New Horizons

It was late April of 2010 when Walter first led us to explore grids other than Second Life. At that time, visiting other grids was pretty grim for those of us who find our pleasure the virtual world more by art and design than by technology. It’s hard to believe just how far we have come in three short years. What was the barren frontier has become a perfectly reasonable alternative to Second Life.

It’s been awhile since I posted anything about what I have been up to on our grid. So I’m taking this opportunity just to share a few snapshots of what I’ve been building.

In April of 2013, almost exactly 3 years after we first tried Opensim, in a vast leap of faith, we opened our own independent virtual world: Littlefield Grid. Here is our Admin Team arriving at the Grand Opening gala.

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We just added our 500th member a couple of weeks ago, and are closing in on 600 already. Littlefield Grid consists of about 140 regions, centered around a central shopping district and five welcome and hangout regions. The welcome regions include Littlefield Hangout, a beautiful redwood grove.

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Littlefield Engineering is a hangout for those who like to talk tech. It was my experiment in Brutalist architecture.

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One of Littlefield’s distinctions is our enthusiastic band of content creators. I have built lots of stores for them, where they share their creations with members for free. For me, building a store is often an opportunity to explore a new architectural style. I created a few stores in Art Deco style for my beloved who especially likes that style.

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One of the biggest challenges, when we left SL for the Opensimulator world, was vegetation. The quality of available landscaping materials in Opensim worlds in 2010 was distressingly poor, especially compared to what was available in SL. But three years later, things are looking up; we now have one whole sim of good plants and decent trees (and they are all free to our residents).

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I enjoyed learning about Victorian style when building this Queen Anne and a Victorian shopping street.

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One of my most recent builds was a conference center in the style of a mountain lodge – my little homage to the luxury hotels in the National Parks of the Western U.S.

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For more snapshots of Littlefield Grid, with many more photos of my builds, visit Camryn’s Flickr stream.

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Never stop learning

“No one is good to start with;

It takes practice for your work to match your vision.”

This wisdom comes from the amazing Robin Sojourner, one of the most respected creative forces in the virtual world. Robin’s quietly generous creativity permeates the virtual world through her free scripts and templates, the beautiful things she makes, and her teaching of building and texturing skills. “One of the things that excites me,” she says, “is that people who have no idea that they are creative come into Second Life and find out that they can make things. We are taught, at some point early in life, that creativity is reserved for the ‘creative types’ and they are special and there are only a few of them… and it’s just not true. All of us can do it.”

I was like that. If you’d told me in early 2006 that within a few years I would be so engaged in creating, I would have laughed. But now look. I’ve built whole towns and countless sims, and everything from jewelry to palaces. It turns out I have an eye for fashion and for architecture, something I would never have known about myself, had it not been for the virtual world.

But I think I am not done learning yet.

We have a similar creative force on Littlefield Grid, the marvelous Aaack Aardvark, who is generously giving his time to teach us how to make things in mesh. Our classes are fun and enlightening, and Aaack is a wonderful teacher who keeps us laughing. I am having a great time. The learning curve will not be easy, but with help, who knows. Maybe I can finally make a tree that satisfies me. Maybe more.

The day that you stop learning is the day that you start dying. Keep opening yourself to new things.

 

Ten Years

I spend more time than ever in the virtual world these days, mostly in Littlefield Grid. But today I took some time in good old Second Life, to observe the 10th anniversary of the official launch on June 23, 2003. After all, Second Life is where I was born.

It is easy to be critical of Second Life. Those of us who inhabit the OpenSimulator world, especially, often are. But I have to admit that I was moved by my experience today. Let me explain why.

Statue of Man 2002When speaking of Second Life, it is important to draw a distinction between Linden Lab—the commercial entity that created the Second Life software—and the residents, the community of people who created essentially everything that is IN Second Life.

I am no fan of Linden Lab. In my opinion, Second Life is one of the most spectacularly mismanaged businesses in the history of business. Their chronically poor judgment has alienated countless thousands of contributors to the virtual world, and kept the company on the edge of disaster for years.

But somehow, after ten years, the place is still standing, at least for now. Despite inept management, over a million people still log in to Second Life at least once a month. Why? Those one million people are not visiting Second Life because of technology. What keeps them coming back? They come because of people: the residents, the community, the world that has been created, not by Linden Lab, but by people like you and me.

Linden Lab is not Second Life. We are.

