I’m building a virtual memory palace

Back before I became a business journalist, I was a war correspondent. And I accumulated a few psychological scars as a result. In the past, I deal with some of my ghosts by lighting candles in church — I’m baptized Russian Orthodox — but multiple relocations and other changes in my life have prevented me from keeping that up.

An advisor recently suggested that I go back to the practice of lighting candles, and I’ve been thinking about how to achieve that in a practical way.

Ideally, I’d like to have a little private chapel — on a mountain top, say — where I could commune with nature, find clarity and peace of mind, and light candles to the memory of those I have lost.

The trick, of course, is doing it on a writer’s budget.

And then I remembered the candle texture and scripts available on OpenSim Creations. (Download script here, candle sculpt here, flame texture here, tutorial here.) Plus, I already have a mountain on my private region in OpenSim.

I could put candles in a little chapel on this mountain, and they would burn forever, and I could visit them at any time. Or just feel calmer knowing that the candles are burning.

First step toward building a personal memory palace.

And there are other things I’d like to remember, as well, personal things that I’m not going to go into here.

Over time, what I would have would be a virtual memory palace. This is a technique that folks used to use to remember long stories, back in the days before everyone could read and write. You build a palace in your mind and associate particular memories with places in the palace. Stage magicians use this to memorize long lists of things — and I recently saw it mentioned on The Mentalist (Season 2, Episode 11: “Rose-Colored Glasses”).

OpenSim is a perfect environment in which to build a memory palace. (Instructions on how to build a memory palace are here.) You probably don’t want to have a lot of folks accessing it, so running in on a home computer or USB stick is fine — and free. Or, if you only visit it occasionally, an on-demand service like Kitely would work well, as would the $5.95 regions from Nova.

I used to spend more than that on buying candles.

I wouldn’t put a memory palace in Second Life — $300 a month is a bit too steep, and Second Life isn’t going to be around for ever. With OpenSim, I own the region, and have the OpenSim software on my own computer, so I’ll be able to access the memory palace at any time.

OpenSim also offers advantages over other creative platforms in that it is three dimensional, and easy to build in. You could draw a memory palace on paper or in a drawing program, but it wouldn’t have the same emotional impact, the same sense of being there.

Maria Korolov