Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Which Of Us Is Not A Stranger And Alone?

What can be worse than death? For me, being forgotten certainly can be.

With death, you die and that's it. Highly likely it will be painful and unpleasant, but when it's done it's done, and either you just cease to exist or you head on up to the thereafter. Or the down under, depending on your personal beliefs and Gods. And that's the end of that. Once you're dead, you don't have to deal with the aftershocks. It's much more painful for the survivors, certainly.

Being forgotten can be like living death. This person who used to know you well enough now doesn't even acknowledge you existed? The truth washes over you like a rainstorm, and you feel frustrated and lonely. It's a death you have to deal with, you essentially died in that other person's mind, you ceased to be.

Yet, you still exist, and you know you exist, and you know that you knew this person. You're sure of it. How could they forget you?! Outrageous! That's the hardest blow. There is a small voice in the backstage saying, "You couldn't have been that important to be forgotten". You can't get rid of it, because if you're forgotten then your former friend cannot tell you if you actually mattered to them or not. But if you did matter and were important, then they'd remember, right?

Being forgotten reverses roles in death. Others aren't pained by the death of you in their minds, they don't even know you existed. But you feel it, it's heartbreaking to you. For them, once they've put you out of mind, that's it, it's done and there is nothing else to it. You spend the rest of your days wallowing in the knowledge that someone who used to be close is now a stranger, and while they carry it, you really can't because you DO remember, and that just burns a nice little hole into your mind.

The larger the amount of people, the worse it gets. With one, you can shrug it off. "Eh, just one loser. Probably wasn't that great a friend anyway", you'll reason. But two? Three? A dozen? Four score? Eventually, the little holes add up. It'll tear you apart, and what's left will be a shell of yourself. Nothing more than a shadow of a person no one cares about, remembers, or even acknowledges. A shadow in a world of shadows.

Or you can seal yourself off. People can't forget what they never knew, right? All you need is you, and with that you'll figure nothing else matters. It won't hurt when people don't recall seeing you, because you've already planned ahead that they won't recall in the first place and that they'll never see you again to burn a hole in your soul again. You become a shadow by choice, a wanderer that comes and goes, and rarely if ever meets the same person twice. You're free in all respects. No one is tying you down. No one is there to hurt you, or prevent you from doing what you want when you want.

Except that not really living, is it? There is no challenge. No one to object to you, provide constructive criticism, provide light on different subjects. On the other side of the token, there's no sense of being needed and appreciated, of being loved, no one to share anything with, no one to help you grow and develop and shed light on areas you never knew you excelled in. Being a lonely wanderer, you're just a battery, charged with potential that will never be tapped, and you'll last a long long time but never unleash that potential. Being together is like being plugged into flashlight, where you work together to create something with entirely different parts, but you burn out far far faster than the lone battery. And in either case, you'll eventually explode alkaline everywhere. So which is better?

Which is better? Being cut into a statue, destined to become a masterpiece but erode far faster than normal, or being hidden under the crust for eons, never venturing beyond your quarry, never forming anything? They both erode eventually. Will the statue remain at the forefront? It might fall out of favour, either due to style or the sheer number of artworks out there, then be filed away in some museum's basement and notable only in the footnotes of a textbook. The plain stone obviously lasts much longer, but it's faceless, never notable or remembered, and when it's gone it's only a footnote inasmuch as it provided a surface to stand on, and nothing more if that.

And now we enter the Internet. What constitutes death online? Obviously a notice from relatives that "laggerd66lulz Stravinsky" finally lost out to the tumor in his pancreas that metastasised does, but what about something more subtle? What would you think if I didn't log on for a week with no prior notice of what I'm doing? How about a month? A year? At what point would you give up that someone is 'internet dead'? Do you just forget them instead? Let them fade away, they don't seem to be coming back, and you try to keep up and remember them, but there's so much else for you to do, and time is so short...

Would it be easier on you if I violated some preplanned event? If I said I was going to go on vacation for a week, and then the week passes and I still never log on, that doesn't send a good message. What if I said I was definitely going to meet you at a concert on Saturday, and then never log in? How long would you miss me, before I fade out from center stage? And then what if I came back, and the reason for my absence was simply Real Life serious business? If you've forgotten me by then, would it be virtual murder and rebirth? Would we be a virtual Christ in that regard? How long would it take to jog your memory, and would I ever be really the same as I originally was in your mind? You can't know if you forgot, your baseline for such a comparison is deleted.