Second Life’s 10th Birthday was, for me, a celebration of the mind-bending creativity of the residents of the virtual world (every virtual world, not only Second Life). Seeing it showcased all in one place made it clear just how deep the talent pool is. I was awed by resident creativity expressed in immersive 3-D art… streaming media, machinima, radio and television stations… vehicles, from cars to sailboats to rocket ships… relationships: communities, friendships, romance and sex… battle weapons from swords to It all started with a cube.tanks… animations for every conceivable activity… a massive virtual fashion industry fueling $32 billion USD in virtual goods transactions… deep and complex roleplay communities… education, and charitable fundraising… scripts that enable intriguing things to happen… exquisite textures and building materials… cities and landscapes in astonishing variety… every conceivable environment from castles to post-apocalyptic ruins, bayou shacks to gleaming palaces, and everything in between… and ideas, omg, incredibly creative and innovative ideas.

These are the components of the virtual world, and they were not created by Linden Lab. They were created by us—the users, the residents, the virtual world community. This is what inspired me today. Not Linden Lab, but imagination and the human spirit.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the official launch of Second Life, I celebrate the creativity of 30 million human beings who have lived in this and every other virtual world. I toast their thought, their craft, their innovation, their art and their science. I praise the generosity of spirit that inspires me every day, when people pull amazingly wonderful and original ideas out of their minds, and share them with the rest of us in Second Life, in Littlefield, and in every virtual world.

Let us raise a glass to creativity! Hear, hear!

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Generosity

We were meandering down the streets of the town where I live, enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. He had surprised me by driving up to take me to breakfast. I was floating, savoring the pleasures of the moment: the beautiful cool spring day, a tasty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and most of all, being with my Master in person.

He is subtly different in person. He looks very much like his avatar. But his avatar never smiles. The flesh and blood man smiles constantly. Always smiling. He exudes warmth and charisma and charm. In person there is a difference in the timbre of his voice. Richer. Softer. I hear confidence and strength, but surprising tenderness. His voice wraps around me like a down comforter, and makes affection and adoration pour out of my heart.

cannoliWe passed a new Italian gourmet market. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked if we should pop inside to have a look. I smiled and nodded eagerly. We perused the culinary delights: trays of salads, entrees and artisanal pizza. The salumeria tempted us with fresh pasta, prosciutto and cheeses. We oo’d and ah’d over the pastries: creamy cannoli, tiramisu, butter cookies piled high. He said he was going to get himself a sandwich for later. I wandered through aisles of imported olive oil.

A few minutes later we left to head home. As we came out of the market, he pressed a bag into my hand. “Here,” he said simply. Curious, I peered inside. The bag contained dinner for me for that night—chicken francese and polenta—and a huge box of the cannoli I’d been admiring. My little gasp of delight at the unexpected treat made his face light up with pleasure.

This simple expression of generosity will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him. I have never met a more generous person, or one who takes more delight in it. He absolutely loves to cause that response of surprise and pleasure with his gifts. And because he does so much for me, he gets to see that reaction often.

I hope he knows that I love his gifts—but his gifts are not why I love him. My love grows from the honor of knowing him and having him in my life, being loved by him, and the remarkably wonderful person he is.

He is the most delightful gift of all.

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Law of Drama

Law of Drama

We, all of us, are a messy mix of virtue and vice. But virtual worlds may lead us to see people through black or white filters. Instead of character flaws, we see demons. Every human being has some goodness inside them. Somewhere. But in the virtual world, we become convinced that we are utterly just, and the other side is mired in evil (or at least incompetence). We do not see our opponents as they are: flawed humans, as imperfect as we are ourselves.

There certainly are people and situations that deserve righteous anger: those who hurt for the sport of it; deceivers and exploiters; and those who engage in destructive behavior and thoughtless self-indulgence that causes harm.

But it seems to me that too many people are addicted to the primitive thrill of drama. They seem to hunger for the battle-lust of explosive anger, or the conspicuous display of woundedness from having been wronged. I won’t deny it: both the anger and the woundedness can feel very satisfying–especially because it seems so clean, when we can’t see the effect of our words in the facial expressions of our target. When we see them only in black and white. When we do not see them as whole, imperfect people.

Speaking for myself, drama bores me. It also makes me a little nauseous. It feeds on emotional energy and I have none to spare. Life is too short to waste one minute of it on such nonsense. My instinct is simply to ignore it, mentally flipping the channel.

I cannot stop anyone from trying to hurt me. I cannot control the behavior of others. I can only control my own. I try to do no harm. If someone claims to have been harmed by me, I try to embrace self-honesty and humility, always allowing for the possibility, however remote, that I might be wrong, and that I might learn something from my opponent. If I have done wrong, I swallow my pride and apologize.

