For the past week I have been exploring Second Life, an internet based world which provides a wide-range of "imaginary/real" experiences. In this "world" I have adopted the name of Hosea Beaumont, and am aspiring to be a Protestant Benedictine Monk, living at the Felix Meritas monastery in the Lill Burn Valley.
Reportedly over seven million persons are members of this cyber world; however only around 30-40,000 seem to be signed on at any one time. The cost is not too high if you are frugal. I bought L$1,000 (Linden dollars--"play" money named after the founders of Second Life, the Lindens) for $4.02 and have spent around 400 so far. Two hundred for a week's rent of a cell in the Cloister at the monastery and other expenses along the way (L$95 for a Benedictine robe).
Each person has an avatar (a representative humanoid, well some do not look like a human) which you get to design yourself with some fairly sophisticated tools. and you can make or buy clothing.
I must admit there are an unusual number of sexy women running around, since there are generous limits as the the size of various body parts you can choose. And much of the clothing is probably what most earth-based creatures wish they could wear (on bodies they wish were really theirs).
So you have to put up with sex and gambling as two primary modes of behavior; however, there is plenty of room to discuss redemption and forgiveness in this world.
Yesterday I discussed God and agnosticism with a young psychological student from Toulouse, France (yes he really was from France---this thing is a world-wide community). Today I debated with a Greek Orthodox follower who was proclaiming his church was right and all others were wrong. I have an acquaintance with a sister here at the monastery who in RL (real life) is a medical student in Munich. I talked with a fellow from Spain and a lady from California yesterday.
Most of the time I just sit in the courtyard and welcome folks who "drop in" to visit the monastery. Some come intending to discuss religious matters. Other times I "transport" to other locations, shopping malls, churches, parks, a recreational midnight walk, even a casino, w here I won L$60 on my third try and immediately quit. Today I took an hour class on how to write behavioral scripts for my avatar.
I hope to build a United Methodist Church (tho I probably won't call it that), preach on Sundays, teach some classes, have a Bible Study or two, counsel whenever, and develop a circuit like Wesley. Small groups are next, on different levels of discourse and accountability. It takes time to develop a group I suspect, but it will really be fun and worthwhile.
So, if you wish to come and see what this is all about, click on this address: http://www.secondlife.com/ and come aboard. If you spend any time there, come on over to the Felix Meritas monastery and say high. I usually spend a little time there in the late afternoons and evenings (beats TV). Oh yes, if you decide to become a Premium Member, somehow I will get L$2,000 as a reward if you mention my name Whatever I get will go toward building a church.
[Late news: in the Sunday, July 1, edition of the San Antonio Express-News there is a story on Virtual Worlds. See it at:
UPDATE: ABOUT THREE WEEKS AGO (EARLY OCTOBER) I BURIED MY AVATAR OUTSIDE THE FELIX MERITAS MONASTERY WALLS (DID'NT KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO WITH HIM.) I LEFT SECOND LIFE IN FAVOR OF FIRST LIFE. I FOUND NOT MUCH TO DO THERE EXCEPT TALK, DONATE MONEY TO SOMEONE ELSE AND RIDE A TOY TRAIN. CAN DO THAT BETTER IN FIRST LIFE. ADIEU.