“Beethoven’s hat became immortal…”

Imagine yourself in her place: it isn’t easy to burn intimate documents that are dear to you; it would be like admitting to yourself that you won’t be here much longer, that tomorrow you may die…

It thus follows that even though it is possible to design, manipulate, and orchestrate one’s immortality in advance, it never comes to pass the way it has been intended.  Beethoven’s hat became immortal.  The plan succeeded.  But what the significance of the immortal hat would turn out to be, that could not be determined in advance…

A man can take his life.  But a man cannot take his own immortality.” — Milan Kundera, Immortality

Those are some of my favorite quotes from that book.

And they were the first things that came into mind after seeing all the online news feeds about Nicole John’s death.

My heart goes out to her family.  Not only for their loss, but also for the media frenzy that is bubbling up about their daughter (which, I know, I’m sorry, this post itself is feeding as well).

I want to deal with the topic with sensitivity, but, at the same time, I want to be able to scream out and tell young people:

“Take heed! Life isn’t a TV show!”

Credits don’t roll after the grand denouement; after which you emerge, unscathed, ready to face the press in your glamorous I-didn’t-really-think-about-my-clothes-they-were-just-automatically-layered-this-way ensemble, to be interviewed about the next season’s juicy events.

I am so sad about Nicole John.

Maybe because she wasn’t even 18 yet.  Maybe because she was young and fashionable and had a Tumblr blog and a Lookbook account and went out drinking with her friends, like half of the “uptown” teenagers I know.

Maybe because as I read the news features about her, I could see how the media pieced together the fragments of her online life from the spontaneous-yet-deliberate status posts that Nicole John had, like almost any other Internet-bred teenager must have done at some point.

And, this, for me, is probably the larger lesson in the issue.  Beyond the responsible drinking/partying lesson, even — which is the most apparent.

We spend so much time documenting ourselves

— fulfilling the urge to make others aware of our existence, exposing our nuances for our “contacts” to see.

Immortalizing us in the way we want to be known, remembered.  Flickr, WordPress, Blogpost, Tumblr, Facebook — all ways to feel “known by others”. But, as Kundera writes, at the end of it all, despite all of our efforts, we aren’t in control of how we’ll be remembered once we’re gone.

Like Nicole John herself, none of us could have predicted that after leading a privileged and, I’m sure, multi-faceted life, the TV-viewing world would end up defining her through such a narrow, stereotypical lens.


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