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RIP, in the Information Age

Robert Anton Wilson, whose ‘Illuminatus Trilogy’ I read when I was a teenager, died yesterday. I’ve never had more than a fleeting relationship with his books but they did leave an impression: he was a humorous and intelligent writer.

The Illuminatus Trilogy, according to Wikipedia is:

“A fairy tale for paranoids,” humorously [examining] American paranoia about conspiracies. Much of the odder material derived from letters sent to Playboy [while Wilson worked as an editor there]. The books mixed true information with imaginative fiction to engage the reader in what Wilson called “Operation Mindfuck”.

Why I am writing about this? Last Saturday Robert wrote on his blog the following:

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.  [Was Robert a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?]

Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

Five days later (yesterday as of writing) he died and someone who must have been a close friend posted a small obituary on his blog to inform his readers of this.

Looking at all news stories reporting this, they all reference this one source. I do not believe it is, but what if this was a ruse or even if the blog was not owned by him and someone out to make the news? They sure succeeded.

This also got me thinking of something I read a long time ago: an article on preparing to die in the information age. This suggested leaving your blog and email passwords in your Will with instructions to write a post (therefore you can write your own obituary) informing people of your death and to also set up an informative auto-responder on your email account if the worst were to happen without warning.

This could seem like a slightly pointless task as those who you know well and whom you are close to will know almost immediately of your death. Those who don’t probably don’t need to know, right?

Nah… those who you are friends with and only speak to sporadically can find out soon too, instead of 6 months down the line when they phone to see why you haven’t replied to their last two emails! People who you used to know, who read your blog but who you don’t speak to (I lurk on some old friends’ blogs) can find out too, out of courtesy.

I think we’d all be surprised by the people who would want to know and would find out this way!

Then again, I’d be dead so I’m not too fussed.


 As a side note, Robert Wilson has ‘died’ before, as noted here – the LA Times mis-reported that he had died and he received many calls of consolation for his wife!

“Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night”, the title of Robert’s final blog post, is what the famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote to his dying father.  I only just realised this and I applaud him for such a great quote.