Reflections on the Reading of a Message Inbox Archive
Or, What I Did During The Great Social Distance
"I love you. Do the best you can"
"S'ok. I don't pay that much attention to stuff you say. :)"
"I've got plenty of ink AND venom."
—dannye, to me
As many of you will know, I took a l-o-n-g break from E2, which was largely unintended on my part. I came back a few weeks ago to an Inbox full of messages dating back to well before I started my unintended "sabbatical". Since then I've slowly been working my way through the thousands of messages, most of which I'd never read, or at least not deleted.
It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with them. Many were messages of sympathy or support from the various life events daylogged in 2012. Some were messages clearly intended to be read on my return, some were requests to do E2-godly-or-admin things, and some just feedback or commentary on writeups.
Among these were many messages from old friends that I'd read and never archived. They were fragments of conversations, some remembered and some lost. Some of the authors are lost to us now, for any of a hundred different reasons. Many, like me, had drifted away. Some had fled in anger, fear or loathing. Some, I knew, had outgrown E2 or fallen by the wayside as E2 itself changed around them. Some fell victim to spats or personal attacks. Some, I learned, had died. Yet the messages they'd left for me, these threads of humanity, these fingernail clippings were abandoned until I returned.
As I went back, responding to some, deleting or archiving others, I started to find threads of old conversations dating back to well before my departure from England. Some brought back memories of success, gains, losses. Some were simple commentaries. Some were supportive and a few, abusive or insulting. Some I read more carefully than others. There were words of advice, support, concern. There were little gems, stars in forgotten constellations, nuggets of amber preserving a tiny speck of history. Some of these noders had gone, some remained, and I was initially baffled what I should do with the sheer number of messages.
The easiest solution was to simply delete them all. Sometimes it was clear that the originators were no longer here, and yet I found it hard to just wipe them out. Call me silly and sentimental if you must; dannye certainly would have.
I came back to discover that he'd died. I'd never hear from him again, but because he was dear to me I read every single one of the over eighty messages I had kept from this wonderfully direct man. He was not universally liked on E2, but he didn't care. He only cared about the quality of the writing here and had little regard for people's thin skins. When I first started writing here he was one of many who encouraged me, gave me honest feedback and supported and guided me when I became an editor. He wasn't always happy with the decisions I made as an admin; he was critical of the liberal manner with which we (gods and editors) handled some of the more abusive and difficult people here, didn't like the kid glove treatment we generally preferred. Nonetheless in his own way he's one of the kindest and most lovable of people. I said "he is" because like so many others he's still alive as long as we're telling his story.
So we'd talked about philosophy and politics, life and death, writing and reading. Yes, we disagreed about many topics. But one topic bubbled to the top over time. As it became clear he was seriously ill, we talked about cancer. And caring and suffering and death. I learned more about him in those conversations than I could ever have hoped. He taught me things and he too learned from me.
When I took a road trip back from Michigan in the truck I'd bought, I'd planned to come South and travel through Illinois, Arkansas, Texas and all points West. He invited me to stay overnight. Me, this hippy pagan limp-wristed liberal would be staying in the home of a free-thinking but outspoken conservative. So I had the rare privilege of meeting him. I even have a selfie I took with him (which I promised on pain of death to never show anyone). I shared his table, drank his beer and sat in his hot tub, and all the while felt like I was unworthy of him and his hospitality. Maybe there's a story in there, maybe one I'll get to tell one day, as it's the trip when I also met Jet-Poop, dann and others. But not today, this is just about one man.
I guess that this rambling mess of a daylog is just to say /me misses dannye. No doubt he'd pull a face at that, but y'know what? I don't care, mate.
So if you get a message from me out of the blue, know that I'm just cleaning up the dust bunnies and hoping you're still alive to read it. If you don't get one from me, I don't know. Maybe I don't love you, didn't get to you yet or just possibly you'd never sent me one.