How do we find the ground material of the universe in the arms of dementia? The ground material I see as life, as meeting. We then are in the place of meeting ourselves when we no longer have a brain to call our own. This is frightening for those left behind in brains, seemingly unable to follow us. Yet is there a gentle life, a gentle land out beyond the brain where we can meet? What is it like, and how do we find our way?
What does Rumi say?
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
We might say, Out beyond ideas and right thinking and mind there is a field. I’ll meet you there. The world is too full of talk: ideas, language, even the phrase each other, do not make sense.
Where is that field? Who are we if we do not have our accustomed mind? What does it say if we are, even without our thoughts? Who is this potentially happy person, whom can we meet? Who are we?
What is that field? We are already there. Now we only need to find ourselves here. Then we will know. We can know now.
This is tough work, incredibly painful blood-sweating labor.
So it is beyond 88th birthday parties and not fussing about scattered playing cards. It is facing the presence. Facing the absence of what we thought was presence in order to face the real presence. Who is Mom or Dad without a mind? Who am I without my mind? Who are we together? Is there a together that is more fundamental than each of us?
Here we are. We can do no other. We. Are. Love.
Persons grow out of meeting: meeting-relation is the primary thing and the persons secondary and generated.
What this leads me to is that the person is not the brain, the brain is not the person, and that more fundamental than the person with whom you can hold hands is the holding itself—meeting-relation.
So we do not work on our relations with someone, our relations work on us. More profoundly still, our meetings birth us—both of us.
The most profound thing we can do is meet.
If we withhold ourselves from meeting, if we stay at the superficial or even artificial, if we we are too weary to try to meet, we cauterize ourselves from life, we die, we die, we die.
More importantly if we offer ourselves for meeting and invite others to meet, we risk being born, we may just confront life, might live!
This is something real, tangible, physical. It happens. It is backwards from how we have trained ourselves to look at the world: so it is invisible to us. We see a tree, but we do not see the seed from which it grew, nor that into which it is growing. It exists in this form today and we have tricked ourselves into thinking that is how it always was and will be. We see the river but not the streaming. We see the skin of another but miss the person inside, and especially miss the being inside which is available to birth us anew.
So it is with the person who is in the embrace of Alzheimer’s: she is stream not unchanging. She never was unchanging, but now the process has become visible to us, maybe because the direction has reversed. We can have a relation, a meeting with this being. We must be careful not to project our expectations of persona on this being in whose face we stand: this is not Mom from 15 years ago, nor even from 15 seconds ago. Ever see how emotions flit about the face of an infant? Ever see the same thing in this new old being’s face? Be here, only now. Open yourself and become vulnerable not only to this being, but to this meeting. Let the meeting shape you both. Let the stream carry you in its arms. Drop the tethers and float freely.
You risk becoming someone new. You risk finding life you did not expect. You risk in this meeting surprise.
So this is much more than remembering the person in the embrace of Alzheimer’s is a person. It is finding them a being in process, yourself a being in process, and the process—meeting—forming and birthing you both. It is more than finding who you are beyond your mind, going all the way to your genesis: meeting.