Sunday, 31 January 2010


The end, as they say, is nigh.

Hopefully not very nigh, but, eventually, nigh it will be.

That bothers me. I would be stupid if it didn't.

Of course, most people don't know when the end will come. Stray buses,
badly-earthed wires, lightning, there are many ways to shuffle off this mortal coil without actually noticing.

That's slightly attractive, because what bothers me is not the aftermath (being an atheist, there's no reason for me to be bothered about any post-corporeal consequences). What bothers me is knowing. Seeing it coming more than a few seconds in advance.

I do not look forward to having thoughts of mortality forced upon me for any length of time, say with illness or encroaching age. I expect to end up (if I keep my faculties) in some sort of state of mild, but permanent, panic.

It's bad enough now, when the thought of The End crosses my mind (as it does, when events remind me of my mortality, such as friends losing relatives, or I have a close call myself), to consider a world without me in it. The mental picture doesn't work. The best that I can do is to think of a me-less world in which I am some sort of powerless observer, like a television viewer with no remote.

It is easy to see, at times like that, where the idea of life continuing after death came from. It's just so much easier to go into denial and delude yourself into thinking that dying is just a temporary inconvenience, then you just carry on as before, just a it more ethereal.

But, in these modern days, there arre extra things to worry about.

When I die, my family and friends will know. They will grieve (hopefully), but they will go on and remember me with affection.

But what about you, dear reader?

There are hundreds, possibly thousands of people who know I exist through other websites, particularly Instructables. Pardon my ego, but I'd like to think they like my work, and would miss me when I'm gone. But, if I die, how would they know?

If you are in the habit of checking my stuff (or anybody else on the web) every few days or weeks, how long would it take you to notice I had stopped posting? How long would you keep checking before deciding I wasn't going to post again? Would you even consider the possibility that something was more seriously wrong than a laxness on my part?

And, maybe, you are reading this for the first time. Browsing the bloggosphere, you have only just happened upon this rather morbid post. Am I, to you, dead, alive, or maybe even neither? Am I inhabiting a timeless limbo?

I tell people who ask me; When I die, all that will remain of me will be the memories held by those that knew me. Does this count as a memory? And whose memory? Post-mortem readers did not know me. Do you remember me by reading this?

Is this, then, the afterlife I have never believed in?


  1. Interesting. Personally, if I had the choice my preference would be to see it coming. To stare death in the face, know how it ends. I'd also hope that I kicked the farm doing something either awesome or useful - no point in wasting it. The part that's frustrating is not getting to see your own funeral, so you *don't* know how it ends, really...

    Hopefully we've gobs and gobs of time before such questions are relevant. The thought of the post by your sons or wife that something happened is quite literally enough to induce nausea. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd notice fairly quickly. And boy would I miss you.

  2. @ Silence.

    You have a talent for bringing a lump to this godless throat...

  3. This is interesting... what it brings to my mind is the many cases where somoene dies and their online sites become collections of thoughts from friends. A twitter feed, facebook page, or myspace account are some of the ways that people have left behind their thoughts.

    I wonder if there could be a service set up that could automatically ping sites to notify people that you're dead. It would require some sort of publishing capability that could be set up for your blog, social media sites, and profiles on forums. You could essentially compose a last post that would only be published with some sort of confirmation of your death. (That's probably the trickiest part.) You could include thoughts on the afterlife (or lack of it) perhaps providing a link or two to a charity that donations could be made to in your memory, and even provide contact information for survivors for people to send their condolences.

    I don't think there would be much of a market for this - but there sure is a need for it.

  4. @ Zieak

    I believe some legal companies will hold files of your passwords etc until such time as yuo die, then they will release them to whoever you name, like willing somebody your virtual life.

  5. @ Zieak

    I've had the same idea - I just can't figure out a way to work it independently and don't want to go with any company. :D

  6. . I don't think it's just coincidence that this entry immediately follows the one on inebriation. ;)