The younger we are, the more we depend on others to verify that we are real and valuable. But even when old and gray, we may not want to be just forgotten. Well, most of us.
“But imagine if we were not missed.” That’s what the little old lady on the bus said to the other little old lady. I don’t have my ears on stalks to eavesdrop on my fellow passengers when I ride the bus to work, but especially with the elderly they often talk loudly enough that I hear them anyway, unless I put headphones on and listen to one of the brainwave entrainment tracks on my PSP.
Anyway, I did not follow the conversation, but this line leaped out at me. I suppose when one grows seriously old, this matter comes closer to one’s mind. Knowing that almost certainly we will be the next to leave, we have not only our own sadness to contend with that we shall leave behind all that we loved. After all, whether you believe you go to a better place or simply disappear, it seems unlikely that this sadness will continue after our transition. But there is also the thought that we will leave an emptiness in their lives, and from experience you know that this will last for a long time and never completely disappear. Just kind of fade to a scar.
I assume the other little old lady must have made some reference to this, but I did not hear that. Only this line: “But imagine if we were not missed.” And I thought, or rather knew without needing to think, that this is indeed the case with me. Well, almost. We are few enough people at work that I would probably be a little bit missed there. And one or two readers would miss my journal, I guess. But that is a rather small and abstract degree of missing. Like the bonsai of missing.
Some years ago, this would have seemed to me a bad thing. I might even have been upset, thinking about it. It is a human trait, to want to be important to others, or at the very least to one other human. Possibly even a cat or dog, or so it sometimes seems. I think it is related to our need to feel validated, that is to say, to get feedback telling us that we are real. That we are a valid human, at the very least. I have long thought that this is a major reason for the practice of dating (which is evidently a kind of ritual in the United States, while around here it is so informal that I did not really know it existed for most of my life.) From the descriptions I have seen of it, certainly it seems that a big part of it is having a mirror to verify one’s own existence in. I date, therefore I am.
I know I needed more validation before. More reassurance that I was real and someone knew it. There may still be some, I don’t know â€“ even my near “hermit” life has some of it, after all. I have to work most days of the year, and there are humans. (Much as I prefer to just work with the computers, when possible.) Even when I have some weeks off work, I will still go to the supermarket and buy food. The people at the check-out certainly seem to believe that I am real, since they take my money and even give me change back. So really, I don’t know how I would feel if I were completely without human company for a long time. Probably not very different though. There seriously isn’t much affirmation you can wring out of a stressed cashier, although I occasionally see people try.
I would like to credit my religion here, and I think it must surely be involved, deeply involved. But it cannot be only that. I was quite more fervent in my religious practice when I was younger, as in praying more on my knees and reading the Bible and tracts that exhorted to piety, not to mention regular meetings where both God and fellow believers were present. Of course God is always present, or if not one would definitely notice it, in a hair-raising way to say the least. But anyway, my religion is rather low-key now, although it is never far from my mind. (Perhaps it has sunk deeper in, what there is left of it?) Anyway, long time has passed, and the certainty that I exist (if only as a created being) is pretty much permanent. If I am ignored, or what is more, forgotten, I do not doubt that I am or what I am.
It would still be kind of sad to know that my life has been lived in vain on this planet, true. (If I had only God to worry about, being incarnate would not really be necessary.) But then again, that is why I write here, and there, and around the web. Just the other day I got a comment on a LiveJournal entry written explicitly for the purpose of explaining how to solve a problem with the music player Amarok which failed to recognize .oga sound files. (I had to rename them to .ogg for Amarok to recognize them and the entire directory structure in which they were placed.) So, my life was not completely wasted. ^_^
The Internet is not a very stable place, but then again neither are most of the people who use it. I realize that after my passing, gradually my tracks here will be washed away. But it will take some time now, as I have uploaded my thoughts and my life so thoroughly to the Net, over so many years, and there are various archive systems in place now, especially Google. So there seems to be a good chance that something similar will happen to what Leonard Cohen says near the end of his “Tower of Song“:
Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to the tower down the track,
But you’ll be hearing from me, baby, long after I’m gone:
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song.
That’s how I hope my footprints in this world will fade, gently, in the light rain of time. When I am gone, should anyone miss me, they can go online â€“ if nothing else, using Google cache or the Wayback Machine â€“ and I will be there, no more and no less than I was when I enjoyed my bodily existence.