Saturday, June 20, 2015

Discovering the Holy Land in Second Life


Both Jewish and Roman sources and traditions admit an empty tomb.

Josh McDowell


          Recently, while wandering around the grounds of First UCC, my friend and senior pastor there, Bec Kellstrom, directed me to check out a recent addition to the campus.

          Always willing to investigate a new build in Second Life (SL), I headed over.  (I really think Bec genuinely wanted me to see this and wasn’t just politely telling me to get lost as Significant Other suggests.)

          The new build is a replica of the Garden Tomb from the Holy Land.

          The Garden Tomb is one of the sites purported to be where Christ was buried and arose from after His crucifixion.  (I heed Significant Other’s caution to tread carefully here as Upstairs purportedly takes a dim view on anything considered blasphemous.  Duly noted.  As Significant Other occupies the same dwelling as me there are legitimate concerns about lightning bolts from on high.)

          In Real Life (RL), the Garden Tomb is held sacred by many Christian faiths and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.  The head pastor of First UCC, Jer Newstart, being one of them. 

          I was also fortunate in that Bec introduced me to the architect and builder behind the Garden Tomb, (That’s the SL one not the RL one!) Lora Chadbourne. 

          Lora was kind enough to agree to meet with me and to give me a tour of her build which is the basis for this story. 

          At the appointed time, Lora and I meet in front of the Garden Tomb and she guides me through her handiwork.

          Standing outside the Garden Tomb, one faces a walled structure of stone reminiscent of ancient times.  In RL terms, the wall’s height is about forty feet.  (Significant Other warns all to be wary of any eyeball estimates that I make.) 

A small entrance in the wall permits entry through a passage leading to the tomb’s courtyard.

          Standing in the interior courtyard, the tomb itself stands against the far wall with the great stone rolled back.

          Surrounding the courtyard, access paths lead to a walkway which runs around three walls forming a U-shaped structure centered on the tomb and overlooks it. 

          Gardens and sitting areas surround the courtyard giving a very calming effect.  Period pottery houses additional flowers. 

          Entering the tomb, one is taken in (at least I am) by its starkness and simplicity. 

          Even in a virtual world like SL, one (OK, again, it’s me!) is impressed by the solemnity of the location. 

          I recognize that not all share my faith, or may not even have one, but as I’ve wandered around the world in RL, I’ve always been in awe of the sites held holy by other faiths.  There is always a sense of otherworldly presence in these places.  They all seem to share the same stark stillness of the Garden Tomb too.

          (I’ve always felt that the Big Guy is a lot more open to the various forms of worship of Her followers than we give Her credit for.  This is probably one of the reasons that I’m on the Inquisition’s watch list.)    

          While walking through the site, Lora gives me a little background about her motivations and approach. 

          For Lora, she’s wanted to build this site for a long time.  It has been a labor of love for her and she’s grateful to Jer and First UCC for agreeing to host it.

          The build is based on pictures Jer took on his visit to the Holy Land as well as Lora’s own research. 

          Lora explains that the sim is a mix of standard prims and sculpts with the exception of some of the plants, there is no mesh in it. 

          When I ask why so little mesh, Lora replies that she’s a bit of an old school builder.  (Sadly, a dying species inworld these days.) 

          Lora adds that her layout is a reduced version of the actual site, which is much larger.  She had to modify things a bit to keep the size reasonable. 

          I ask how long did it take to build and Lora answers with three days.

          This was a deliberate choice on her part because of the significance of the three days leading to Easter. 

          Lora’s attention to detail is evident in the construction of the Garden Tomb. 

          The stonework in the walls in particular caught my attention.

          The lighting in the tomb proper adds considerably to the effect of being there. 

          Lora has also located plaques strategically throughout the site to help visitors understand what they’re looking at. 

          A little about Lora before we go any further.

          Lora came into Second Life about nine years ago.  She says that it took her a while to get the hang of building things.  It was a steep learning curve for her.  most of her builds are labors of love.  Subjects that mean something to her on an emotional level. 

          (I’d heard of another one of Lora’s builds, the Alamo, located here, which Lora was kind enough to show me at the conclusion of our Garden Tomb tour.  It’s an equally impressive build which must be seen.  In future stories, I will be highlighting Lora and work.  Fans of Irwin Allen and Doctor Who be on the lookout for some incredible work!)    

          Not wanting to overstay my welcome (Significant Other wonders why I appear to be only concerned about this inworld.) I thank Lora for her time and take my leave. 

The Garden Tomb (located here) is an exquisite example of the work that can be done in SL to recreate RL by someone who is drawn to the subject matter and has the skills to make it happen. 

          The solitude of the site lends itself to quiet contemplation for visitors.

          I strongly recommend the Garden Tomb to all visitors to SL who wish to see what is possible and who not have the opportunity to visit the RL site. 

          I’d like to thank Lora for time in showing me her work as well as for her commitment to building some of the finest sites in SL.

          I’d also like to thank Bec for telling me about the Garden Tomb and introducing me to Lora.  (Hopefully, Bec hasn't damaged her friendship with Lora by doing so!) 

          Additional photos from my tour can be found on this flickr page.    

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives

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          Open roads and kind fires!

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