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copy of an artical from a sl magazine

the below is a copy of an artical i was asked to write for a second life in world magazine.  the group asked me to post it, so here it is~

the one soul of wilde cunningham
by lilone sandgrain

wilde cunningham is a relatively new av to sl, they've only been playing actively since november.  wilde is an extraordinarily unique av for 3 reasons:

1) wilde is played by up to 9 individuals at a time all playing as a group.
2) wilde is comprised of adults in their 20's-70's all with severe disabilities which do not allow them what we would call normal lives.
3) due to these disabilities they do not drive the av themselves but instruct me, their personal mascot and servant girl, on what they want to do, say, build etc.  i am their hands and voice.  or more accurately, their interpreter.

in rl i work with wilde at a day program for adults where i've worked a lil over 3 years.  i've found them to be some of the truest friends of my entire life and accordingly they have my utmost respect, loyality and love. 

while we have 9 regular people who play wilde there are often guest players who join in or watch them sharing their inworld play.  of these 9 people 3 have been diagnosed with a degree of mental retardation, 6 are in wheel chairs, 2 of these have such disabling conditions they are in manual chairs which they can not move, 6 have cerebral palsy or cp, 5 have very severe speech impediments, 2 of those are limited to one or two word replies, another in the group can not speak at all, these 6 with cp can not use their hands, all nine have golden rich hearts with much to share with the world, all 9 of them teach me daily and impart wisdom to me i would not have gained any other way. 

on playing as a group~ 
many residents have wondered how one av can be shared with so many people.  group dynamics can often be so challenging.  everyone soul has its particular strengths and weaknesses, i can say one of wildes strengths is operating as a group.  heres a bit on how we do it.   within the group that i'm entrusted with we have certain ground rules.  they follow us through the course of our day and into every activity which we find ourselves.  some of them are:

  • all have inherant value, accordingly we respect and welcome all.
  • each deserves equality in participation, contribution and communication, regardless of time factors involved.
  • all have something to contribute.  if they chose not to contribute sometimes, thats respected too.
  • all have weaknesses.  we do not focus on anyones weakness
  • if we want our feelings respected, it is our duty to respect our peers even if it differs from ours, the same as if it was ours, in other words our neighbor's problems and input are just as valid as ours.
  • we are better as a team, when all parts contribute what they will and each looks out for the other.  we equal more as a whole than the individual parts added up twice over.

these values are integrated and fostered into all aspects of our lives in the day program, within my group.   its no wonder that they easily carry over into sl.  in rl we do tons of opinion polling and voting.  there are never wrong answers, and often people simply choose the wishes of their peer over their own.   greed kills.  wanting our peers equal success empowers us all.   within these ground rules wilde has blossomed into a very active and powerful voice.

we have offline group meetings regarding sl and the direction we want to go, progress we are making, appointments we'd like to make just about on a daily basis.   this helps bring unity to the group when we drive our lil av about and makes the most of our limited time to play.  they embody the dynamics of a perfectly running ideal group.  much of the world could take an example from them.

there has never been a playing time when we were torn or got upset with each other over what one wanted to do.  we also know that playing sl is a long term thing, and nothing needs to be rushed.  very rarely does one player feel the need to have it their own way, but should they feel that commited to something our group would defer to them in that instance, knowing the same will fall to them in turn.

we read all chat dialogs outloud.   often we play in 2 rows of chairs, occassionally 3.  in a busy area reading chat can be a bit challenging.  its not unusual in such busy areas that we listen more than speak.  for just the listening to so many parts can be tricky.   one to one, or in smaller groups wilde is more active conversationally.   

we follow this temperature checking policy, we all gaze about the room  listening for suggestions or approval of an idea kicked out, some responces are visual and not audio so we may often converse a wee bit slower at times.  however, WE DONT CARE!!  we are having the time of our life and being a part of a communty in ways we never dreamed we'd do!   in rl it would take folk 2-3x longer at least to understand what's being said.  in sl we miss all the draw backs of our speech impediments  and of people being intimidated by our physical appearances.  so while a listener may feel we are taking a bit longer to reply in reality we are cruising along at top notch speeds and loving it~

the experience of second life has brought about many changes in wilde which i would never have expected in the beginning.  i brought them to sl because it had offered so much to me and i figured they'd have a blast.  i'd long been telling them tales of adventures and saw how they ate up every last detail.  what i never anticipated was that once they were in they'd play not merely for the fun but from a sence of duty and mission.   almost as if by magic they were released to share the matters and experiences of their lives.  that was what they most wanted to do.

