The world-wide afterlife

January 15, 1996|By Andrei Codrescu

BATON ROUGE, La. -- I've been saying that cyberspace is the afterlife. Now here is proof: There are cemeteries on the World Wide Web. The World Wide Cemetery, the Virtual Memories Garden, the Garden of Remembrance, the Cemetery Gate and the Virtual Pet Cemetery are all places where the dead can be visited and remembered, just as in a real cemetery.

But, in addition, the dead here can be pictured in sound and

video, and can be addressed, revised and rewritten by the survivors. They can even be at the center of controversies conducted by those who knew them.

These formal resting places are supplemented by home pages belonging to deceased people which are being maintained by their families, friends and co-workers. The dead keep getting mail, being informed of goings-on and added on to. It's probably wrong to call these people ''dead.'' The more accurate term would be ''discorporate entities,'' because they continue a bodiless existence.

I think it was Buckminster Fuller who wrote about something called ''the democratization of the afterlife.'' In ancient Egypt, he said, only a few people could afford the afterlife, namely the pharaoh and some powerful priests who were interred in pyramids. In the Middle Ages, huge cathedrals were built and masses of people were able to come in and partake of the afterlife.

In our day, the afterlife promised by religion has faded. The belief in science, however, has not diminished the very human desire to live on past the expiration date. In our age, only the silver screen was able to provide an afterlife for a very few.

Until now. With the advent of cyberspace, the vast masses have a chance for a tangible afterlife. What's more, any afterlife, including religious ones, can be recreated in the virtual world. If you want to be in a heaven with sex after you die, all you have to do is instruct the living to keep having sex with you. If your idea of an ideal afterlife involves food, you can have friends post the menus of the latest restaurants in your memorial dwelling. You can now tailor an afterlife for yourself before you're even dead. A vast improvement, you must admit, over what the priests used to hand you.

Andrei Codrescu edits Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Letters & ++ Life.

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