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Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Soul That Remains

I just read an article in the Atlantic that moved me: Amnesia and the Self that Remains when Memory is Lost.

I promptly wrote a comment to the author:


This is an excellent, and consoling, reflection.

I do not believe that I have an immaterial soul that can separate itself from my body. I am my body. But I know that my body is more than just the sum of its organs, and more than the most important organ, the brain.

I also know that the "self" is an illusion, yet an important one and only a delusion if believed as an independent and eternal entity apart from the continually developing and deteriorating body.

Memory is what gives the sense of self some continuity and permanence. I watched my father slowly die of Alzheimer's and so know I possibly have the genetic predisposition for this disease. Who knows? My present name and word forgetting may be early signs of the disease and are certainly signs of advancing age. My father at times was NOT himself--often did not know me, with angers, with judgments I never saw before. And yet at other times his "real" character was there. The pattern of speech and behavior, his attitude towards life and others, his kindness, generosity, and love were very much in evidence. I was saddened when he died, but also relieved for him, for me, and for the family as I hope my loved ones will be when I die.

Character or, if you want, the "soul" of a person is not a thing at a particular time and place. It is the creative design that a person chooses and becomes through many times, spaces, and encounters with others--a design in a continually emerging universe that goes on and on learning and teaching.

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