Haruki Murakami’s novel Wild Sheep Chase starts with the laconic account of a funeral. The narrator knew the dead girl in their student days. Their connection was rather loose even then and now, after more than ten years, he hardly remembers her (except for the fact that she used to fuck around with a lot of guys, in- or excluding him). Attending the ceremony doesn’t compensate for his lack of emotional attachment. At some points sadness seems to penetrate his indifference, but that sadness is more like an objective phenomenon, a thing encountered among things and then lost again between other things.
The overall message is, as so often in Murakami: The modern world has alienated us from each other. Human relations have become superficial. We don’t really care about each other. Not anymore.
I don’t know if Murakami ever wrote about the blogosphere or social networks on the Web in one of his many books I haven’t read. If he did, I’m sure there would be a similar objection: The many people you ‚meet‘ on these platforms, the many ‚friends‘ you make, they don’t really mean anything to you. You forget about them, you allow new ones to replace old. You enjoy a life there on a level of low commitment, easy comes and easy gos. Imagine what would happen if one of those acquaintances died. If a message on FB or some blog informed you that XY has passed away. Died of AIDS. Wasn’t he an artist, or art student, or somebody who did something he called art? Wasn’t he involved in an argument about unsafe sex two or three years ago that provoked a fierce discussion and almost caused the structural liberalism of an open-to-anyone comments section to collapse? Yeah, maybe. And is this death thing for real? Like, really? Dead?
This is exactly what happened to me a short time ago. I read an alert by friends on FB and Dennis Cooper’s blog DC’s that Antonio Urdiales was fatally ill, and before we could even make our mind up on how to support him in his last days his life ended. I have since been trying to deal with the situation of mourning someone I only knew through the Internet, only had a few short conversations with in the DC’s comments, and lost sight of after he left the blog’s community, being an on-and-off commenter there myself. This situation has triggered feelings and thoughts of a complexity, and ambiguity, Murakami and all the other sappy cultural pessimists know nothing of. How the loose network of people linked through a blog and FB mourn, it is now documented in a two day memorial for Antonio on DC’s. It will be for everyone to assess this.
Here is day one.
Here is day two.