Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Hanging onto reason and fearing dementia
On CBC last night, I heard someone talking about dementia, and they said the reason we have such a hard time dealing with it, and why we dread it so much is that we've really bought into what Descartes said: "I think, therefore I am."
But what if that isn't true? What if our ability to reason is only a small part of who we are? And if it is only a small part, can dementia then actually be such a terrible thing after all?
I was recently visiting with an American friend and was so amazed at her "American sensibilities," the way she sees life and society and all. And then I began to doubt whether my own ideals, beliefs, thoughts are really "right" after all. I keep catching myself doing and saying and thinking things that I am sure other people think are pretty weird, inconsistent, hypocritical--or just plain wrong or evil. Things based on what I've been "taught" rather than in what "is." Based on my white-middle-class-Judeo-Christian-Canadian upbringing and "values."
And so much of the time ... NOT coming "from the inside of God" but rather "from within my own sensibilities and capacities." (Jack Bernard)
These "capacities" include my "ability" to think things through, to reason. It's an ability I have often prided myself on. I see more and more clearly now how limited my thinking capacities are. I see so many other viewpoints. I state my case, and then others point out theirs--and I can see their side, too, and I try to integrate that as well. Sometimes it works; their thoughts add to mine and seem to make mine more complete or accurate.
But sometimes it seems to me that I must be wrong after all and I may well have to toss out my dearly held thoughts (and actions). And sometimes I just find myself confused. I am more and more convinced of my weaknesses and limitations--which is not always a pleasant realization.
Sometimes (often!) I worry that I am "losing it" too. I hate when I can't think of the "right word." It terrifies me! And when I hear or read things, and I can't immediately remember all the details, or worse, I'm not even "sure" of the "gist," so I read and re-read, and come out still wondering. I used to just think, "Oh that's right!" or "Oh, that's wrong!" But now it's never so simple. Sometimes I think that's because I'm getting "older and wiser" and seeing that life is not nearly so simple, but then I fearfully think that maybe I'm just "losing it."
And You know I don't want to lose it.
Of course, if I were a "good Christian" I'd find it easy to lay that down at the cross, too. (Another fallacy, I think! It is never easy, in my experience, to lay down anything that we value. To let go, realizing that in many situations, there really is "no hope in me" solving a situation.)
And I already know that there's "no hope in me" as far as there being any final "choice" in "losing it or not." But what I'm really terrified of is being CUT OFF from You. It's cruel enough to be cut off from other humans--but how can You let us be cut off from You? Maybe we aren't, but how do I know that? HOW DO I KNOW THAT?
"Just trust." That's so difficult because I want evidence, not just promises. Do You even promise that? "I will be with you, even unto the end of the world." Okay. Even if I can't respond? (Isn't "responding" essential? Or maybe not? Maybe resting is more needful?)
Fear: Will You still love me? I guess Your view of my identity and value is different than mine.
(Even from birth, some people never have--apparently--the ability to think or respond, and we assume You love them. So I guess You'd still love me anyway ... maybe even more. (Okay, I know that's not possible, Your loving "more" or "less" ... but I'm thinking in a "mother hen" protective way, I guess.)
A friend told me that her mom, who has dementia, was yelling at You. I really don't blame her one bit. I wonder if my Mom felt like yelling out at You, too, when she had dementia--or if she just trusted You? Or? I guess there are some things we'll never know ... and maybe that we don't need to know ... IF we can trustingly live in and for You who art LOVE. (It would be nice to be able to trust You like that. Can You help me do that? Please?)
"Lord, reveal to us all that makes itself an enemy to the life You want for us. Amen."
I've thought of dementia as such an enemy. But maybe it isn't. Maybe dementia just "is what it is" ... but my reaction is the enemy. Open my eyes, Please!