Immortal Presence

I promised a list of the topics I would be blogging about concerning the emotional rollercoaster that my life has become but instead I have some random thoughts.

I have just watched episode 1 of a new BBC Documentary “The Virtual Revolution” (I can’t get enough of documentaries. My wife thinks I have finally lost the plot and our 250GB DVD Recorder hard drive is full with random documentaries on everything from the history of Chemistry to the Battle of Stalingrad 1942-43). Although the programme was generally about the history and development of the world wide web and its impact on society it made me think about my online presence. This is something that I was already thinking about since I read an article about a new TV Series called “Caprica” by the creators of the great TV show Battlestar Galactica (the Ron D Moore re-imagined one not the 1970’s disco pop original with that silly robot dog and Face from the A-Team).

Here is a link to the article from The Guide:

Not to reveal any spoilers (although I just about to do that) but one of the main character’s daughter dies in a terrorist attack but before she dies she apparently downloads information about herself that essentially represents a virtual version of herself, into an online world that her father ends up visiting. I haven’t seen the show yet as episode 1 only aired on Sky 1 in the UK tonight, but that is my summary of events. The show sounds fascinating as it will bring up complex issues such as what is the soul? Merely a collection neural impulses or character traits embedded chemically into our physical bodies? Or is the soul inextricably linked to our physical being? A log is nto the place to discuss such philosophical matters, but thinking about the show and the programme about the internet, which talked a lot about blogging, made me think about my own online presence.

There are very few people who know what truly goes on inside my head, least of all myself, but the few people close to me do know and relate to different aspects of my personality and thoughts. My opinions on books, literature, culture, art, religion, politics, justice, law and order, music, films, scientific theories and mythology amongst other things are shared and discussed with various different people. yet no one single person knows how all of these complex and fluid thoughts fit into my psyche. My wife would be the closest person but there are many things I don’t get the chance to discuss with her and other feelings and conflicts which i purposefully keep from her. I live different sets of lies with different people and the person I am in the workplace or at a job interview is very different to the person I am with my close friends who I can discuss satire or literature with, and I am a different person with other friends who have never read a book outside of school in their life. Sometimes I put on a façade, to try and please others and make them feel comfortable, at other times to stop myself from offending them with my constant curiosity and inquisitiveness. Behind the many lies, façades and different faces for different audiences, new ideas and thoughts are always brewing. I rarely get the chance to put these fragments of thought onto a permanent record, such as paper or a blog.

On the rare occasions I do manage to find a piece of toilet paper, post stick note, note pad, iPhone Notes app or log onto this blog I am able to transfer my often incoherent stream of conciousness onto a platform that will hopefully be preserved long after I have lost my train of thought and even after my body has ceased to have blood pumped around it and is devoured by worms as I transfer the essence of my being into fertiliser for oak trees in deepest Surrey.

Paper can get lost and burnt and all my archaic sets of story ideas and views on various subjects will probably be lost forever in some refuse and recycling dump and turned into Starbucks Coffee cups. There is a glimmer of hope. however, in the thought that some of my personality, character and insights might outlive me in cyber space. If I am honest enough about what I am thinking and my reaction to the events and experiences of my life and I manage to not enough of it down in this blog then maybe, just maybe, in generations to come, my descendants could search a vast database, that they would probably control through telepathy, and find my blog. They would then be able to read posts such as this one and get an insight into what their often baffled and chaotic ancestor was really like. Add this to my many Twitter and Facebook status updates, all the pictures on Flickr and other websites, and all the other data about me held in various databases around cyberspace, then they would be able to create a picture of what I might have actually been like.

This online presence, which will surely outlive me, may or may not bear any real resemblance to the person that I really am, or think I am, but at least they will get the chance to see different aspects of my life, experience,s and thoughts frozen in time forever, as long as the servers and binary files holding all this data survive all the apocalyptic events that Hollywood movies would have us believe the 21st century is destined for.

Whatever the effects of climate change or nuclear wars and viral epidemics I hope that some fragments of my personality will remain intact for future generations of Latif’s to be able to study. I would love to be able to log onto to a web site and read extracts from the diaries of my grandparents. All of my grandparents died before I was born and a certain part of me feels empty at having never met them. Even if I had I would have only got a small glimpse into their lives and what they were thinking and feeling as the world transformed before their eyes.

When my father was born in Lahore in 1934 India was still part of the British Empire. World war 2, partition, the cold war, the fall of communism, the moon landings, the personal computer, smartphones and the world wide web were all to come. His father, my paternal grandfather, grew up and live din a world where a few Western European powers ruled with an iron fist and nobody had a car, phones or credit cards. I have been told a few stories about his life before he got married and it sounds fascinating. His own father (my paternal great grandfather – this is getting complicated) died before he was born. His elder brothers all moved to Bengal, which was to become East Pakistan then Bangladesh. he remained in Punjab and apparently joined the army and fought in the rugged mountainous terrain of North Western India, where war and fighting is going on to this day. I woudl love to be able to travel in his mind as he recount his experiences of being a soldier and fighting in the mountains on some imaginary blog somewhere.

At some point his fighting days were over and he somehow become a bank manager and successful businessman in Lahore. He was too nice for his own good and had a strong moral conscious, which in a society as ruthless as India is not an asset. He lost a lot of money and power due to being exploited by those he helped and cared for, not least his iron fisted tyrannical wife, my paternal grandmother, but apparently he never worried about people walking all over him. He left people’s fates to God and continued to be kind, generous, loving and gentle. He sounded like a great man and I can see many of his traits in my own father and also in myself. However he witnessed many life changing events. He lost a young son, who died when he was only 5. He saw the British Empire fall and lived in through the bloody events of partition, which tore Punjab in 2. Many years later his eldest son and best friend, my father, left to study in the UK. My father was only supposed to stay in the UK for 4 years then go back home to his family. Instead he remained in the UK, never to return to Punjab, save once in 1973 just a few months before my grandfather died.

My grandfather suffered a major stroke but apparently overcame his fragile health and through determination kept walking. I would dearly love to get an insight into his mindset at that time, especially considering my own father-in-law’s tragic recent stroke, from which he is struggling to recover.

I feel that I could learn a lot about myself, my heritage my character, and what makes me tick (or not as is often the case) if my grandfather had left an online presence, no matter how fragmented or small.

Maybe a little bit of me and the struggles I am grappling with in my own little life might survive me in the form of an immortal avatar who some confused, conflicted, geeky descendant of mine may find it heartening to engage with.



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