The Death of Death
by ALEX CARNEVALE
In the future, your gravestone will be regarded as a forum of expression akin to yearbook pages and facebook layouts. Over time, every societal custom either dies or lives a new life as a extraordinarily detailed fetish. Cryogenics is but an existension of this obssession. As soon as personalities can be replicated by computer the dead will be with us, in some cases more genuinely and constantly than they ever were in life.
It is our bad luck to live in this era; before we can be memorialized in the proper fashion. Money will be one aid to such preservation. Status may confer immanence, and important opportunities in the beyond. We can't know what the dead are capable of unless we let them do it themselves.
Representations of moments of pride (or even organs of pride) in the deceased's life will predominate. Cemeteries will stop merely housing dead; they will basically be retirement homes for the very disabled. Instead of detailed anecdotes about the good old days, the dead can opine endlessly about the living years. The Mike & the Mechanics song will play endlessly.
The downside to this sort of arrangement is obvious. Once an individual stops living, he's no longer able to create new knowledge, discover new things about the world. He basically will fulfill the current function of Camille Paglia. It is comforting to know that Camille will be answering any questions posed of her well into the next millennium. Eventually an interest group composed of the dead will be born, and the AARP will finally have healthy competition.
Practically, the wishes of the dead are routinely ignored. Kafka wanted Max Brod to burn all of his work; Brod didn't obey the direct order. We are benefited, but the loved one is betrayed.
The need for remembrance in death, for the act of death to be punctuated by a celebration of life, will no longer be necessary. We will be remembered, but fleetingly. Stories that defame our characters will arise naturally out of the ether to be published by Matt Drudge in some vindictive way, if we're lucky. If we're a liberal, the New York Times will whitewash our obituary. We can preserve some small aspect of the life which lies beyond us.
Soon there will be a place to go after death where we can retain the dignity of being a statistic without the degrading aspect of actually being one.
Could one achieve things in death they never could in life? Perhaps, if the goal was to have a series of popular webisodes. Even now we are permitted to appoint in our stead (case of death) people to receive the love we were never able to in life. Depending on your quality of life, you could still be going to a better place. Take Jim Morrison.
It's a questionable strategem at best to place a pearl of wisdom on your tablet of infinity. What if your desired nugget of knowledge doesn't age too well? I bet Sherwood Anderson was looking back on his statement and questioning its veracity. Sixty years into death and you might not remember enough of life to term it an adventure:
This sort of thing is more sour grapes than epitaph. Yesterday I tried to wake from sleep. My eyes were open, but my brain was still in the dream life where I was calling for help. Although I knew I was conscious, I could not move my head or lips. I felt the dryness of my mouth. Was this helplessness a glimpse of death? I don't know whether to be afraid or comforted by the ease with which I went on with the rest of my life.
"Aquamarine" - Church (mp3)
"Crab Magic" - Church (mp3)
"Quilty's Guilty" - Church (mp3)