Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Ghost in the Machine

First, a bit of sad news for anyone who wasn't already aware of it: Dr. Ken Pulliam died of a massive heart attack last Saturday. Dr. Pulliam was, among a great many other things, the author of the blog Why I Deconverted From Evangelical Christianity. While I never met the man in person, his blog was part of my regular online reading; and the news of his death hit me much harder than I would have expected. I've already expressed my sadness and offered my condolences to his family over on the tribute page on Facebook, and that wasn't really what I wanted to talk about here.

Online relationships are important; online communities are - or at least can be - real communities. Most of you know that already. And like I said, that's not really what I wanted to talk about.

Dr. Pulliam wrote entries for his blog in advance, and set them to post at specific times. It's a common practice - I do it myself sometimes - because it allows you to build up a buffer. If you have things prepared in advance, then your blog doesn't sit idle just because you can't get to your keyboard for a couple of days.

But as a result, on the same morning that I learned of Dr. Pulliam's death, I found a new post on his blog - which is, I repeat, the only way that I knew the man. So my immediate reaction was this: Oh, good. He just posted. The reports of his death must be a hoax, or one of those fits of hysterical misunderstanding that sometimes sweep the Internet. Then I went back and found confirmation: yes, the report is true; yes, Dr. Pulliam is really dead. So now I realize what's really going on.

Rationally, I know that these entries are simply post-dated publications, no different from reading a book that was published after its author's death. Emotionally, though... Emotionally, I'm having trouble getting past the fact that I'm reading messages from a dead man. Seeing new entries continue to appear feels creepy and wrong. And people are still responding in the comments on those posts, as if Dr. Pulliam were still around to read those comments. That's understandable, I guess, but it still freaks me out - more than a little.

To be clear, I'm not saying that people shouldn't comment. I'm writing about this as something that is strictly my own issue. I know it's perfectly understandable, but it feels like I'm seeing a ghost.


  1. Sorry about your loss of an online friend. I didn't read his blog much but I have been there and I too noticed his recent post and had to search a bit to see if the news was true. I also thought how sad that I'm reading a post written by someone who is no longer alive. His blog continued on after his death and so must we.

  2. I'm sorry to see the commenting that is going on there. My heart aches. People giving their two cents worth (not even that really) and I just don't get it. It's really given me pause about my own blog and I'm doing some serious thinking about whether to stay put or move it and leaving intstructions with hubby on how to deal with my sudden death. I'd like the comment function shut down, period. If people want to gab about my soul in hell they can do it on their own blogs, just not mine where I wore my heart and soul on my sleeve. Of course, my blog is not full of scholarly material as Ken's is, so I might just instruct hubby to delete it.

    I don't do Facebook and I refuse to add my name to the commenting crap that is appearing on his blog now. Just seems there is no respect for the dead or for the living (his family) from some of the commenters. Makes me ill. :-(


  3. Well, yes. Some of those comments really shouldn't have been made. Commenting in general... I don't know. I'm not comfortable doing so myself, but I can't articulate any particularly good reasons why anyone else shouldn't.

    The FB tribute page is better, but there's still some... inappropriate back-and-forth, I guess I'd call it.

    Thanks for responding to this.


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