I feel privileged to have discovered the Second Life ‘Relay For Life‘ people and the organization. I admit that I’ve had an arm’s length relationship with cancer ever since my father died when I was a wee lass. Being in Second Life, brought me back to thinking about cancer, what it means to people, what it means about life and community and caring.
I’ve been brought to tears by the inspired builds/stories/responses to ‘how cancer impacts us’. There are a bunch of people who can take their pain and make it into Art. I admire that so much. My dad would have loved Second Life and he would have cheered the symbols and the teamwork that is embodied by the site designs and the 24 hour track walk.
From wikipedia: Although the main objective of Relay is to raise money for cancer research and cancer patients, the event is held to spread cancer awareness, celebrate the lives of survivors, remember those who lost their lives to cancer, and unite a community. The Relay colloquially refers to this mentality, solidarity, activism, and consummate effort as “the fight against cancer”.
So if you ever want an introduction to Second Life Relay, please write me and I’ll point you to the right people (every one is kind and generous.)
Not every part of the Relay Event inspired me this year. Everything has flaws that is of human effort. I’m going to point out a flaw now, so close your browser if you don’t want my honest opinion.
“At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.”
The Track is a symbol from the beginning of Relay. Track Laps are the thread through the history of this event. Whether you look at the first ever event, or look at the web page where the history of the virtual laps stands as a history of how much SL people care. Teams are encouraged to have a person on the track 24 hours. That track walk is a struggle. Cancer never sleeps.
Sometimes families cannot sleep, even when their own ill family member falls into exhausted slumber.
Year after year, individuals together walk and run and go without sleep, joined to an inspiration of the struggle with cancer and making a difference step by step. Many people have written about the personal symbolism of that long long lonely walk/run and seeing the sun come up in the morning.
This powerful symbol has nothing to do with strapping a virtual rocket to your back and blasting through the Relay track as if it is Grand Prix racing.
What is the purpose of adding an AO or special script to your avatar to move through a sim ‘faster than your name tag can rez’?
What is the solidarity of this? What is the effort or caring?
In my opinion, this behaviour is a mockery of the track event. Avatars walking the track become Obstacles or Speed Bumps. The proud symbolic history of laps and 24 hour struggle becomes a carnival of “special people” who can fly while everyone else walks.
Maybe they think they are only having some fun. I don’t think it is fun to mock this Journey. The Grand Prix Racers make a negative statement about illness and human struggle and the Organizers are endorsing this behaviour by remaining silent. That track is a symbol. You don’t play practical jokes with a symbol like that.
If there were a ‘special lap’ with racing AOs allowed, it might make some sort of sense. But really, what it says to me is these people who have done 70 plus laps on a course where the same distances last year were 30 plus think they are very special. Maybe they are immune to struggle or gravity or solidarity or cancer. I guess that’s how special they believe they are.
I said nothing last year (2012) when there were obviously a few of these people crashing through the sims. There is always a joker in the crowd.
I’m not quiet now, because this year the rocket-propelled ‘special folk’ were numerous. I won’t print their names here or their teams. But I am ashamed of them. I cannot believe that their teams would endorse this behaviour.
I’ve heard the counters to my concerns: “It doesn’t matter, this is not a competition.” “The laps are not a measurement.” “The racing is not prohibited, thank you for your relay effort.”
If I believed these counters, then I’d accept that the history of laps recorded since 2005 and the grid-wide admiration of the 24 hour struggle was also meaningless. I don’t accept that.
To the Organizers I suggest: Take back your ownership of the track symbol. The 24 hour struggle is supposed to be hard. It is supposed to matter. If someone wants to have a race, make it a separate event.
For me, next year, if there is no change, if there is no warning that this racing is not acceptable, I will not participate with the track event.