Every time you meet someone, you create a new you. People don't really know you, they know the version of you they created in their mind. Thus, there is an Anna in Jurin's mind, an Anna in Silver's mind, an Anna in James' mind, an Anna in Hazel's mind, an Anna in Chaos' mind, an Anna in Madison's mind, an Anna in Scope's mind, an Anna in Philip's mind, an Anna in Nalin's mind, an Anna in Avi's mind, an Anna in Doug's mind, an Anna in Solta's mind, an Anna in Vanya's mind, and many many more. All are me, but they're not me. They are all versions of me as perceived by them. Each is unique and yet they all share a common template. I myself am really half a person, the other half is the me who resides in the minds of others. I'm the sum total of what you think of me plus what I actually am.

Now, if you forget me, is that killing the me residing in your mind? Do I die a little death? There are degrees to oblivion. The farther along you are towards erasing me, the more shattered the me in your mind will be. I suppose then it is not a question of dead or not, but one more along the lines of how corrupted can your Anna get before it's irreparable. How far can you strain it, can you distort it, can you chisel it and shatter it, can you tease and contort it before it's no longer me or no longer anything?

Forgive me for writing this as if I am the victim. I am implying no such thing. I am no saint, I am a human being of course, so the question can be asked of me of how long I can do such things to the friends residing in my mind. How many of those are dead, shattered, twisted, or abandoned? I am sorry to admit that the number is not a small one. Of my friends list, a large percentage are never on and of those remaining few I converse regularly with maybe five or six. I would like to point out that SL is a cycle of sorts, and when I'm on can affect who I am talking to. In addition, those who have become my close friends I have never forgotten. Sure, it's a little in the distance so to speak and a bit foggy, but there's no way I could possibly forget the GreatMoo or Mahala or Chrome. I can distinctly remember each one of them (in fact, I did meet up with Chrome a week ago, but after I had written this post as a draft). When and if ever James logs back in again (as some say he will, and I say the sooner the better considering the turn SL has taken recently. He'd probably fix it in a few weeks) for that one instant I'd never know he hasn't been on in a month.

And really, that's the best part of remembrance. That instant flash you get, when you see and hear the person, and your mind leaps in joy that yes, you do know this person and much fun is about to happen. And for the brief time together, you forget you even forgot! You don't even pay it much heed if at all! It's just the here and the now, and tomorrow is too far away to care about and yesterday is yesterday's news. It's not foggy memories of days yore, it's vivid images and feelings and sensations directly at you now.

But in between, that fogginess? Is that due to the lack of contact, or to the beginning of deletion? Maybe the mind is like a VCR tape. The original recording is crisp and clear and there's no static or fuzz and you feel there. After a few thousand plays, it starts degrading, falling apart, and you can't fix it unless you get a new tape. The longer you delay getting the tape, the more interference you have, until what you're actually watching isn't what it was originally, and you may forget what the original was like or was about. When you get that new tape of the same thing, you feel like you've reset somehow, that this wasn't what you had originally. The degradation becomes the original, and the original is lost. And just as there's many types of people, there's many qualities of tapes, which to be fair the person has no control over. You're born with the tapes you got. And you have to work with them the best you can.

Much of what we do depends upon memory. You memorise what you need to succeed at work and at school, you memorise close friends and relatives, you memorise that you drive on the right, that 58th and Vine is not a nice place at night, that you can't be publicly nude, that robbing a bank is not a bright idea, that you have cereal for breakfast and like a hot cup of tea before dinner. There is no instinct, it's all what you have set to memory. So, is it really that bad if someone forgets? With everything else they have to commit to memory, do they really need to know you? Would you rather they miss a train and be late for lack of memory of the schedule or they take a few minutes to recall their splintered memory of you?

Even pain, though not pleasant or easily forgotten, fades with the rest of your memories. Pained by a good friend not remembering you? Ah, let it be, and it too will fade along with your memory of them. And then they'll both be shadows to you, and you to them, in a perverse equivalent exchange. Mutually Assured Destruction.

I will conclude with one final thought.

If indeed we do store version of people we meet in our minds, that are killed by forgetting them, then every day all around the world trillions die each day in what would be the greatest holocaust yet.

And that's terrible.

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