Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Second Lifers' love of wheat translates to *four* real cows - To celebrate, AM Radio announces a writing competition

On September 22, 2007, AM Radio set out some plots of wheat for sale on the land where his own, much celebrated virtual wheat field in Second Life sits, known as The Far Away. Teleport directly from here.

Now AM Radio has announced that he is sponsoring The Far Away Writing Competition. Participants are invited to write a story or poem, and then post it in the description field of their photograph to the Wheat Field Flickr group. Only one entry per Flickr account is permissible, and all entries must be received by March 7, 2008.

There will be one Grand Prize consisting of $10,000L, one Eton American Red Cross FR250 radio (a real one), and featured placement of the winning submission on The Far Away (with the winning entrant's permission) for 8 weeks. Rules can be found directly at the Far Away.

All this is in celebration of an important milestone. From day one, AM has taken all proceeds from every sale and forwarded them to Heifer International, an organization that works to end hunger and poverty by providing livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of people who struggle daily for dependable sources of food and income.

Today and 250 generous donors later, these sales of virtual wheat have raised very real money - $2,000US in fact - and enough for Heifer to purchase four cows.

What is it about the Far Away that moves us so and compels us to return again and again? It is hard for me to put it into words.

On paper, it sounds conventional: a field of wheat, grey skies, a rusty old train, a table... but in our pixelated reality it is a comforting riddle that has gripped the imagination of thousands of its visitors.

Strawberry Holiday put it this way, "The Far Away is my favorite place in Second Life. I go there almost every day - usually once when I first log in by myself... and once before I go to bed with Wendy. It calms me.... not just because it's an amazing build, but because I see the time and effort AM puts into it. There's always something new to discover. Tonight, Blueberries! And I always meet really great people there... or bump into friends. It's become my place of peace in Second life, like coming home."

For Darkle Sands, "the Far Away is not just some 'SL Build.' It's a piece of art. AM is an artist and prims are his paint. Everything in the Far Away makes you feel immersed, and the placement off unusual things in the landscape really makes it very abstract. To date it still rates in my top favorite places to be in Second Life." Spiral Walcher agrees with Darkle, and adds: "It is the perfect example of when reality meets virtual reality."

Whenever I stop by the Far Away, I hope to find a gentle person and frequent visitor there by the name of Hitomi Mokusei. I asked her via email how the Far Away makes her feel, and her reply came easily and eloquently: In the Far Away there is a feeling of peace, safety and constancy, but it is touched with an underlying emotional resonance that permeates everything in it... a tinge of nostalgic longing for what once was but is now gone. It is not a static place. Not all is revealed on the surface. Exploring it in more depth reveals secrets, that can fire the imagination... touch the heart... or make one think in a new way."

What does it mean to you and how do you feel there?

Life is bittersweet. Less than five months ago, I received an urgent IM from dedicated adventurer and NPIRLer Matthew Kidomen, alerting me to his discovery of a most extraordinary build in the sky above a sandbox. That finding turned out to be momentous, and the build was called The Far Away. Two days ago, Matthew wrote to say that he is leaving Second Life to do other things. I can never thank you enough, Matthew. "May good luck be your friend in whatever you do and may trouble be always a stranger to you."


Anonymous said...

Bettina, thank you so much for this wonderful write up. And thank you to those who contributed with kind words and reaction. The Far

Away certainly took on a life of its own, and I don't know if Matthew realizes his role as a catalyst. He will be missed.

As I write this we're setting out on our fifth journey for our fifth cow. I have raised the goal to 10 cows! Such a goal feels like an

impossible challenge, but I feel confident to set that challenge. This new goal feels the same as when the goal was first set to one

cow. A goal can seem so simple and so logical that it should have been reached once the journey is complete. The accomplishments of

many people acting on one goal is humbling and fills me with hope.

The Far Away is perhaps a predictable first step into the metaverse for me. It embodies my creative goals while appealing to my nerdier

interests in technology as a futurist - that technology can solve real world problems.

The Far Away is and has been important in my goal to make a positive difference. They say you can earn credits to carbon neutral your

life. I think the same is true for the good we put in the world. I have a pair of steel toe boots. I wore them on my trip to help fight

forest fires. I wore them to New Orleans when I helped rebuild houses. I wear them everyday now. The wear and tears, and gashes are

sweet evidence that even the most unvarnished and humble of experiences can shine. The boots are equipment that enabled me to go places

and do things I didn't think were possible in me. After thousands of visits and hundreds of contributions I don't see much difference

between the boots and The Far Away. Every visitor leaves an unseen mark. The Far Away is the reminder, the evidence that a bit of prims

can lead to a situation which makes a real difference in our real world.