The avatar from Hindu mythology was a deity that took on another shape while on earth. Technology borrows from mythology and creates computer graphic avatars on thousands of websites.
Nearly two years ago, a woman in Tokyo was arrested for killing her imaginary husband’s avatar in an online computer game world. Online, in this fantasy world, they married. Her virtual world collapsed when her virtual husband suddenly, without warning, divorced her digital image. She logged on to the website with his password and killed his avatar.
As soon as the man logged on and discovered that his avatar was dead, he called the police. She was in trouble for an imaginary murder.
Jorge Luis Borges used the word avatar in his short story “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” that he wrote in 1944. It sort of shocked me awake while reading this difficult little story and made me reread it.
In this story a fictional world takes over people’s imagination and they start to believe that the fiction is reality and begin to forget the real world and its history.
In the story, he writes, things “grow vague or ‘sketchy,’ and to lose detail when they begin to be forgotten.”
This reminds me of our globally shared short attention span. And we do replace reality with fictions. A spot on You Tube, a shot at a reality show, or one quick violent act changes reality to something that seems to resemble more of a self-created fictional world. Sometimes our real selves are just plain boring; those 15 minutes of fame are better than obscurity.
All my avatars have been generic. I’ve never created a special avatar to resemble me or better yet, an avatar that is so glamorous that it doesn’t resemble me at all.
If a reality show aimed its camera into my living room, they would be bored to death with filming an old married couple sitting watching TV or reading until bedtime well before the late night shows. That camera may inspire us to uncharacteristically yell and swear and go out more at night when we really don’t. I guess you have to think of the ratings.
Or better yet, we’ll stay home at night and let our avatars carouse all night. But one of these nights, we have to get out and see the blue avatars out there at the theaters. Maybe a twilight show.