Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Cheers for Dementia!

Continuing on with my current train of thought, I want to talk a bit more about the Taoist and Buddhist ideal of shedding one's "self" to allow the active forces of the universe to permeate our being. From this perspective, our self is an illusion and the one thing that keeps us from nirvana or fully knowing Tao. So, it would seem to me that such people would wholly embrace the advent of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

According to the Alzheimer Association, this disease is "the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of memory and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life...Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life."

People who are afflicted with Alzheimer's and other severe forms of dementia gradually lose the concept of self to the point that they no longer know who they are. Not only that, they also don't know who you are or how to do routine things like getting dressed or how to brush their teeth.

Yet, I know of no church, gathering or nonprofit group that advocates that people should try to catch Alzheimer's! Even further, I know of some people who promote this idea of losing the self who also state unequivocally that, if they were to be struck by a disabling disease such as this, they would hope that someone would simply shoot them so they wouldn't have to suffer or cause angst for their family.

This leads me to ask, why? Alzheimer's is the embodiment of what you've preached, why wouldn't you embrace it with both hands?

Of course, I believe the answer can be found in the difference between theory and practice. Losing one's self is an abstract concept; Alzheimer's is a blood and guts real experience. When the theoretical point becomes a painful reality, it loses a great deal of its appeal!

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