Pearl of great worth

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera.jpgJanet was a pioneer of caring for dementia patients without sedation. Well, you would not want sedated, yourself.

Was it a carer I met, or on the telly? She told of a man who regularly wet himself, and given that he had been moved to a care home and been unable to learn where the toilets were, she could sympathise with him doing this, and his distress.

I met a woman who wept bitterly as she told me of her inability to care for her mother, her mother’s random and damaging acts, how her mother could get up in the night and wander off. Now I read of a man who talks to his wife in his love for her as she keeps up a wordless muttering, then, still holding her hand, talks to another as if she were not there. So relatives can mourn for a loved one even as the body survives; at the funeral they are not sad as they have done their mourning; yet they care for that living body as if it were still the loved one.

Janet believes in a “Pearl” at the centre of the human being, which is utterly Them. Peeling the onion, one peels off more and more layers but at the centre is a tiny part which can no longer be peeled. Julian Baggini, whose book The Ego Trick I got from Terry, says that modern theorists give no credence to this pearl idea- the self has no fixed essence, it is in part a construction and the autobiographical narratives we tell ourselves invent an order and cohesion that real lives lack, p.83. Though on meeting friends from undergraduate days he finds them fitting together as they had twenty years ago, the same mannerisms coming out; and writes of threads of memory connecting the child, the man, the old man.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/CdM%2C_intaglio_di_giulia%2C_figlia_di_tito%2C_seconda_met%C3%A0_del_I_secolo_dc.%2C_acquamarina_firmata_da_Evodos%2C_montatura_carolingia_%28IX_sec.%29_con_9_zaffiri_e_6_perle.JPG/470px-thumbnail.jpgI remember as an undergraduate arguing passionately that a gay man- with a partner, forsooth!- should not be serving at the altar of the Episcopal cathedral; and that it is not choice but responsibility to the child growing in her womb that the mother should think of. These arguments I find despicable now, but if you think no decent person could ever have thought that, well, walk a mile in my shoes. One is flat, the other high-heeled.

My morality may change from conservative to liberal (proving I have no heart and no head) but I see characteristics in my nephew as a baby, child and young adult which look consistent. And I think of my Femaleness as my core, which does not change. I add to that my feeling-intuitive nature. I was not conscious of them as an undergraduate but other people may have been, and I think of them as suppressed rather than as not there.

The Pearl would fit Carl Rogers’s “Organismic Self”, and perhaps I construct my understanding of my experience around that theory. Had I read Julian Baggini first, and loved it as I love Rogers, would I see myself as more changeable now? Some parents who seemed always peaceable in dementia become violently angry- “My mother never used to swear”- but then, if you do not know where you are and people you do not know want to tell you what to do in such a confusing manner, well-

2 thoughts on “Pearl of great worth

  1. Great piece of writing! I love all the different angles you’ve taken and the idea of the ‘pearl’. I grew up with older relatives who had dementia around, and I’ve worked with people with dementia. I find them fascinating. There’s something wonderful and lovely about people with dementia – when it’s not someone you know. I understand the excruciating pain relatives go through as the character they’ve always known and loved dissolves before their eyes, and suffers from fear and frustration in the process. I’m personally not sure how much of the original person remains after a certain point, it often seems like just dislocated memories in a familiar body.

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    • Oh! “Wonderful and lovely”-

      and- they need protecting, and the relative cannot see how, and the person with might not want protected-

      Baggini denies the idea of the “pearl”, but does believe in character, and I will get on to that shortly.

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