“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” – Woody Allen
Death is inevitable. Or so I have heard.
I do not exactly understand the science of death. Should I study consciousness, or neurology? Why can some people be revived while others cannot? At what point do they cease to exist? If their body is sustained by life support but their brain is incapable of functioning, how is that different than after the plug is pulled?
Every few months I come to grips with the fact that my life could end at any moment. I realize that it could have on numerous occasions in the past.
While I have no interest in dying, I would not say that I am afraid of it.
“Worse things could happen.”
“It wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
What disturbs me the most is the state of affairs that would remain.
“I don’t want to be found dead slumped in front of a vanity mirror with mousse in my hair and BareMinerals SPF-15 medium Beige Foundation on my face. I don’t want my death to be an occasion for mockery. “Did you hear how he died?” Ha ha ha ha. And I don’t want to be found dead by anyone I love.”
While it is highly unlikely that I will be found dead by anyone that I love, it is extremely probable that someone will inherit and sort through my posessions. I am naturally inclined to defend myself by thinking that I will simply be unconscious, and not care about anything. But I care about many things in the present, and I probably will in my final moments. Surely those are the times to be concerned with.
Christopher Nolan writes in Following that “Everyone has a box…[containing]….personal things like snapshots, letters, little trinkets…an unconscious collection, a display…[telling] something very intimate…It’s like a diary. They hide it. But actually they want someone to see it.” Well I have an entire room of boxes. Am I hoarding everything, subconsciously hoping that someone will someday come to know me through my collection of stuff?
My real concern is my digital life. I have around 40,000 emails and more logins and passwords than I can remember. I have not decided whether I prefer to leave everything in its “as-is” state, or designate someone to maintain my accounts. Or should it all just be erased from existence? Nearly all of us will eventually be forgotten. As time passes, the universe becomes more disordered. So goes our increasingly irrelevant legacy.
Well I am obviously not the first to ponder the inheritance of digital content. Aaron Swartz, who tragically ended his own life last month, wrote an ominous post addressing this subject over a decade ago. Curiously, the footer of the page has not yet been updated as he requested. Is this an issue of technical obstacles, or is his executor intentionally preserving the state of the writing despite Aaron’s Wishes?
As it turns out, there is some extensive research being conducted in regard to social media and the dead. Apparently most people do not care what happens to their digital footprint after they die, and the companies are quite willing to hand over the accounts to immediate family members.
I think I prefer for my digital life to be passively preserved upon my death. I do not mind someone gaining access and reading my private messages or draft blog posts. But as much as I love my family and friends, I do not want them posting on my behalf. Perhaps I will save a draft to be published upon my death in an effort to say the things that I never could. Or I would much prefer to say them all now while I can still experience their effect. But let me be represented by my own words, despite how abruptly they might end.