I do believe in standing up for one’s strong convictions. I am not a member of the spineless school of can’t-we-all-just-get-along. If someone is harming me, I will do what is necessary to stop it—which usually means simply walking away. In most cases, fighting back stops nothing. It only prolongs it. If I choose to participate in their negativity, I give it power. If I turn my back on it, it has no power over me. I just turn away, without saying a word… and without giving any ground. I have no time or energy to waste on this crap.

Even when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to demonize my opponents. As difficult as it might be to imagine, I do my best to assume that they are people of good will, trying their best, as I am, to live lives of integrity. They may be damaged (as I am) or lacking in communication skills (as I am). Their action may have been thoughtless, or misguided. If so, then striking back would solve nothing.

I do not engage in vengeance or payback. I treat everyone with compassion, whether they deserve it or not. When you do a small kindness for someone who hates you, they might spit in your face. But sometimes, a compassionate act, even a small one, is infinitely more powerful than an angry one.

And when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to wallow in my woundedness. All that usually accomplishes is prolonging the pain and spreading it to innocent bystanders. If someone hurt me intentionally, broadcasting my pain would only encourage them. If the hurt was unintentional, the flaunting of bloodied bandages accomplishes nothing, and risks making me look ridiculous. I know how to cope with my feelings in an adult manner, and then let them go.

At all times, I listen, with an open heart, to the words of others, and to their fear, their wounds, their hopes and desires. I listen for the good in them. And I have never yet failed to find it.

 

This was written originally about political debate. I am republishing it by request in a shorter form.

SOMA: sensual pleasure on Bondage

Friends noticed me in SL a lot more for a few weeks, and I want to share a bit about the project that I just completed there. Stop by the sim Bondage and have a look at SOMA.

SOMA is not easy to describe. They are a group of friends who share an interest in the pleasure of intellect, erotic sensuality, art and myth. At first glance, one may wonder whether it’s a sex club, an art gallery, a dance club or a temple. The answer is yes.

In ancient mythology, Soma was the drink of the gods, the Hindu equivalent of the Greco-Roman ambrosia. It is the elixir that celebrates the divine character of life. SOMA is a group of passionate friends and thoughtful lovers. Or is that lovers of thought? SOMA hosts discussions, dances, art exhibits, erotic parties, rituals, theater, concerts and more. SOMA is a pleasure feast of body, mind and spirit, a celebration of art and sensuality, of wild and tender passions.

SOMA began as one small building on a small parcel, and grew rapidly without much planning. When they finally took over the entire sim, they asked me to come and help them expand in a more thoughtful way. I retained their original Asian building and helped them expand into a large Roman area and a Celtic-themed area featuring a stone circle.

SOMA now has a blog, “Ambrosia” and can be found on Twitter @SomaSecondLife. Inworld, join the group Bondage Soma to receive notices. Below is a quick photo tour of SOMA.

One arrives at a central plaza that leads to all the various venues. Yes, that is an Egyptian god in front of a Roman villa. That type of convergence is typical of SOMA.

Soma Roman Villa

The group enjoys weekly dances in The Pleasure Dome. Love the Alchemy Immortalis “Haute Suite” chairs.

Pleasure Dome

Sculpted deities by the amazing Ryusho Ort are featured in the central plaza.

Soma Statues Hindu Egyptian Gods

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions.

Prometheus Theater overlooks the plaza and is a setting for concerts and dramatic productions

Villa de L’Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng, a successful RL artist whose vibrant, colorful images celebrate life and love.

Villa de L'Arte is currently showing the work of the fabulous Bachi Cheng

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister.

A small Roman peristyle garden offers a bit of serenity in a quiet cloister

Artwork and logo by my wonderful friends Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Artwork and logo by Stephen Venkman and Seren Dawes.

Bacchus Pub, furnished with Max Graf’s excellent Rustica pub set.

Bacchus Pub, Rustica pub

The villa has several nooks and terraces for intimacy and romance.

Soma Romantic Terrace

Flute Alonzo’s furnishings have gorgeous textures and top quality animations.

Soma Flute Alonzo Furnishings

One private room has a Gorean dance pit and a setting for small group gatherings.

Soma Private Room

The sim is named Bondage. That said, it is not primarily a BDSM sim. But there is a small, elegant, intimate dungeon, the Temple of Bondage, well-equipped for sensual bondage play.

