forgetfulness

I have been tasked with answering a question related to one of my previous posts.

“Why do I want to be forgotten?’

I shall begin with an examination of the origin of this paradigm. I can remember a series of events that led to this desire.

  • The first event I recall being the climax of the stage play “1776” wherin Jon Dickinson is undone by his erstwhile lackey, who choses to vote in favor of American independance on the grounds that voting against would make him “the man who stopped it.” Voting for would make him just one name among many, and he doesn’t want to be remembered. I don’t know why I identified with this character or his motivations so much.

  • Another event being when I learned of the EU’s legislation concerning the Right to be forgotten which protects the rights of an individual to remove their personal data from social media services. Despite not being in effect in the US, I consider this to be a basic human right. I would in fact further extend this right to include the ability to fade from human memory. Granted its impossible to enforce such a thing, but memory being the fickle thing that it is, I can behave in such a way as to leave very little impression.

  • Men in black. Rip torn has a monologue about them. “You will not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter. You are a rumor. Recognizable only as deja vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don’t exist. You were never even born. Anonymity is your name. Silence your native tongue. You are no longer part of the system. You are above the system. over it. Beyond it. We are them. We are they. We are the Men in Black.”
    To unpack this, I don’t believe in the system. Work hard, have kids, retire, mabye try to enjoy what years remain after you’re too old to do anything fun? to hell with that. I’m over that. Beyond it? sure, if you define that as disillusioned by the bullshit that’s spoonfed to us by the Man about staying in line.
    I gravitate towards being recognizable only as deja vu, being a rumor. Anonymity. Despite a certain hacktivist group giving that word an unsavory connotation, I want to be Anonymous.
    And I suppose it really strike a chord with the sentence “You were never even born” cuz I wish that I was. When I think of my parents choosing to procreate and I’m reminded of the movie Gattaca:
    “They used to say that a child conceived in love has a greater chance of happiness.
    They don’t say that any more.
    I’ll never understand what possessed my mother to put her faith in God’s hands rather than those of her local geneticist.
    Ten fingers, ten toes, that’s all that used to matter … Not now.”
    We don’t live in the context of a future(some say dystopian, I might argue Utopian…in another post) where genetically altered babies live ideal lives, and natural born are second class. But I do not understand why my parents would choose to bring another life into this world. I consider my existence to be a net negative value. More downs than ups. Red numbers on the bottom line. I can’t understand how anyone else could consider otherwise, and therefore would be willing to bring another detrimental life into being. But I digress.
    Still unpacking MIB; Leave no lasting memory on anyone you encounter. I want to do this, but I confess that I don’t live my life this way. Probably because suits are uncomfortable, or that it is so very boring, or maybe I just don’t feel this way all the time. But I ride a customized motorcycle, wear a jacket covered in chainmaille with a rainbow of colors on it, and wear loud shirts plastered with the names of metal bands. I suppose I could take steps to do these things, but my time here is finite, and leaving no trace would deprive me of the few elements of pleasantness I have to distract myself from the (on average) sadness that defines existence.

  • I moved around a lot growing up, and every time I started in a new school, it was with a clean slate. Nobody knew my history, and I knew no one else’s. Every impression I made was a first. No one had any stories to tell about me, good or bad. While this kind of life made it very difficult to form and maintain lasting relationships, I grew to like this aspect of it. Pack up and leave behind everyone who knows any embarassing things you’ve done. Any mistakes you made. Forget about everyone I left behind, and assume they forget about me. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. I have no contact, so if they did remember, how would I know?

  • “The boy who could make himself disappear” was a book I read in my youth, probably before any of the previous events, but in the writing here, I remembered it afterwards. My memory of it is very weak, but the broad theme was that a boy could go unseen by all, despite not actually being technically invisible. I described this in conversation as “the invisible boy” contrasting it to “the invisible man” who was actually invisible to the naked eye. The invisible boy was just so common that that he was not noticed.

  • I’m now reminded of a scene from the Dilbert cartoon. Ted: the generic guy. He has no distinct characteristics. People who have known him for years can’t describe him. There may be more than one Ted in the company, but nobody knows. Again, this is in the vein of the Men in Black, and again, I fail to live this way.

  • ok, one more story. Probably made-up. But I read it on the internet, so it has to be true. A middle-aged man once worked at a company proofreading books. He got in before everyone else and left after everyone else. He did not generally eat lunch in the break room, instead choosing to sit at his desk and continue to work. One day, this man died at his desk, sitting upright and staring at his computer screen. His death went unnoticed for three days. Because him sitting at his desk, frozen in rigor mortis, was so similar to the way he had lived. Again, its probably a fake story. But a factual, true story I know of is a girl, living on government welfare, died in her apartment and wasn’t discovered until 18 months later, when the neighbors noticed a smell. All doors and windows were locked from the inside, and there were no signs of foul play. I want to say it was probably an aneurism, but I don’t recall the actual cause, if even one was declared. Because her rent payment was auto-drafting, and partially covered by the state, the landlords did not try to evict her. Partail payments were still being made. She had isolated herself from friends and family, fleeing an abusive relationship of some kind. She had no job, nobody missed her. Its a tragic tale, but in a weird way, I want to go out that way. My wife has a master’s degree in biomedical forensics, and a recurring joke is that when[sic] she kills me, nobody will ever find my body. I find that idea oddly comforting. Just another missing person.

So what does this mean?
I can’t say that my position is reasonable, or even justified. But I can recall an instance where I heard from a friend that a previous paramour had been talking about my personal matters to strangers. Gossip. I was being gossiped about. I don’t recall the exact nature story being told, but it was not flattering. And we had parted on good terms, or so I thought. I would prefer nothing be spoken about me ever to having negative stories told. I’d even forego the chance of having good stories told to avoid the bad ones.

  • This paradigm of ‘pass on the good to avoid the bad’ applies in a number of other areas. Our company has a recruiting referral incentive. Money for recommending qualified candidates. I’d pass on the money to avoid seeing my name up on the screen in front of everyone.
    I tried to sign up someone I wouldn’t mind working with, but when I got to the referrer’s name field, I stopped. Every referral goes up on a slide during the quarterly meeting. The form wouldn’t let me continue without entering my name. I can’t remember if I continued or not, but I know I asked the recruitment team if it was possible to recommend people anonymously. They were taken aback. “Why wouldn’t you want credit? You know its money, right?”
  • Names are also shared up on the slideshow for workers with top marks from client reviews. I managed to get such a mark, and bowed my head in shame when it was it was read aloud. Why shame? I can’t say. Perhaps it is the rote behavior after going for so long trying to avoid notice. I considered quietly slipping from the room, and avoiding such future situations by intentionally letting my work quality slide, or insulting the client. Or, less drastically, I could ask the client specifically to not give me dual 5’s on the quick review. Or I could ask for it to not be reported on the slide, but that system is automated. So far I have not resorted to such measures, but there is anxious dread of being noticed again.
  • In fits of depression, I have pleaded with the Almighty for oblivion. Not heaven, not hell, not purgatory, just an End. I’ve begged for an end to my existence. Passing on all the possible good in my future to avoid the inevitable bad.

I did not interpret my instructions in answering the question of ‘why’ to include the ‘why do you persist’ aspect of this question. Only the origins of the desire. Why have you felt this way, when did it start, etc. I do not care to contemplate the future of this belief.