On Being Dead
A friend of one once pulled a prank on me I found pretty funny. Waiting until I was in the air for a lengthy international flight, he informed an internet message board that I had died in some comical fashion. I don’t remember what exactly, but it was the kind of death that would be obviously risible barring any context clues that made it somehow seem plausible:
- “Coroner: Dead Man’s Stomach Ruptured After Hot Dog Eating Contest”
- “Police Stumped By Corpse Found Inside Large Tree Wearing Child’s Superhero Costume”
- “Spokesperson: Dead Man in Supercuts Bathroom Was ‘Obviously Missed’ During Business Hours”
And so it was that for a day or so, I was officially dead, so far as the internet was concerned. Returning “to life,” I got to make like Huck Finn and read what people had posted about me in memoriam, and as I recall, it was all kind of nice stuff. “Oh he was a nice guy, so and so, blah blah blah.” That must have been about a decade ago now.
Fast forward ten years, and a lot has changed. For a start, so far as the Internet goes, I really am dead. The certificate has been typed up and filed. If you delete your social media accounts, and thus are not constantly adumbrating your thoughts and perceptions of virtually everything you come across online in a given day, do you really exist at all?
For a certain type of professional freelance writer, the answer about such an expiration has been a resounding, “NO.” Think, after all, of how common this sentiment is:
“I know social media is poison. I know it’s horrible, and that I’m essentially plopping my brain in a tank of battery acid 12 hours a day. But I need to keep my account for work, for I am A Writere, and must make myself available at all times, should a wealthy publisher point at me, a cigar between his two fingers, and growl, ‘DAT ONE.’”
“What if I miss out on the latest Brexit news?”
“In this dark era, it is my duty to determine whether one can induce the same effects of a traumatic brain injury, solely from thinking about Donald Trump with the degree of intensity most timberwolves devote to acquiring their next meal.”
Well, shit. I get all of those. And at times I’ve been all of those. But at some point this year I unplugged from the Matrix, and got flushed down that giant toilet Keanu lived in, floating in a warm sea of Cherry Jell-O. And here’s the secret: it’s not that bad being dead.
That’s not to say it’s ideal. For instance, amidst the hurlyburly of unplugging, I forgot I have subscribers who somewhat insensibly pay. That’s no fair. I’m a lumpenprole; I’d kill somebody who doesn’t deliver on my $5 purchases, and that’s as it should be.
I guess a lot’s happened in the past few months about which I don’t really know I can summon any eloquence. But here’s what I will say. There was a wise man who said something I read recently:
“Only he that refuses to be foremost of all things
Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers.”
Well, that hadn’t been my operating logic for about three decades. But okay. Halloween is coming, and like Dracula rising refreshed from a coffin, dusted with my native Transylvanian soil, I am alive (sort of) again. And perhaps in a more durable way; maybe there’s a way of doing this which doesn’t involve the kind of petty, day-to-day insanity which otherwise seems to define internet discourse.
We’ll see, at least. After all, I’m not dead yet.