They say that the best camera is the one that’s with you. I’d like to remind everyone that there are much better cameras that are not with you.
“We will conquer cancer in our lifetime.”
There’s something about the phrasing of that sentence. It’s not just the use of the word “conquer,” the war based metaphor. What really stands out to me is the usage of “our lifetime.” It’s such a relatable term. The boundaries are so fuzzy. I imagine hordes of people passing by, all of varying ages, thinking, “Yes, in my lifetime.” It’s such a hopeful declaration. Then slowly people’s lifetimes will end. New generations will emerge. They will pass by this very sign and think, “Yes, in my lifetime.” The sign itself will last (and perhaps be relevant) long beyond our lifetimes.
Clicking through links on the internet here and there, at times I will come upon a blog housing posts that I find interesting. I will click around to find more content, look into the archives, and peruse the about me page. At some point I will notice that the last post on the blog was five, six or seven years ago. This realization will often terrify me. I am often terrified by abandoned blogs. I wonder what the story is. I wonder why.
I will snap out of this mildly terrified state. But I will be saddened a bit, because certain blogs are like faucets of interestingness. And it’s a shame that rivers don’t flow forever. Blogs interest me from that perspective, archives that mark our presence here, but the last updated date is still. This stillness both fascinates and scares me. It’s odd because I really like the idea of leaving an archive behind. This notion of creating things and at some point looking back to see what you’ve made, the idea of leaving behind a string of work in your wake, is appealing. But the stillness is still somewhat unnerving.
I shouldn’t be too unnerved by abandoned blogs. I have abandoned this blog on many occasions. Leaving behinds gaps in the archive. There is no big reason, no deliberate cause. Attentions get diverted and the body is tired at times. There is no grand intent. It just so happens in the flow of things. Then at some point I’ll just pick up again (not necessarily where I left off), perhaps being nudged or reminded about this space. But I still wonder why when I happen to come across an abandoned archive.
I have been quite saddened lately by the passing away of Aaron Swartz. I did not know Aaron. I read his blog, leaving an occasional comment here and there. We exchanged emails once when I pointed out a spelling error in one of his posts. I hadn’t kept up with his posts of late, but had ‘starred’ them with the intent of coming back to read them. I followed him on twitter, and he was active in a number of online communities where I lurk.
Aaron’s accomplishments are well documented by wikipedia, yes, but also by the slew of articles that have been written about him in the last week. He was involved with RSS, Reddit, Creative Commons, web.py, and recently the fight against SOPA/PIPA. I admired Aaron for the work that he had done.
Aaron was being prosecuted by the Department of Justice for downloading tons of papers from JSTOR using MIT’s network. He faced up to 50 years in jail along with millions in fines and fees. After over a year of dealing with this, Aaron hung himself to death in his apartment in New York.
There has been a tremendous amount of grief on display in tech blogs and discussion boards. Discussions about the legal battle, about suicide, about Aaron’s work and writings. A number of folk have said that they’re angry at/disappointed with him for taking this route. Many pointing out that he was in a depressed state. Some saying that the decision to take his own life was wrong, that it was irrational. I don’t know. I don’t know Aaron’s state of mind. I don’t know why suicide has to be positioned as something irrational, or born of depression. Reason does not exist in isolation, but is in relation to desire. Actions that take one away from their desires (even as the desires are desired) can be said to be irrational. Actions that take one toward their desires are rational.
I simplify, I know. And I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud.
Aaron was 26 years old when he died. I am saddened by this. In the coming months I intend to catch up on my reading of his blog, now abandoned. I see myself being unnerved when I do so.