• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 06
Image by


Were I to live a second life, would I go back to childhood and join forces with Lyra from Oxford to do a Sherlock Holmes, and rescue all the poor stolen children? Would I befriend the King of the Armoured Bears, and fly to the Northern Lands astride a witch’s cloud-pine? While the North will no doubt be dark and grey and perishing, there’ll surely be plenty of exciting adventures for me, enough to last a (second) lifetime?

But my conscience has me in its grip: Don’t be enticed into living your second life in Second Life and get conned by the digitised perfection of an avatar! Go and live your second life in the blistering heat of battle in the streets of Yangon, where soulless soldiers are shooting unarmed protesters in the head, while the world sits watching, offering only empty pious words for newspaper headlines. Sneak into a camp where water is scarce to drink, let alone, in this corona-age, for washing hands.

Stricken, I say to myself: Sail to Lyra’s Oxford if you wish, but when the fictional journey is done, come back, always, to the real Myanmar, to the horror we still call Syria. Look at the gaunt face of a starving boy on a sinking boat, and see that he is absolutely terrified. Shine a light on the slums with no millionaires (not even teddy bears), where food-bank children don’t know who Lyra is, who’ve never visited a university town.

While aching for simple childhood joy, I know a second life only, and always, begins here and now, in this singular, ambiguous world where I live, not any other blissful alternative universe. Nostalgia for innocence goes back all the way to the Garden of Eden, but should I not choose the Tree of Knowledge ― should I not choose the Fall ― and bravely accept finitude, the marker of my first, second, third... life?