytrance”, The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Vol. 25, No. 2, p. 187. ↩︎

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