Saturday, June 11, 2011

The End

I just realized that I never followed up on the post about my friend. He died. That was given considering the state of his cancer, but what wasn't a given was the manner of his death. He spent the extra time he got after they fixed his cut carotid to reach out. It was amazing to watch, even through the tiny window of his Facebook wall. The real reconciliation, forgiveness even I hope, happened beyond public sight but the initial contacts often happened where we could all see it. He didn't die alone and he from the posts of those who were there with him at the end it seems he found some measure of peace.

But I will point out one thing that annoyed me. My friend was an atheist just as I am, he went as far as to described himself as a militant atheist. As his condition worsened and he could no longer respond directly more and more people put blatantly religious messages on his wall. I'm not talking about things like "We're praying for you." sentiments that are fully understandable and well meant. No, there were a bunch of posts that started with things like "Dear being of peace and light..." one of which was written by some kind of spiritual leader of one of his friends. That's going too far, way too far. If my friend had been healthy he would have expressed his displeasure at those sentiments in a way that would have been brutal, profane and very, very funny.

This is the oblivion of religious privilege, the inability to understand that while sincere best wishes are usually welcome by atheists even when religiously couched, proselytising is inappropriate. The deathbed conversion is a myth that religious folks repeat because facing death without a belief in an afterlife of some sort is incomprehensible to them.

I didn't take any of these folks to task for two reasons. First because I recognise that everyone grieves in their own way and despite the inappropriate nature of those posts no harm was intended. Second and most importantly, I couldn't speak for my friend in this matter. There is no atheist big book of multiple choice for me to consult. No dogma, no tradition, no religious formula to inform me. It would have been as inappropriate for me to speak for my friend without knowing his exact thoughts on the matter as it was for people to use his affliction to spread their dogma. Sometimes free thought is limiting and I wouldn't have it any other way.

As final thought I want to point out just how important Facebook was in all of this. He died at least in part in the pubic space of Facebook. A temporary community formed, and together we were stronger than we could have been alone. This is the true strength of humanity, our ability to reach out and help each other. Facebook gets a lot of criticism for its triviality, and perhaps that criticism is deserved. But in the end it's simply a means of communication and what is communicated is up to those who use it.


lex said...

Steve, I hope I have found you on the book of faces.

The Chris thing, despite that I'd cut him out of my life in 1990, has affected me; I would like to keep some sort of basic contact with the old crew, even if I am a terrible correspondent. You lot are my people.

Karolina said...

humans sometimes do not understand nor accept the ideals, beliefs and thoughts of others. I hope your friend is gone with peace in his soul.