After I wrapped up what could only be described as a very successful fundraising show for Homes For Our Troops at Veterans Isle in Second Life on Sunday night, I turned to Kat and said, "If nothing else, my karma bank seems to get a deposit when I do these things."
That's actually a pretty selfish way to think about it, but it's true: even if we hadn't raised a dime to help the HFOT organization, it's the thought that counts, and one can hope that somewhere, somehow, there's some kind of multi-dimensional ledger of sorts that tracks the good and the bad you've done in life. A lot of people -- most of the people in the world, it turns out -- really do believe in such a thing; the entire concepts of heaven and hell in Christianity is pretty much based on this premise. Do well in life? You go up. Do badly? Take the down elevator.
Do I personally believe in these concepts, in a literal sense? No, not at all, nor do I believe in the strict sense of karma from a Hindu/Buddhist point of view where I would be reincarnated with a better future existence based on my actions in this life. Just for the sake of this discussion, let's imagine an existence where this is all we have. You live, and then you die, and there's nothing at all afterwards. You're just gone. What reason would anyone have to go out of their way to do things for others? What reward would be waiting for you at the end? Why bother?
The answer is that the reward happens all the time, all around you, in every possible way. I mentioned during my show that we -- the people doing the fundraising -- don't get the benefit of seeing a disabled combat veteran get out of a car and head toward the new custom house that's been built for him or her, seeing it for the first time. We don't get to experience the emotion that they must feel when being handed the keys to the place where they'll be able to live, a place designed so that they can have a happier and more productive life. We don't get to see them come home. We don't witness the payoff for our efforts. But we do know it happens. And we know the result.
I like to imagine that I get to meet the people whom I help through various charitable shows I've done. I generally don't, but I also imagine that they'd like to meet me. Photo by Kat.
So I ask again: what does someone like me get out of this? Answer: I get everything. The world around me literally becomes a better place. And again, going back to the selfishness part... I awoke today feeling like I did something good for someone. Whatever the opposite of guilt is -- pride doesn't seem right, but in that vein -- I get to experience, and rightfully so. I literally improve my own life right now -- at this moment, not after I die -- by bringing help to others. And hey, if I'm wrong about things like heaven and hell or reincarnation, then I have a better shot at getting those kinds of rewards too. But most of all, I get the wonderful feeling of having used my own ability to play music and entertain people for a cause in which I do truly believe.
Side note: should private citizens and non-governmental organizations be necessary to help the most seriously injured combat veterans? No, absolutely not. If a country sends its people to fight on their behalf, the very minimum that should be expected is that those who are injured be taken care of by that country. And, on a bigger picture, my ultimate dream is that war becomes a thing of the past, placed in the history books as the primitive and anachronistic way of settling disputes that it obviously is. Since neither of those things is going to happen any time soon, we remain tasked with the job of taking care of our veterans. I should note that at least last night, our efforts in that regard were very successful. After the show of my pal Lyndon Heart and my own performance, over L$90,000 -- around $400 USD -- had been generously donated by the attending crowd, with the huge help of the event's primary organizer and contributor Frets Nirvana (who was putting up matching fund challenges and really driving the donations in a big way). I don't know what the grand total was, but I'm pretty sure it was seriously impressive for one evening in a virtual world.
One other note about the show, having nothing to do with any of the above. This weekend marked the real life birthday of one of my best friends, Triana Caldera, and it was a big birthday. She turned 40, and like most people, I knew she'd been feeling rather trepidatious about the whole thing, so I also used the occasion to do a set of songs from her birth year of 1976 to cheer her up about the event. I also did some other songs I hadn't done before, because variety is the spice of life.
Birthday girl Triana Caldera, who got a whole set of songs from the year 1976 as my present to her. Hey, it was all I could afford. I think she liked it, though. Photo by Kat.
Final thought: even if I got nothing personally out of performing for HFOT and the many other charitable institutions to whom I've lent my time and talents, the basic idea is along the lines of a well-known Greek proverb: "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in." Selfless acts aren't generally part of normal human nature, but I believe in trying to leave the world a better place than it was when I entered, and I'll do whatever I can to try and make a contribution where I'm able.
More Info on Homes For Our Troops
From their web site: Homes for Our Troops (HFOT) is a privately funded 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization building specially adapted, mortgage-free homes nationwide for the most severely injured Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of these Veterans have sustained injuries including multiple limb amputations, partial or full paralysis, and/or severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). These homes restore some of the freedom and independence our Veterans sacrificed while defending our country, and enable them to focus on their family, recovery, and rebuilding their lives. Since its inception in 2004, nearly 90 cents of every dollar donated to Homes for Our Troops has gone directly to our program services for Veterans. HFOT builds these homes where the Veteran chooses to live, and continues its relationship with the Veterans after home delivery to assist them with rebuilding their lives.
HFOT set list...
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
*Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac)
Afternoon Delight (Starland Vocal Band)
Golden Years (David Bowie)
50 Ways To Leave Your Lover (Paul Simon)
Blew The Dust Away (They Stole My Crayon)
America (Simon and Garfunkel)
*A Trick With No Sleeve (Alain Johannes)
*Bring On The Night (The Police)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Gardenia (Iggy Pop)
Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens)
*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.
Huge thanks to everyone who contributed in any way to this very successful fundraising show! I don't have a complete list of who you are, but these were the folks who appeared in my chat logs afterwards...
Frets Nirvana, Bri McMahon, gjackie.winkler, theadee, jovie Kearny, dahlea.milena, Jessie Kleiner, PitViper Paine, Woodstock Burleigh, Casidhe Brissot, lacey.latrell, Flynavy Beerbaum, bctigercat, Sesh Kamachi, Triana Caldera, Kat Claxton, Lyndon Heart, Sabryne Hotaling, Keja Keegan, Cyrece Delicioso-Wylder, Christine Haiku, Shaye Dezno-Jonstone, tex.seesaw, Daisy Coronet, ransomtalmidge, Gary Jonstone, shaggy Verdigra, CREAMY Dudley, daviddudley, and danijela.diker.