Complete Enough

VR Dying Experiences #3

Tom Nickel
5 min readMay 7, 2022


A good paradox gets people’s attention.

Announcing an event in VR as a VR Dying Experience is already an attention-getter. It’s meant to be a filter.

In Session #1 we sat in cemeteries and burial places around the world and some people gave eulogies for someone or something they had lost.

Session #2 used death in religion and culture for a TV Quiz Show game of Avatar Squares: Special Death Edition. Contestants and Hosts, and Xs and Os all helped us have fun with dying for an hour or so.

Session #4, which hasn’t happened yet, is pretty obvious. What to do with Session #3 was not, at least it was not obvious to me.

I have a plan, a plan for preparing for death, that I began developing for myself about fifteen years ago when I was diagnosed with a blood cancer. I call it, “An Instructional Design for Dying,” a name no one but me likes.

I have never been able to lead it the way I want to, the way it needs to be led.

In VR, I am getting much closer.

I know that our journey as mortals has personal, interpersonal, and societal layers. The intimacy we can feel with others in VR isn’t just a nice new media feature. It facilitates acceptance. It is the course.

Hearing other people talk about things we don’t usually talk about lets an eye opening new perspective happen, just by being present and listening. Personal and interpersonal.

Acceptance of death is only the start. Together we can reach Appreciation for being mortal.

I believe the heart of the matter is a subjective sense of feeling Complete-Enough with the life lived so far, at any time, starting Now.

Sudden and unexpected death is real. About 15% of the 8,000 people who die every day in the US alone never knew it would be the last time they brushed their teeth as they did their morning routine that day.

I say it just that way a lot and I said it again early in Session #3. Then it is time to ask,Now, do you feel Complete-Enough?’

Enough, the hardest quantity and quality to assess and manage — we can know we have it and still feel driven for more. We can be out of touch with what’s-enough and find our criteria have been hijacked.

Complete-Enough has a bad image and there’s a reason for it.

We are brainwashed to go for the Gold. Silver medal winners are the most miserable people in the world. Economists made up a ridiculous answer to the What-Is-Enough question: The Most is What’s-Enough and nothing less, they say.

The rational player optimizes.

Herbert Simon won a Nobel Prize just for showing we can never get all the information we need to make the best decision, so we get just-enough and then decide. Doesn’t that sound like what everyone starts figuring out in Elementary School?

Simon says we can proceed:

by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world

He thinks there’s a time and place for both but we can see that Optimizing has totally dominated Good-Enough

Even when we read or hear the words, ‘satisfactory,’ or ‘good-enough,’ there’s something negative there, a ‘settling for.’ A resigned, ‘oh well.’ Disappointment? Probably.

Thinking that Optimum always applies makes it harder to make realistic decisions in a real world. We are constantly encouraged to go for more, which makes a hard question much much harder.

Finally, the Paradox

The way to feel More-Complete, on the road to Complete-Enough, isn’t to do something to fill us up. It’s to let go of something. But how do we let go of something hard to let go of? By doing something, something designed by us to help us let go.

By Hosting support groups intensively over the past two years, I have learned how strong the Regret Forces are in many of us, young or old. People can start Regretting What They Failed to Become in 1st grade and then just keep up the good work!

Healing means learning to live with these Forces and keeping them from influencing us so much. Healing is possible, especially when we go some place and do something about it.

Healing = Place + Action (personal ritual)

In Session #3, we brought three very different healing places to us as 360 degree skybox picture worlds:

Bryce Canyon (Utah, USA)

The Blue Lagoon (Grindavik, Iceland)

Shiratani Unsuikyo Ravine (Yakushima, Japan)

We felt the places. Felt the differences among them, to bring out in high relief what Place can bring. Felt what kind of place speaks to each of us.

Then a Zen Garden place for Healing.

part of Zen Garden by Alan Chao

People took objects off the shelf that stood for a Regret. Trophy for the Fame they have not achieved. House they do not own and may never own. Books not written. Also Books for too many degrees, not one that I had expected.

People spoke out loud to the group and Named the Regret. They told us why they are ready to let go of it now and then threw the thing into the fire.

These actions are taken in the shadow of death. We recognize now more than ever that we could be one of tomorrow’s Sudden and Unexpected Deaths.

We let go of Regrets by doing something, to help us feel Complete-Enough for Acceptance and Appreciation. We know the thoughts will come back but we will not give energy and attention to them any more.

This time was different.

Image by David Denton

I write about VR and other topics I have no standing to write about on Medium and Substack.

I have a black belt in learning and I’ve been meditating for so long you’d think I’d be enlightened but I’m not.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos