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.