Valentine’s day

sunshine

 

I befriend someone I don’t know in Facebook who happened to have passed away 3 years ago.

The account itself, I could say, is restlessly active almost everyday. ‘She’ shares information from all pages as much as possible. Dog videos, articles about dangerous food products, recipe dishes, viral stories about poor individuals someone met on the streets, or simply postings of inspirational quotes or messages with religious content. Some happen to be hoaxes, some are simply 15-minutes-of-fame intermezzos, but quite a few contain solid facts. These postings frequently fill up my news feed, and most of the time, I simply scroll them through and look at other stuff.

This Valentine’s day, I saw a video made in tribute of her.

Initially, I thought it was just a joke. I thought it could be just a random website giving you funny assessment of some algorithm-based sorts (imagine ‘Be Like Bill’ in the form of a make-believe obituary). It says “in memorial of (name undisclosed)”, with pictures of her smiling, of her drinking cocktail, of her standing beside a swimming pool. It was not until I clicked through her profile – after viewing through condolence-themed posts by her friends and relatives – that I realized this person was killed in a car accident 3 years ago.

And her account remains ‘alive’ up to now, sharing all the stuff that still continue to pop out as of today.

Up to now, I can’t comment anything about it. I’m not scared of the possibility that our Facebook accounts will continue to exist even after our lives end; I’m just left wondering how the person, behind the scene, continues to preserve all the remaining memories of their deceased beloved ones, as though one part of her soul remained existing within the social media. And it still goes on, all after the three years. I can’t imagine how that person, notwithstanding his or her motive, wakes up everyday, only to become ‘her’ surrogate on Facebook, and fills up the news feed with all the stuff he or she finds interesting. I can’t imagine how strong his or her mentality is already shaped (I hope I’m using the correct description), while facing up to the reality that she is physically gone, all the while maintaining her existence in the virtual world.

Throughout my lifetime, I have heard, and witnessed, stories of losses and sadness. A close friend of mine lost her mother last year, and she keeps her ‘mother’ alive on her Whatsapp profile. Another acquaintance lost his father, while he is yet to complete his university studies. Two of my high school friends lost their younger siblings, one of whom I happened to know. And now, this person – whom I added three and a half years ago, the time when I simply confirmed anybody’s friend requests, literally – is now a virtual Schrodinger’s cat.

It brings me to another philosophical question. With virtual and real identities becoming increasingly disparate (especially with the increasing ability of artificial-intelligence), will this story become a common reality in the distant future? Is this what transhumanists will refer to as ‘immortality’, or probably a ‘brain-in-a-vat’ phenomenon?

 

 

 

Looking at death the other way around

when i die

When Philip Gould was diagnosed with cancer and had only 6 weeks to live, he decided not to fight the disease back. He was, instead, doing something what much of the public would term as ‘surrendering oneself to ultimate fate’, or ‘giving up’. Gould, nonetheless, offered an interesting perspective about it. He would rather call death as ‘life’s ultimately most extraordinary journey’, a journey to somewhere unknown, unbeknownst by human understanding.

In this 9-minute video recorded in 2011, Gould spun the yarn about his last days before dying, and how this experience completely alters his perspective about life, and attempts to make his last stage in life ‘as exciting and enjoyable as possible’. Watch the full video in Aeon.

Love is Forever: teaching children to cope with loss

love is forever

 

 

Our love is a gift, a treasure to hold,
a story in our hearts forevermore.

This gift of love we have been given
is one that is pure, constant and sure.

 

Loss, as a matter of fact, is itself such a heavy-hearted keyword, that even conveying the word to kids itself becomes a burdensome duty. Loss, however, is an inevitable fate that everyone of us in this world will face. One day we will lose our beloved grandparents, or our parents, or our lovers, or someone else who we treasure, or who we grew up with. It comes in all forms, be it tranquil or tragic one. But we all know that dealing with it, sooner or later, is a must, and sometimes, we even must get prepared at all times with it. But, again, another problem comes: how to best equip people, especially children or toddlers, to cope with such devastating concept?

Casey Rislov and Rachel Balsaits collaborate together to publish Love is Forever, an illustration book about dealing with loss of beloved one, but this time aimed for children. Eking out a delicate balance between telling a hard truth and illustrating lightly-colored pictures, featuring owls as reflection of us human beings, Rislov and Balsaits hope that this work will inspire not only children, but also all of us, to appreciate more the meaning of life itself, and in particular, to cherish every single moment with our beloved ones, especially in such age of modernity where people are increasingly becoming self-centered.

See more examples of this illustration book in Brain Pickings.

Movie title: Dead in Paris

dead in paris

 

I have no idea which directors may have the best expertise to handle such plots, but I think there may be some possible prospective ones:

1. Woody Allen

2. Joel & Ethan Coen

3. David Lynch

4. Steven Soderbergh (okay, he’s already retired at 50)

5. Atom Egoyan (sorry, you’re just on bottom of the list then)

Movie title: When Bonnie Stutters

when bonnie stutters

 

This is another story about a prostitute. It could be, although somewhat unrelated, sequel to ‘Bonnie and Bonnie’, and it also could be that her name, again, is Bonnie. Another Bonnie, who stutters (that’s quite absurd), and who must, in her solitariness, free herself from an organized crime network’s vicious cycle, from police corruption, and eventually, struggle with death.

Will be even more interesting if Lars von Trier had some interest in this idea, and attempted to extend his ‘Depression Trilogy’ into a tetralogy.

Writing and death, a la John Updike

updike_death

 

Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time? It is even possible to dislike our old selves, those disposable ancestors of ours. For instance, my high-school self — skinny, scabby, giggly, gabby, frantic to be noticed, tormented enough to be a tormentor, relentlessly pushing his cartoons and posters and noisy jokes and pseudo-sophisticated poems upon the helpless high school — strikes me now as considerably obnoxious, though I owe him a lot: without his frantic ambition and insecurity I would not be sitting on (as my present home was named by others) Haven Hill. – John Updike, as quoted from his 1996 memoir, Self-Consciousness.

Note: John Updike (1932-2009) was a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author, novelist, and essayist, who was best known for his Rabbit Angstrom novel series, one that depicts a pathetic life of an American middle-class individual entrapped in a visceral midlife crisis, starting from his youth, to his heyday, to his death. He passed away in 2009 for lung cancer, partially thanks to his chain-smoking habit.

Look up for more Updike’s quotes about correlating writing and death in Brain Pickings.