they began writing like maniacs  composing poems and essays on what its like to be disabled, and how all humanity is alike, regardless of precieved weaknesses, and on some of their deepest struggles.  what was more amazing to us all was how the community within sl began to eat these up and ask for more.   one thing lead to another and they had kiosks of notecards spreadout over the sl map.  the support and community reach out to them was almost more than they could keep up with.

one day during my private at home game play as lilone, i got an im from john prototype.  he'd come across our kiosk in bretton.  as it turned out he had been working for many years on a very simular project bringing people (patients and caregivers) into online environments wherein they could find a sence of community and grow from what each supplied.  he'd set up an island in sl called brigadoon where folks with aspergers (a milder form of autism) could do just that, live and grow together in a safe and friendly space.  having been allowed the privilege of meeting some of the brigadoon residents i can say what he's pioneered there is staggering and very beautiful.   interestingly enough is how i feel more safe there and have a greater sence of belonging than anywhere else in sl.  each resident of brigadoon, despite having to deal with misunderstandings about AS in rl, have embraced sl as a way to help each other help themselves and educate the public.

john and i spent some time inworld discussing wilde, what rl was like for them and how sl was radically empowering them.  since he was in the boston area, as we are, we invited him to spend some rl time with us.  i sieze the opportunity to bring caring folk into wildes rl experience.  john was more than well received.  barely over an hour into his visit with them they were asking repeatedly for him to return.  after he left they wouldnt let up on me to hound him for the same.  heh.  not that i needed to do that, for john too, felt the connection to wilde.   he has since been coming on a bi-weekly basis to share a few hours.  the group is estatic!

it was almost as if the universe had directed john and wilde together.  what they were doing was in sync with his overall mission.  he wanted to help in anyway he could.  he offered to set them up with a blog to take their inworld writings, and anything else they'd like to share, to the world at large.  in this way they could open up a new support network for others with simular extreme challenges or perhaps their caregivers or family members. 

he also offered to help with the purchase of an island for the same above purpose.  he offered to pay the initial set up fees and cover the land tier for the first few months till wilde could cover their own expenses.   his generosity stuned us.  even more stunning was the fact that he was willing to become a friend.  to lock arms and walk a spell with us.   its rare to find someone like minded.   i consider it a gift to find a partner and friend as trustworthy as he is. 

no one was sure at first how to digest all this, but we knew it was a good thing.  wilde wanted nothing more than to reach out and share, to make the world better for their peers and to let the whole planet know we were all the same.   we have this saying in our group, 'we are not our bodies, nor are we are weaknesses'.

the blog and the island have both been set up as of Jan 05.  while they are both in the early stages of development there is much anticipation for where the future will take us.   wilde wants others to come and experience the same triumphs and empowerment.  the sl enviornment offers a unique freedom for people with gross imparments that cant be found in the real world,  an equal playing field of sorts.

on the live2give island responisibilities have been divied up according to the individual interests within wilde.  2 are responsible for landscaping, 1 for a future market area, 1 for an underwater development, 1 for the notecard dispensing area, and 2 for island humor.  the others at this time dont want an area of responsibility, but prefer to watch and enjoy the process--  which is fully supported.  one doesnt have to have responsibility to make a difference, nor to be in the limelight to have equal importance or value.   what a blast they are having in realizing what they see in their minds eye.  we are keeping portions of the island open for those who will come in the future to have space.  a full set up of notecard dispensors has been placed near the welcome area for all to share.  its an open island all are welcome!

there are many areas sl has enhanced wilde cunningham.  there are many more ways yet ahead undiscovered. they are eager for the world, as newly released captives into a free world.  please take some time to visit their island  live2give  or read their blog at http://braintalk.blogs.com/live2give.  i'd also strongly recommend checking out john's tremendous work at http://braintalk.org  or his brigadoon blog at http://braintalk.blogs.com/brigadoon.     both of us welcome inworld im's or the chance to shine the spotlight on our exceptional group of friends.  until then, enjoy your second life~  be all you can be, all the many yous of you!  take a lesson from wilde, you are not your weaknesses.  each has something they can give!

Posted by group mascot on March 17, 2005 at 07:12 PM in Mascot's Musings | Permalink

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