Temple of Bondage

The Temple of Bondage has a lovely public room and three private rooms equipped with dozens of the finest BDSM toys from BFE, Deviant, Dictatorshop and Nihil.

Temple of Bondage Dungeon Rooms

The Temple of Zeus and Hera provides a setting for pagan rituals and… well, other things.

Temple of Zeus and Hera

The Serene Meditation Garden is a lovely place for Tai Chi or just sitting, when you need to breathe.

Serene Meditation Garden

This Stone Circle is the setting for a popular weekly discussion group. I landscaped the oak grove around the group’s slightly kludgy standing stones to which they have grown sentimentally attached.

Stone Circle Oak Grove

Other features not pictured here include an elaborate undersea mer garden, tree house, beach house, and Japanese pleasure palace.

Be sure to stop by SOMA on Bondage and partake of its many pleasures.

Chinese Scholars Garden

Moon Gate frames the Tang Dynasty style mansion of the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeI keep meaning to post about this project that I did last summer in Second Life. Here it is finally.

My friend Grath Helgerud asked me to build a Chinese Scholar’s Garden for him in Second Life, after seeing an exhibit about these intriguing gardens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Without knowing anything at all about what that meant, I accepted the challenge. As I began to research the style, I uncovered a vast new universe of thought that drew me in more deeply as I worked. This is not Chinoiserie — European impressions of China — this is authentic China, a world that fascinates me by being so “other”.

Chinese Scholar’s Gardens are an art form that flourished in China from the 10th-18th centuries. Creating one of these gardens was a favored leisure pursuit of the scholar class, a way to create a spiritual retreat from the pressures of professional life. Complex design principles produced a spiritual retreat within interior courtyards of the scholar’s home.  Waterways are surrounded by carefully arranged rock gardens, trees and plants that all have poetic meaning, forming meticulously composed vistas. Pathways lead one on a journey, drawing you into it more and more deeply, offering interesting views and perspectives at each turn, framed by pavilions, halls, gates and windows.

Song Dynasty style tea house in the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeThis was a challenging project because it required me to think in a completely different way. In the Western world we are more accustomed to a house surrounded by a park-like garden; this is a garden surrounded by a house. Architecture and sculpture are important elements; a Chinese garden is “built” as an abstraction and stylization of nature. It wouldn’t do to simply scatter some nice plants and trees around. Mathematical proportions must be precise; plants, rocks and structures have specific meanings and must be selected and placed just so. The end result is an immersion experience that takes you on a journey. Following the asymmetrical garden path, you encounter a variety of spatial connections as you pass from one section to another, being presented with new and pleasing views at every turn.

Everything in the garden has significance; there is meaning attached to every plant, every rock, every shape. It was more than simply a calm place for painting, poetry, calligraphy, study and music. To build a garden, a scholar had to understand fengshui, botany, hydraulics, philosophy, history, literature, poetry and architecture. The garden was considered a measure of his knowledge as well as a showcase of his aesthetic taste.

Meditating at the Water Pavilion in the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second LifeI had no such knowledge, of course. I was very fortunate to discover the work of the fabulously talented Ryusho Ort, who immediately impressed me with the beauty, technical virtuosity and authenticity of his Chinese buildings. We started with his Dragon and Phoenix Hall in the Ming dynasty style, and added others in Song and Tang dynasty styles. Ryu coached me along the way, and helped us create a very pleasing retreat.

Even the plantings were a challenge, since the design requires very specific types of plants and trees, not all of which are readily available in Second Life. It took quite awhile to find good quality flowering plum trees, peonies, and grasses. Bamboo, banana and lotus were a little easier, but I never did find the right type of orchid, or the quintessential Taihu rocks.

I was happy, though, to be able to find an excellent family of Mandarin Ducks and multicolored Koi to grace the ponds.

Naturally, spending time in the Chinese Garden required the proper attire! I am pictured here wearing Nicky Ree’s magnificent Phoenix Gown.

You can see the entire set of 16 photos on my Flickr page.

To learn more about Chinese Scholar’s Gardens, I recommend the Wikipedia page as well as this video as a good starting place. The Missouri Botanical Garden has another nice introduction on their website. On the Asian Historical Architecture website you can take in-depth photo tours of some of the famous gardens of Suzhou, China such as the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, and the Master-of-Nets Garden.

Click here to visit this Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Second Life. Grath has since added a few non-Chinese items, but there are still plenty of places to sit and relax, cuddle or slow dance. It’s a great place to visit for contemplation, meditation or relaxation — just like the originals were.

