So today’s blog is inspired by a true event. Last evening as I was eating dinner, I received some disturbing news. One of my former students, who had worked with us after he graduated, and who I consider a friend, was reported as having died in a car wreck early that morning. I am sure you can imagine what kind of emotions and thoughts passed through me at that moment. This was a first for me and I had no idea how to handle it.
The first thing I did was to consult facebook, the original source for the information. His status was a simple, to the point, statement letting everyone know the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. I stared at the screen as new comments piled up on his wall. People shared a mix of denial, horror, pain, and love as they attempted to understand their own confused feelings. I put my information network into motion, contacting the people I knew who might have more inside information. After talking to other students who graduated with him, current students, his friends, colleagues, and employers, I found only an information void - the only source was facebook.
I took a brief break to digest my own feelings, lost myself in work for a short time, and then resumed my search. I googled everything I could think about the circumstances of his death, attempting to find any bit of knowledge that would help me discern fact from fiction. Finally, a confirmation of sorts appeared. Someone had spoken with the police, confirming what we all feared. Facebook blew up.
After informing the necessary school officials of what was to come the next day, I let myself work some more, not eager to let my mind sit still. I would periodically check facebook for new information, but only managed to expose myself to the out-pouring of love from friends on his wall. I didn’t want to think about the next day, how we would tell the kids, how we would deal with the aftermath. This wouldn’t be a one day event, it would leave a lasting mark on our band community, and while I was confident everyone would make it through, I was not excited about the future.
Then, I received a text from a student telling me he was alive, that in fact he had been reached on the phone. My phone rang, it was a colleague confirming the same information. I checked facebook, and there on his wall was an authentic post:
“OMG!!! I was hacked!! I am NOT DEAD!!! lol”
Nothing was wrong. He was alive. Facebook blew up again. The future was saved.
How does all this make me feel. Aside from the emotional roller coaster 100s, maybe 1000s of us, communally experienced, it taught me a few things about world.
First, something about which Samantha likes to chide me, is the internet is not the most accurate source for information. Sure, wikipedia, is a great, quick source of information, but, as it is edited by normal people everywhere, it is not always reliable. Yes, it is fact checked, but unfortunately, due to the massive amount of information contained on it’s servers, the data can’t always be checked fast enough. Always confirm your information through alternate sources.
In this case, the unfortunate circumstances were amazingly coincidental. There was another man with the same name from the same city who had passed away in a car wreck on January 2. Some people took this as confirmation. A closer look now reveals it is a different person, and it took place in a different year and a different location. Other than this, the lack of information (because it didn’t happen), actually lent credence to the false statement. This, combined with his unavailability by cell phone (it was dead, but he was not), helped convince people the facebook status was the truth.
Second, the event reaffirmed the unfortunate fact that some people operate maliciously. For whatever reason, the people who hacked his account created mayhem and havoc amongst his friends and associates. I don’t understand, and perhaps never will, the spirit it takes to do something so simple and brief, yet so deeply profound. The post probably only took 15 seconds to type, but it cause many hours of pain to a large amount individuals. Did they know in their heart the tempest they were creating? Maybe. Probably they thought they were being funny, unaware of the intense consequences wrought by their silly actions.
After confirmation came that he was still among the living, the facebook posts quickly turned to anger. I will truly say that I hope the hackers do not actually meet those affected. My hope for them is that they will become aware of the wrongness in their actions through a more civil and gentle method. Regardless of the pain they certainly caused, my heart goes out to them and prays for their healing. Truly, I fear they are the more damaged party in these circumstances. We are free to heal from our ordeal, while they must continue with the weight of their actions resting upon their shoulders.
The third thing I gained (and final one because this has become more of a dissertation than a blog), was insight into the pure love existing in the center of the human soul. One of my previous blogs centered on the idea of teachers, and I referenced a lesson taught to author Wayne Dyer by his dead father. Dyer’s father, through his neglect, abuse, and eventual absence, introduced him to forgiveness. We can find a similar situation in these circumstances.
The memorial statements posted on his facebook wall during the two hours of his death reveal the amount of love and caring people shared for him. While I have only shared a small portion of his life, the effect he had on many people around him was apparent and profound. When people were convinced of his death, they let the world know they loved him. People with whom he might have conflicted set aside their differences, acknowledging their human love for him. He was taught a great lesson yesterday, whether he knew it or not. He is and always will be loved.
The rest of us, in our brief agony, shared a similar experience. We discovered similar feelings for a person we regarded as friend, colleague, and acquaintance. The act of the hackers, no matter how misdirected, managed to bring together an impressive amount of people unified in one thought - we love.
In a way, I am thankful for yesterday’s occurrence. I am more aware than I was before of the love around me. I am thankful for my life and for those who share my experience.
The universe blessed us with a gift. We were given death, but through death, if considered in the right way, we were given life.