Instant Messages

by practicalspactical

Across the top of my computer screen, a red bar of text: John Updike has died, his publishers say.

Curious, I think. Only last night, I was surfing through his wikipedia pages, learning about the fictional Rabbit that Updike has walked with for half a century. While Updike will never know of this connection, this fact that in his last hours, even so, someone nameless and fameless out there in the world was turning their attention to him and all he’s done and added to the world. He has planted many orchards and gardens, which will continue to bear fruit even though he is no longer here.

In the sad fall after 9/11, I was similarly astounded by a breaking news email that Ken Kesey had died. Only a few months before, he had written an article in Rolling Stone magazine, asking why, if 9/11 had changed everything, the men in suits talking war still all looked the same.

As I was coming back from Greensboro, right after New Year 2005, another strange message that traveled down the noosphere. Hunter S. Thompson. Did not make it to see America elect Barack Obama. At first, I felt happy for a man who lived a vivid rageful full and total life — I envisioned him stalking the Weird Happy Hunting Grounds of the sky. Later, when I learned it was a suicide, I paused for a time, thinking about the world, all our ends, and not understanding who Kurt Cobain was when I was twelve and in elementary school.

It ends, these memories whisper. It ends continually. That is added to. One more twist. It continues. Interesting. I’ll send this message back, into the common ocean of our secret thoughts, like a folded origami boat with a candle in it, half-remembered fragment from a television program about a Buddhist funeral. Somewhere there is singing.