Outside at the Museum of Inspirational Thought, author’s photo
Skye’s beautiful funeral is the future of the future.
She was way ahead of all the earliest adopters. She didn’t just lead a full rich life for us to appreciate. She built a world for us to be in as we gathered to celebrate her. On the outside lawn of her Museum of Inspirational Thought.
Her virtual friends, that is. There is a parallel world in which she also had a funeral or some kind of ceremony. I do not believe that anyone attended both.
Nothing has escaped the invisible shaping hand of the virus.
Humans had the funeral thing down, a cozy little service industry that knew how to move us at an acceptable pace into and hopefully through grieving.
Now significantly disrupted.
Zoom alternatives have emerged and have provided relief to some. But just Google ‘Zoom Funerals’ and you’ll see the prevailing tone is thumbs-down on experiences that will not continue in the safe and secure imagined future.
Of course there may never be a safe and secure future and Zoom is not the only communications technology getting a big boost in weird times.
Outside at the Museum of inspirational Thought, author’s photo
Despite the way Virtual Reality is consistently portrayed as a platform for gaming and self-indulgent escapism, actual people all over the world are discovering for themselves, often accidentally, that VR is fundamentally about connecting with other people.
I’m not giving anything away to say we are on auto-pilot in real life most of the time. Following routines, interacting in predictable, comfortable ways, same old, same old.
VR is not same old, same old.
Everyone who takes part in any event on a social VR platform such as AltspaceVR feels it in one second. Something is different.
There is implicit permission to behave more freely. To show vulnerability. To care. These are not new and unusual modes of behavior, it’s just that they aren’t necessarily featured in the real world.
In early March, 2020 at the beginning of the world wide disruption, I was hosting events in VR every day. One of them was a long-form talk show called, Conversations.
Skye was my first conversation.
I enjoy long-form podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience or The Unregistered Podcast. I didn’t know if I could keep up a conversation that would be interesting to an audience with someone who was pretty much a complete stranger to me, but I wanted to give it a try.
I could not have gotten off to a better start. Skye’s story turned out to have something for everyone.
There was hardship. She shared the outlines of her tough life growing up in New York. She was a creative person who had to make herself into a tougher, do-whatever-it-takes person to get by.
When she couldn’t stand it any more, she left. Escape!
Remade herself in a different place, different part of the country. She could breathe. So she could work on herself. Start to heal all there was to heal. Alone. Until she wasn’t.
Until she met someone. And she knew in every part of her hurting physical body that this was the person she had been looking for her whole life.
They didn’t just build a world together. They built an interconnected network of worlds together. Dedicated to their love first and then to the rest of us.
Reverend Jeremy Nickel presided.
He knew Skye well. She has been a central figure in the EvolVR community for several years, which is decades in VR-Time.
He began the ceremony with a loving appreciation in the tone of someone who knows how to do this. I am drawing attention to the reverential spirit to be completely clear to anyone who has never been in VR — this felt right. It felt like someone’s funeral.
It felt like the funeral of someone who was part of a community. The people there knew her. The minister knew that she was a poet, so three of her poems were read, by people who had some relationship with Skye.
Because she is Skye, Builder of Worlds, many of her poems are immortalized in Skye’s World of Poetry.
Skye’s World of Poetry, Entrance, author’s photo
As you walk the pathway and read her work, you trace the arc of her life.
Behind These Eyes says,
But you can’t know
What can’t be seen
What’s buried forever In between…
Those thousand fears
And million tears
Those heartbreaks from my childhood years.
Invisible Me says,
In spirit I am a stranger
To time, place and conformity.
I long for the freedom to be
At one with the ecstasy of my soul.
I have not arrived
My destination eludes me
As life bids me forward. I shall not tarry.
It is far better to be alone Than to be invisible.
Here is what The Unfolding looks like in Skye’s Poetry World:
You freed my soul to love again
You are my mate. my love, my friend
I had my conversation with Skye after The Unfolding.
She was not bubbly or happy in any obvious way. But her joy was as clear and present as any I have ever felt. Everyone in the audience felt it. No one left.
She found what she was looking for. Even though it was late in life, she didn’t experience it that way. All she knew was she found it.
Every day had that joy. There could never be enough but even one day full of love could be enough to last a lifetime if that’s the deal.
She died suddenly and unexpectedly.
Her real life was in virtual worlds but she needed her physical body to keep her there and one day last week it wouldn’t any more.
We all milled around and told stories afterwards. It turns out you don’t need sandwiches and soft drinks or beer.
We’ve had death rituals for a couple thousand generations, way before we started settling down in actual communities with big walls around them.
We need to say goodbye.
With Skye there was so much left unsaid because it was so sudden.
But because she turned her life difficulties into lessons and examples and inspirations, there was also so much that was said.
Let my heart revisit the
place of joy and laughter
Let me dance forevermore
in the warm night air
with voice raised toward heaven
in reverence and ecstasy
You will Skye, you will.