Lies

Recently I’ve been reflecting on past relationships I have had in virtual worlds. One of the things swirling around in my brain is the subject of honesty. Honesty in relationships is an extremely complicated idea. I’m writing this journal entry mainly for my own sake, to help me get it sorted out in my head.

How many couples say to one another, “Let’s be completely honest”? And how many couples actually are completely honest with each other? Not many, I’m betting.

The truth is that everyone lies. People lie for lots of reasons—some of them good reasons. It would be a mistake to cast all lies in the same light. Some lies are harmless; others are hurtful. Most lies swim in the gray area in between.

Fantasy role-playing could technically be considered a lie. Those of us in virtual worlds adopt an appearance and sometimes a persona that may or may not resemble our “real” selves. We operate under a social contract in which we all agree to suspend our disbelief about this. Some people are better at it than others. Some people look straight past your avatar and only want to know the “real” you. Others easily accept the fantasy avatar you have created. Is fantasy dishonest? Or is it playful?

Beyond fantasy, virtual worlds are a hotbed of deceit. Lying is far too easy. We can cover up where we are, and what we are doing, and with whom. We hide our online status. Knowing that no one can see our location, we feel free to invent stories about where we are. “I’m talking with a friend.” “I’m shopping.” “I’m checking something out.” Or, for total privacy, we just create an alt, and do as we please without detection. I know of at least one person who has a partner, and also a sex alt the partner doesn’t know about. I expect there are thousands of others in exactly the same situation. It almost seems to be the norm in virtual worlds.

Personally, I sometimes lie to preserve my privacy. When writing online profiles I usually say that I live in NYC. I don’t. I live near NYC, and I do spend time there, but I don’t live there. I don’t really want strangers to know where I live. I think that is a fairly smart lie and I doubt many would disagree.

“Privacy lies” happen when someone is pressuring you to reveal something about yourself that is actually none of their business. The response “that’s none of your business” might be counter-productive—it might actually increase your interrogator’s curiosity. Telling them something else may call off their prying. Are “privacy lies” good or bad? Rather than focusing on the morality of the lie, it would be better to examine the thing you are lying about, and decide whether it is hurtful.

That leads me to the “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” lie. Sometimes this type of lie is actually compassionate, or at least benign, like when he assures her that she doesn’t look fat in those pants. But most of the time it’s bogus. Let’s say he cheats on her, and lies to cover his tracks. She confronts him. He says “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” That’s bogus. The lie is not the issue. Clearly he didn’t mind hurting her feelings, because he cheated on her. That is what hurt her. The lie is extra. Lying about it is the secondary issue that piles hurt onto hurt.

What if he’d had the courage to be honest with her long before? What if he’d had the courage to admit that he wasn’t feeling satisfied? That she wasn’t meeting his needs? That something had changed in their relationship, or in him? That type of honesty is extremely difficult. First it requires being honest with yourself. Most of us would rather placate ourselves with lies. “Things are basically fine.” “I do love her.” “I can control myself.” “I can live without it.” “I should be satisfied.” When we can’t even face the truth about ourselves, how can we hope to be honest with anyone else?

The idea of hurting someone we care about is extremely difficult for most of us. He may find it impossible to imagine saying to her, “I’m not satisfied. This relationship is not giving me what I need.” He pictures her ashen face, the hurt and disappointment he sees there, and he just can’t face it. He can’t bear the burden of having to hurt her with the truth. So he lies.

When there is a truth that would hurt our loved one if they knew about it, it’s natural to want to withhold it, or cover it up. The trouble is that this deception almost never works. Not facing a painful truth does not make the painful truth go away. It just sits there, eating away at the relationship and causing damage to both of you. For the sake of not hurting her, he decides to forego his happiness. Does he think she won’t sense that? Does he think that he won’t eventually be compelled toward something outside the relationship that does meet his needs? Does he think that won’t hurt her even more?

Others may feel differently, but speaking for myself, I would choose a painful truth over a comfortable lie every time. Hurt can be healed, but only when it’s faced. If you need something that you can’t get from me, let’s face that together. Give me some credit. If I love you, I want good things for you. I am not so selfish as to demand that you fake it, just so that I can pretend that everything is fine. I know that relationships are not black and white. I know you care about me, and that, at the same time, it’s also true that I cannot meet all your needs. So tell me the truth. Let’s face the next step.

At least, that’s how I’ve always preferred it.

What do you think?

