“Through others we become ourselves.” ― Lev S. Vygotsky
Today the Valkyrie, (the moniker I’ve given the journalist who interviewed me) asked all kinds of questions about my work and experiences in AltLife. When and why did I get an AltLife account? When and how did I meet my business partners, Naia and Busk? What prompted us to open our pub? And why did I choose an avatar that looks like a baby dragon? Yeah, she’s a nosey one that Valkyrie.
Oddly, though the questions weren’t particulary intrusive, I found myself feeling defensive and protective of my AltLife. Not only didn’t I answer all the questions, but I found myself telling small half-truths as well. This is very unlike me and therefore troubling. Even more disconcerting was the fact that she knew. “I get the feeling you’re not being completely open with me,” she said, staring at me from behind that helmet of hers with its silver wings and curved horns. That alone was enough to make me nervous. No man likes to be peered at by an attractive woman dressed in flowing robes and a winged helmet, let alone an attractive woman wielding a pen. Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword was right. I resolved to be careful about what I said to this Valkyrie.
At any rate I have logged out of AltLife for the day and am now wieldng a pen of my own. I’ve long been in the habit of taking notes - recording my thoughts, feelings, and general impressions as well as the facts of my days.
My story begins in the time of the great contagion. You know the one - the virus that made us question breath and turned the air that fuels our lives into a weapon of mass destruction.
It’s nearly behind us now - the most vulnerable lost, the stupidest restricted to parts of the country set aside for the unvaccinated. Miraculously, most of the holdouts have overcome their self-righteous indignation and gotten the shots. But avoidance has become instinctive. I am more comfortable breathing pixelated air at virtual concerts than I am going to live performances where the occasional crazy still tempts fate and infects whole stadiums full of people.
Prior to the contagion, I was a little-known neuroscientist working on a small, underfunded research project studying how the brain converts music into meaningful memories. It’s really remarkable how essential hearing is to our ability to function in the world. As Nina Kraus, one of my favorite contemporaries, likes to say, “Sound is Underrecognized; Hearing is Underappreciated.” Amen.
I joined AltLife at the height of the contagion. I’d heard, you see, that there were music communities forming - musicians playing live concerts, virtual jams in real-time, and groups that got together to swap stories about their favorite performers.
My kind of people.
But if I’m honest, the main reason I joined AltLife was loneliness. The strange pockets of emptiness that have occupied the house since Astrid passed had begun to ambush me in the most unexpected places - as I was taking a cereal bowl from the kitchen cabinet, stepping into the shower, or searching my dresser drawers for a pair of matching socks. With the lab closed because of the contagion, I needed a new form of escape. AltSpace it was!