John Swinton, Ph.D.
Christopher Phillips, Rev. Bill Gaventa, and Rev. Elizabeth "Betty" McManus are discussing. Toggle Comments
There is a great post from John on his presentation posted at http://bethesdablog.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/what-does-it-look-like-to-be-remembered-by-god/
Loved your blog on the Bethesda site. I’m so pleased to have met you!
Notes on Monday plenary by John Swinton on dementia.
The question in dementia is “Who will hold my soul?” Do you remain yourself or does it destroy you. How do you describe yourself? Your personhood? When you have forgotten who you are.
Shared story of man called Peter with dementia. His wife was told by professionals that “you should just divorce him.” Or that “it was time for the blue pill,” ie assisted suicide. The implication of most perceptions about dementia is that you are better off dead. It is the most feared condition of older age.
What does it mean to be “yourself?” The more I think about who I am, the more confused I get.
Noted an author Steve ____, three levels of self:
1. Our consciousness about being a person
2. Our physical and mental attributes
3. Our social self, which we need others to construct, to belong to community.
Umbutu phrase: I am because we are.
The dissolution of self thus involves a dissolution of community, revealing deep flaws in community when the community takes away someone’s self. Self 2 gets taken away in dementia. Self 3 becomes impossible. Is that a fault of the community? Can they still love who you are?
Read Psalm 88, almost a perfect description of Alzheimer’s, a land of forgetfulness.
They have forgotten, they have been forgotten. Bonhoeffer question, shaped by his early work as pastor in a town (Bethesda) where there were many institutions for people with disabilities, was “Who am I?” We forget more than we remember in our lives. I don’t know who I am, and never did. The one who knows is God.
We are contingent. God tells people who they are in the Old Testament. OT figures are not “searching for themselves.” We are contingent creatures.
Bonhoeffer notes we are creatures and persons, and that can change from moment to moment, as in epilepsy. Healthy one minute, very fragile the next. Change and decay is part of human life.
Re-member: We are who God remembers us to be. We need to remember whose we are.
To be disciple then means to remember others well. To be human is to be remembered well. Both a source of hope and of revelation.
(presentation based on parts of a new book by John Swinton coming out from Eerdman’s Publishing. )
Notes from John Swinton
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