Politics and Drama

It’s an election year again, and I would prefer to hide under a rock for the next year.

No one seems to understand why I hate politics so much. I don’t have strong opinions about very many political issues. I am not particularly loyal to one political party or another. When I tune out of conversations about politics, people tend to assume that I disagree with their views. But that’s not it.

angry emo facePolitical conversation, in this day and age, seems to bring out the absolute worst in almost everyone. I hate politics because I hate what politics does to people. Those with strong opinions tend to listen to popular provocateurs who skillfully tap into base emotions and inflame them. They stir up hatred and convince us that it is righteous anger. They ignite our fears by demonizing our opponents, until we become convinced that we are utterly just and the other side is mired in evil (or at least incompetence). We do not see our opponents as they are. Instead we see the demons that zealots have conjured in our imaginations.

It seems to me, sometimes, that politics is not about examining the issues, but about vanquishing one’s opponents, regardless of the merit of their point of view. The thinking seems to be “my side is always right and your side is always wrong.” Don’t get me wrong: I am not a member of the wishy-washy can’t-we-all-just-get-along school. I do believe in standing up for one’s strong convictions. I also believe in honesty—especially self-honesty—which includes the ability to see the actual merits of issues—and people—independently of my feelings about them. If I have learned nothing else in life, I have come to accept that no one among us is purely good or purely evil. We, all of us, are a messy mix of virtue and vice. Every human being has character flaws, some bigger than others. Every human being also has some goodness inside them. Somewhere. If I can’t see both, then I am not seeing clearly.

These thoughts also relate to the so-called “drama” that seemingly is ever-present in the virtual world. The relative anonymity of our world seems to encourage people to say things they would never dream of saying in “real” life, including bold lies and cruel words for which they never have to take responsibility. It also tempts us to leap to conclusions; when we can’t see others face to face, our unconscious tends to fill in blanks with assumptions that may or may not be justified. Furthermore, in the online world our emotions tend to be magnified. All of this creates a recipe for hurt feelings, deception and misunderstanding.

Speaking for myself, drama bores me. It also makes me a little nauseous. It feeds on emotional energy and I have none to spare. Life is too short to waste one minute of it on such nonsense. Just as with political debate, in the presence of drama my instinct is simply to ignore it, mentally flipping the channel.

There certainly are people and situations that deserve anger: the bullies and those who hurt for the sport of it, deceivers and exploiters, those who engage in destructive behavior and thoughtless self-indulgence that causes harm. As I said, I do believe in standing up for myself; I am no mild-mannered pushover. I will protect myself and those I love, and will not submit to such treatment.

But it seems to me that too many people are addicted to the primitive thrill of drama. They seem to hunger for the battle-lust of explosive anger, or the conspicuous display of woundedness from having been wronged. I won’t deny it: such things can feel very satisfying—especially because it seems so clean, when we can’t see the effect of our words in the facial expressions of our target.

As for me, I have chosen a different approach.

I cannot stop anyone from trying to hurt me. I cannot control the behavior of others. I can only control my own. I try to do no harm. If someone claims to have been harmed by me, I try to embrace self-honesty and humility, always allowing for the possibility, however remote, that I might be wrong, and that I might learn something from my opponent. If I have done wrong, I swallow my pride and apologize.

If someone is harming me, I will do what is necessary to stop it—which usually means simply walking away. In most cases, fighting back stops nothing. It only prolongs it. If I choose to participate in their negativity, I give it power. If I turn my back on it, it has no power over me. I just turn away, without saying a word… and without giving any ground.

Even when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to demonize my opponents. As difficult as it might be to imagine, I do my best to assume that they are people of good will, trying their best, as I am, to live lives of integrity. They may be damaged (as I am) or lacking in communication skills. Their action may have been thoughtless, or misguided. If so, then striking back would solve nothing.

I do not engage in vengeance or payback. I treat everyone with compassion whether they deserve it or not. When you do a small kindness for someone who hates you, they might spit in your face. But sometimes, a compassionate act, even a small one, is infinitely more powerful than an angry one.

And when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to wallow in my woundedness. All that usually accomplishes is prolonging the pain and spreading it to innocent bystanders. If someone hurt me intentionally, broadcasting my pain would only encourage them. If the hurt was unintentional, the flaunting of bloodied bandages accomplishes nothing. I know how to cope with my feelings in an adult manner, and then let them go.

At all times, I listen, with an open heart, to the words of others, and to their fear, their wounds, their hopes and desires. I listen for the good in them. And I have never yet failed to find it.