Dementia Made a New Man Out of My Dad

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sciborg2

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« on: September 06, 2019, 03:35:21 pm »
Dementia Made a New Man Out of My Dad

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Raised in Apartheid-era South Africa, my mixed-race father had no shortage of scars. But as dementia overpowered his brain, I met a man I never knew existed.

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It was a moment of pure delight. My dad got up from his recliner next to the big picture window in the sitting room of my parents’ house. The music that we always played caught his ear, and for some reason he closed his eyes and started to move to the music. “At first, I didn’t know what he was doing,” Mom said to me afterward. There he was, hands by his sides, smiling, and dancing slowly. Mom and I were thrilled. To say this was out of character for my dad would be quite an understatement. Dad had never been one to give way to his feelings or express much emotion. He always seemed to be guided by a fear that others would judge him as somehow wanting, less than others. But here he was just responding to how the music made him feel. Pure and simple.

They say you should always look for a silver lining in dark times. I would have never thought that dementia – the darkest of clouds – could even produce a glimmer of one. Turns out, I was wrong.

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These experiences helped to intensify my dad’s feelings of inadequacy and insecurity throughout his life. He was a perfectionist and, frustratingly, Dad always wanted to be right. The end result was someone who was emotionally distant.

But amidst the distress of dementia, in his mind, doors gently closed, locking away memories and feelings that had plagued him throughout his life. It was astounding how his longstanding feelings of failure seemed to dislodge and slip away, how he gradually emerged from his shell.

I noticed it the first time I visited after my dad had fallen ill. I remember when he greeted me at the top of the stairs, he proceeded to give me a hug. I’m not sure what I was thinking beyond shock. Hugging my dad of old was always like hugging a rock – no response.

But not this time.
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« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2019, 06:00:35 pm »
My wife's grandmother has dementia and it's honestly crossed my mind before, in thinking about the relationship between behavior and whatever is memory, along with whatever the notion of the Self is and what that means Identity actually is.  Not to mention the sort of "parallels" in thinking about this in terms of what immortality does to Nonmen in Bakker-verse.

In my typical way, I put together all sorts of loose associations here, but it does have me think about a sort of idea like Sartre's notion of "radical freedom," Rosenberg's (and other's) notion that behavior (and thought itself) is a form of conditioning, and then what memory is really doing in all that.

Makes me wonder if the Self, if what we consider Identity, is not just the conditioning effect of memory or one based on memory.  That then, our "radical freedom" is really neither radical, nor free, but rather is the conditioned response to external stimuli given an internal state.  But, then to come back around, I do think we are capable of doing things to which we are not conditioned, specifically because we are not conditioned to them.  There we return back to a sort of notion of "radical freedom" but in the form of a sort of determinate negation.  That is, we consider the conditioned response, then condition the opposite, the unconditioned response and perform it.  In this way, we could think of the Identity as the "collection" of normative conditioned responses.  But, as humans, we are capable of performing the "deliberate" reversal, so the speak, and act directly contrary, so in a manner, we can "recondition" on the fly.  Memory is the functional "log" of this conditioning, so, if one loses the accounting of it, one enters the place, possibly, nearest to Sartre's actual "radical freedom."  Except, not exactly, because as dementia patients show, it does not eradicate all memory.  They can still walk, talk, and so on, for the most part.  So, in that way, it does not expunge all conditioning, it somehow seems to suppress some forms of it....

I think now I am rambling quite a bit, as I am sure vastly smarter people have considered this and it's likely nonsense.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasűrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

sciborg2

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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2019, 09:33:00 pm »
I think now I am rambling quite a bit, as I am sure vastly smarter people have considered this and it's likely nonsense.

I'm curious - can you elaborate on how you see Sartre's "radical freedom" as being akin to the Dunyain idea of a self-moving soul...assuming that I've read you right and that is what you're seeing...
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« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2019, 12:38:42 pm »
I'm curious - can you elaborate on how you see Sartre's "radical freedom" as being akin to the Dunyain idea of a self-moving soul...assuming that I've read you right and that is what you're seeing...

That is an interesting parallel, although it was not the first thing on my mind.

Essentially, "radical freedom" is a sort of idea that advocates that any choice or decision is exactly that, a choice.  So, even if you were to choose to not choose, that is a choice and one you made.  Essentially, to me, I think it comes down to the idea that, since we can, through consciousness, consider the negation of what we might do, we can always choose to simply not do anything or do something else.  So, in this sense, were we to consciously consider everything, we are, in that way, "radically free" to choose what we would do.

So, really, I think you highlight a good point, that to be "Self-moving" and to be "radically free" are nearly the same thing.  What "Self-moving" seems to imply, at least to me, is that what moves one is contained wholly within the Self.  That is, moved wholly internally.  This is pretty much the "end-game" to what radical freedom is espousing.  That is, to be "free" from any external "cause" and instead, relocate "cause" to the Self.  So, to be "Self-moving" would then to be as "radically free" as possible.

And, in the end, I think that takes you pretty near to what Bakker's "Absolute" is.  But that is another level more abstract I think, or at least I'd need to think more clearly on how to draw those lines.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasűrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira