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Making Our Selves Disposable

I have an addiction to the History Channel.  Smithsonian TV is another and of course National Geographic.  Perhaps this comes from a need to reflect on things other than the present course of relationship or career…but regardless, I often find myself watching shows on topics I never before cared about and am not really sure I care now.

Combine that with the opportunity to see the King Tut exhibit recently and I find myself wondering…with all these amazing artifacts of civilizations long gone…Egyptians, Mayans, and Aztecs to name a few…in 3,000 years, assuming we haven’t destroyed the planet and there are humans looking back on today…what exactly will they find?

3,000 years ago statues were the equivalent of photographs.  Then we moved into a long history of large, perhaps gouche, portraits in an attempt to immortalize ourselves and somehow believe we would be relevant or acknowledged in the future.  Then there were photographs…still physical, slightly less immune to the ravages of time and eventually, a social commodity reviewed but often discarded, lost or deteriorated beyond use.  Today…today we live, work and exist in a largely electronic, digital world.

Bit and Bytes in an Electrical Substrate

Today, we snap pictures and video with devices of varying size and complexity.  We send then via email, post them on blogs or drop them on Facebook to ensure our digital personas are up to date and recognized by friends, family and occasionally co-workers.

The creation of the physical is so…fifteen years ago.  Yet, if/when the power grid implodes or when that solar flare sends the particles of disruption that change Earth’s magnetic field and the electricity we rely on becomes unstable…what will be left?

We rely on power to ensure the survival of our imprint on the world.  Sure, we build new buildings, construct new roads and continue to generate other physical goods, but even those…are not up to the standards of the ancients.  The statues, portraits and even photographs rely on little but light preservation to carry forward a record of the people, personalities and lives that come before them.  The digital world seems more fragile to me than say 3 ton statues carved elegantly from sandstone and marble.

No Illness in Memory

So we re-create and document ourselves digitally…pictures and video and sound bytes permeate our day to day lives and seem relevant if not transitory.  But these creations, aside from sensationalized television shows, do little to capture the reality of living with a mental illness.  Pharaohs didn’t add hieroglyphics to talk about the way a mental illness affected them.  Portraits, while sometimes dark and foreboding, also did little to capture, explain or decry the impact of these illnesses.  Even today, while documentation is becoming more prevelant, the medium is less stable.

Even this blog and the others like it, while effective at discussing, demonstrating, illuminating, highlighting and describing this illness in a somewhat misguided search for understanding would be the first to go should something happen…and these are the best explanations and experiences I have seen to date.

When Now is No Longer Relevant

So what does the future hold for the collective societal memory of not only the sufferers, but also the illness?  I don’t know…but it is interesting to wonder…at least for a few minutes.  I often believe my own relevance will fade shortly after my death…maybe make it a generation beyond me but after that…I have no illusions that I will be viewed as having made an impact worthy of immortilization.

So as the bits and bytes of my digital self fade, as the impression on the cyber life is writtenn over or reformatted, I wonder if anyone will carry forward insight not about me, but the challenges of this illness.  I would hate to think the increasing understanding would be lost moving forward…but then again…the Mayans, Egyptians, Aztecs and Roman’s not doubt hoped for the same thing.

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