Out, out, brief candle…
It has been a long time since I wrote a blog post and a longer time since I thought I had something to say. I will eventually share why I’ve been distant (if you can be “distant” in a networking world), but today I come with news that, at first, sounds morbid but is nothing more than a praise of life.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
I love most work by Douglas Preston, whether he’s going solo or writing with his partner Lincoln Child. One of the first novels I read by Mr. Preston was Blasphemy, a fictionalized look at the search for the Higgs boson, or “God Particle.”
In February, I stumbled across the Facebook “fan” page dedicated to a movie-version of Blasphemy. As it has long been one of my favorite books–smartly written with an action-packed plot, dynamic characters and set in a part of the world I used to call home–I thought it awesome there was going to be a movie, and I instantly “liked” the page. (Apparently it hadn’t been up long as I was number 9.)
I recall posting on that page something about how I was excited about seeing Blasphemy on the silver screen.
A short time later, John Allen Folsom contacted me, at first apologetic for not responding to that one little post and then expressing his gratitude that I’d taken an interest in the film. He was currently writing the screenplay for the novel, and the page was put up in an effort to garner interest.
This was even more exciting news, as screenwriting was something I’d always taken an interest in but never attempted. I have images in my head when I write or read, and good screenwriting is impressive. I’m a novelist, not a screenwriter, but in truth, all stories are moving images.
Through an extremely casual relationship on Facebook, I learned that John had Aspergers (which my 15-year-old son suffers from as well), was a father, and a loving husband. I gathered most of this from nothing more than reading into someone’s life on that virtual wall of posts. Most of you may know what I mean.
Every once in a while, I would post a link on my Facebook page encouraging people to head on over and “like” the Blasphemy page and watch as the screenplay was being written. Mr. Preston himself once jumped on my bandwagon, and the page shot up to about 374 people.
On Friday, John posted three pages of his screenplay to his Blasphemy page. I really liked what he’d written and it helped solidify in my mind that internal picture I’d always had of the novel. So, I shared that link with the note: “Excited about the progress John Folsom has been making with Blasphemy by Douglas Preston, one of the smartest novels in recent memory. Check out and ‘like’ the Blasphemy page while you’re there.”
Later that day, John commented on that link: “Thanks, Benjamin, I appreciate it. You’re a good man.”
No, I’m not, I thought, but I want to be in the future.
Yesterday afternoon, following an appointment I had with a doctor who intends to cut my throat and replace some disc in my neck, I read a post by John’s wife, Jennifer. It was shocking, to say the least:
It is my very sad duty to inform everyone that my wonderful, loving, talented husband and the best father I could have ever asked for, John Allen Folsom, passed away in his sleep between 5:30am and 9am Sunday, May 5th. He is so very loved and missed. Funeral service information to follow in the comments area of this post.
LOSS ON FACEBOOK
I don’t know why, but I’ve lost four Facebook friends in the past two years. Two of those were writers who I had only a passing acquaintance with, one was a very close friend who was killed in Afghanistan, and the other was John.
I didn’t really know John, any more than I know anyone else in the world of social networking. However, I liked him, was excited about his work, and looked forward to the future of the project he was working on.
He connected with me, and that means something.
Turning 41 this past month, I’m seeing more death. As I get older, I’m sure I’ll see even more. It makes me wonder exactly what it is that we know of people.
Are we the 50 words of a biography on the back of a novel, or is there more?
Are we limited to explain ourselves away in 140 characters on Twitter and be no more?
Are we the sum of our posts and our tweets and our YouTube clips, or is that the sum we wish others to see?
Most of you would say “of course we’re more, you simpleton,” but ask yourself what it is your fans and your readers and your social networking circle pals really know of your life? How ingrained are you in theirs? I’m not suggesting we open our hearts to every one, but you never know who you’re going to touch with a simple “Thank you” to a something they said.
I have a saying which was probably culled from my philosophical reading over the years: “Live simply, but do not simply live.”
John could not have simply lived. He had aspirations, and I was excited to see what would come of them. In my brief encounter, I was touched, and that is the essence of life: touch another and pass it on.
For a eulogy, this isn’t much, but I cannot sit by and say nothing.