June 18, 2021
“I’m at the end of the world.”, my Mother says. She is in late stage dementia so can’t explain herself, but she seemed to be saying she was far away, at the edge of the world and didn’t feel connected with others. For centuries, the perception was the world is flat, and defined by boundaries and edges, which when crossed led to oblivion. Literally and figuratively, walking off the edge of the world was considered a real possibility. In the world of dementia, my Mother may understand more than me who stubbornly clings to “reality”.
What are the ties that bind humans to each other? A person with dementia is untied from their memories. “I remember” becomes “I don’t remember.” Without memory we can’t recognize others, and I suspect we can’t recognize ourselves. If we have no history, no “this is how I got here”, how do we know who the hell we are? These thoughts are more than mental gymnastics for me. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about history and “what” history and “whose”history we remember. For example, our history or memory of slavery is vastly different depending on the color of our skin. If we erase certain historical events aren’t we erasing parts of our nation’s collective memories? Don’t we risk breaking our connections to each other and to ourselves?
We “remember” January 6 differently. To some, it was just a normal day with tourists visiting the Capital, and to others it was an insurrection. We humans are very skilled at seeing what we want to see and disregarding the rest. Denial can erase the truth from our minds, but it doesn’t make it go away. My Mother may not remember that I am her daughter, but I am still her daughter. If we can’t agree on history and even the events of January 6th, what chance do we have of remembering how democracy works? Maybe the world IS flat….