I was listening to a song titled “In Another Lifetime” by Gary Valenciano the other day, and suddenly it struck me that he could be referring not only to the exotic idea of reincarnation but to a more realistic “life change.”
Kate Winslet as Rose in “Titanic.”
Yes, some people have done it or tried to do it – in their lifetime. They “disappeared” and then returned as new individuals. No, they didn’t become “born again” Christians. And no, they didn’t just have cosmetic surgeries on their face, boobs and butts either.
These are the people who wanted to escape from their present lives and decided to fake their death, resurfacing later somewhere else with new identities.
There’s a name in the dictionary for this phenomenon – it’s called pseudocide – fake suicide, a form of deception that has a remarkably extensive history, both in fact and fiction.
Huck Finn carried one out, in order to escape his alcoholic father; James Bond once pretended to die (“You Only Live Twice”), as did Kate Winslet’s character in “Titanic.”
In real life, a British parliamentarian did it to escape to Australia and live with his mistress. Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” fled to Mexico to escape drug prosecution. At least two people pretended to have died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and resurfaced later as new persons.
It has been said that many people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge may have been pseudocides. There are even how-to books like “How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found” available in the Internet for the pseudocidal.
Recently, a British amateur canoeist named John Darwin made headline news when he paddled off into the North Sea in 2002, vanished completely, and was presumed dead.
But last week, he walked into a police station in Hartlepool in northeast England and announced he had been suffering from amnesia. “I think I am a missing person,” he declared.
Unfortunately for Darwin, there was some evidence that his memory was rather better than he claimed. Having perused the accounts of his death and reappearance in the newspapers, one curious newspaper reader decided to Google him. She clicked on a few images—and there he was – with his mistress Anne — on the Web site of a Panamanian real-estate agent, grinning happily. The picture was even dated, July 14, 2006, nearly a year and a half ago.
I guess the thought of vanishing from this world is shared by many people. The potential motives could be boredom, love, greed, shame, guilt, debt, avoidance, revenge, or simply a desire to lead a more interesting life.
But doing a foolproof “Houdini” act is better thought than done. There are just too many technical difficulties involved in a successful disappearance – and the odds are increasing all the time. Video surveillance cameras, DNA testing, biometric identification techniques, the electronic banking system, the tax authorities, and, yes, the unexpected hazard of Google are not very encouraging for would-be “life-changers.”
But still some people are taking a huge risk and doing it – especially at this time of the year. Hmm, perhaps they expect a legion of their godchildren to come barging into their home come Christmas time to ask for their gifts. And the poor souls just don’t have even a lousy coin or candy to give, so … they’re now the “invisible Scrooges.”