Friday 22 April 2011

Of death and blogging

I'm no Stoic. And of the things in death that give me pause, not being able to blog or tweet doesn't make the top five. But I don't blog nearly as well as Justin E.H. Smith.
I often find that the idea of my own death is simply too hard to grasp. It may be that I am more Stoic than Nagelian: what concern is the world of mine, if the world will no longer have me? I expect my loved ones will absorb the loss; I have no large estate that will need worrying about, no mythology of transmitting my legacy through a healthy son weighing upon me; I am more than content to transfer my teaching load to someone else; and so on. I think I can even imagine my own body decaying in its coffin without being too troubled (I shiver a bit, but this is more a titillation arising from a taste for the macabre than it is a horror). But here is the thought that makes death formidable again: it is the moment after which I will never post to my blog again, after which I will never write another Facebook status update, I will never again tweet. My soul cries out: “But I can’t live without doing these things!” And death answers back: “No. But you can die.”

This is to say that my life is wrapped up with an activity from which I will have to leave off at death. But it is also the activity, I am increasingly coming to think, of actively constructing my self, and this activity, when it leaves off in death, will leave an accurate and vivid trace of a life. My online activity is, as I already put it, both mask and gravestone at once.
Many thanks to Xavier Marquez for the repeated pointers from his shared items feed. A few notable Smith hits:

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