I always used to find the idea of re-incarnation attractive. We slip away into the unknown but are relatively quickly re-housed in a new born. Without our memories of course. Although there are supposed to be methods of accessing those memories; regressive hypnosis for example.
After dallying with this notion; comforting as it is – I realised there is a big problem with it. There will come a time, if we haven’t already passed it, when there will be more people alive than have died. I don’t have the figures. I can prove nothing. But it seems to me that if babies are born and there’s no “dearly departed spirit” to inhabit their body, what then? What would animate and motivate these spiritually devoid people? (I am sure I have met a few in the kitchen at parties). Perhaps they would turn out to be zombies, and we all know from the movies what trouble that leads to.
It won’t be long now, another 50 years or so, when there will be more web sites, Facebook Profiles, blogs and Instagram pages of dead people rather than the digital presence of living, breathing, posting beings.
A few days ago, I received a nudge from Facebook to wish a friend a happy birthday. Problem was, this friend had passed away 2 years ago. I visited his FB page and looked back at his postings, mostly funny and sometimes pithy. I scrolled through his page from the opening cat picture all the way down to the moment when he entered his last post. That final post will continue receding into the past as long as FB keeps their servers powered up.
I wished him a happy birthday anyway.
It will happen to us all. Last week it was my birthday and I received about forty nice messages on Facebook. It was very touching, but I knew these good people had responded to a nudge from the App. We all do it.
The Pharos are well remembered for building the Pyramids; but in all likely hood they never lifted a finger having it done by a slave workforce. Whereas we know volumes about the Pharos and their dynasty, we know virtually nothing of the common man’s story.
Now we have a new lease of remembrance, thanks to the internet, we have a digital afterlife. We can leave our history scattered on the shore line.
Our on-line pages house the everyday, minutiae and detritus of our lives and that of our friends. Historians will no longer need to sit in silent libraries decoding the hints and fragments of past lives. There will be an ocean of information about our lives scattered across the internet; who we are friends with, our politics, our poetry and where we work, who we work with (who they work with and are friends with) and their cat videos.
Internet companies are now starting to address this. Some have considered monetising it by offering their services for us to have memorial pages – a perpetual obituary. There are not so many takers yet; as we don’t like to think about our mortality.
Yet slowly, we are facing up to this phenomenon; in modern Last wills & Testaments digital executors are being appointed to administer our internet presence left behind. Facebook are also in process of formalising this and allowing relatives of the deceased to request a page to be either deleted or memorialised; where people can continue to visit and leave memories and comments about the person no longer with us. A kind of digital condolence book. Undoubtedly accompanied by tasteful graphics.
This may bring comfort to so many people, being able to leave some digital flowers as one might light a candle in church for a departed loved one.
Eventually, those digital visits will stop. The relatives and friends will themselves be absorbed into the digital Hall of Fame. The only visitors will be the Historians mapping out the social landscape of this generation or that. There may also be curious who have meandered from one profile link to the next. They may pass by, pausing a moment to read some comments here, look at a few pictures there. Curious about these unknown people’s lives.
Like a dog walker in an afternoon graveyard, squinting at the fading inscriptions.