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Monday, January 10, 2011

SL ARTS & LITERATURE: “Sikh Life” Celebrates Traditions of Art, Literature, and Community Service

Singh Albatross and the Writer's Center at Sikh Life
I love talking to people about their passion!  Through out Second Life (SL) you can find people who have discovered the productive and creative means to explore and express themselves – to virtually “find their bliss.”  If we are lucky, they make the fruits of that exuberance available to others.   Singh Albatros is not a stranger to the metaverse. He wandered onto the grid many months ago and, like many of us, didn’t immediately find a place that engaged him.  Returning to do research for a short story, he became connected with the writing community and was inspired by the possibilities of SL as a tool.  “Sikh Life” (pronounced “seek life”) was born out of Singh’s passion, inspiration, and commitment to his faith with its basic tenants of tolerance, service, and the inspirations of poetry and music.

 Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in the fifteenth century Punjab (India) on the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and ten successive Sikh Gurus.  It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing.

The origins of Sikhism lie in the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors. The essence of Sikh teaching is summed up by Nanak in these words: "Realisation of Truth is higher than all else. Higher still is truthful living". Sikh teaching emphasizes the principle of equality of all humans and rejects discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, and gender. Sikh principles do not attach any importance to a monastic approach to attaining salvation, but stresses a life of good works done in the midst of humanity.  Sikhism encourages digging in and getting your hands dirty.

Virtually, Singh Albatross has done just that.  Beginning back in November, he gathered a small team of creative minds and began to pursue his vision.  The team includes his real world wife Rana Foresight, Master Builder MH Hawker, Rivendell sim's Aurielius Draken, poet Morgue McMillan, and top SL scripter Nathan Zetkin who have all worked tirelessly to get the Sikh Life ready for a Discovery Channel documentary on Sikhism in production this year.  “Sikh Life” is a place in Second Life inspired by the principles of Sikhism, a resource to those connecting or reconnecting with that faith, and a cultural center open to all.  That vision is close to being realized, and I was privileged to spend two amazing hours with Singh as he showed me his vision and talked about Sikhism, his life in literature, music, theatre, and art, and how these have all manifested in the community he has created.

Singh himself is a musician and a writer in the real world, and those influences are very apparent.  Sikh Life is sited beautifully nestled amidst majestic Himalayan inspired mountains on the edge of a sea.  It is a vision of white marble, golden domes, beautiful metals and woods.  Sikh Life also manages to feel modern while paying respect to a tradition that is centuries old.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Writer’s Center, the home of one of two main spheres of influence at Sikh Life. 

The Writer’s Center contains the Red Wheelbarrow Café which is a virtual counterpart to Singh’s real world bookstore in Melbourne, Australia.  The Center also contains two theatres with flexible rezzing options for seating and configuration, two conference rooms similarly flexible, a modest outdoor amphitheatre by a reflecting pool, and an observation deck gallery/meeting area within a transparent dome.  The larger theatre is especially magnificent, with lushly textured details in red and black, and the ability to seat a very few or many in front of a generous traditional proscenium stage.

These facilities are open to all.  Singh is working within the SL writing community to bring poetry and readings to the Red Wheelbarrow Café, and is making connections to bring events into the Center.  While his long range vision includes programs on Sikh culture and heritage, in the Sikh tradition of acceptance he welcomes other programming and presentations to this spectacular setting.

Sikh Life is definitely a work in progress, as more and more dynamic and interpretive content will be added in the weeks and months to come.  The Writer’s Center is just one aspect of the build.  There is so much more to see which will be covered in an upcoming article.  It is important to note that the build does include sacred space as well as community space, and should one go exploring at Sikh Life and come upon the temple, respect for that space should be shown by removing shoes and covering the head.

Explore Sikh Life and the Writer’s Center, as well as the many other features: boat ride, horse riding, motorcycle track (skybox), Balloon jump and so much more.  Whether through presentations, role play, or re-enactments, Singh Albatross and his team have set the stage for telling the many stories of Sikhism and to walk the path of the Sikh way of life in Second Life.

'Hindus go on pilgrimage bathe in the Ganges at Benares,
 Muslims go to circle the Kaaba at Mecca
While the Sikhs stay home and sing the praise of God
While playing the finger-cymbals, drum, and sweetly pluck the rabab'

(Bhai Gurdas - a great Sikh scholar whose works are sung in every Sikh temple)

~ Caledonia Skytower, Reporting
“Any ink is good ink, even if it is virtual.”


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