Aging and the mind and the unreachable
Thursday, November 14, 2019
There’s a movie called Dawn of the Dead where people are trapped in a mall. This is the 2004 version and a scene where one of the loved ones of a older couple is infected and beyond hope. Basically the husband can’t let go of his wife but her mind is gone and she’s being kept alive even though it might not be the right thing to do. And she’s strapped to a bed and snarling.
In another movie called The Notebook which you seen an older Allie and Noah, Allie is now an elderly woman but suffers from what appears to be Alzheimer’s disease. He remembers her husband on and off until she panics in paranoia and it breaks Noah’s heart to see this sight.
Many movies show extremes of human behavior. Sometimes movies are close to the truth but do creative cinematic embellishment. And they are often symbolic of real life.
Dawn of the Dead is a zombie horror film and obviously meant to be fiction, although hopefully nothing like that could ever happen, (even though the CDC once posted a “How to survive a zombie apocalypse” pamphlet in jest! It showed snippets of a prepper’s mindset). There are even modern science methods that hope to do a full brain and spinal cord transplant in the future. See the TED talk entitled “Head Transplantation: The Future is Now by Sergio Canavero.
But the thing we get out of movies like this and others such as Inception or What Dreams May Come is that sometimes people are in their own heads or beyond the reach of others.
We are not mind readers and we can’t ever fully understand another person. The old saying is “put yourself in another’s shoes” is so relevant today as we try to be more politically correct and empathize and promote equality across the globe and everyone is more connected by the Internet, but still… Sometimes we don’t understand what’s going on in our backyard or with our fellow brothers and sisters.
In movies like these there’s usually a tragic scene somewhere and you can’t talk to a person or dissuade them from their given path or choice. You may remember from literature class that this is often situational and at times dramatic irony and we see characters that could possibly have had a more positive outcome end up in lesser circumstances.
Consider a confrontation such as in a hostage situation or similar circumstance where the audience and the victim are along for the ride and we’re hoping for the best of circumstances. Often it is both disconcerting and also heart-tugging-alas!-moment because we -know- things are just going to get better if we could just talk the person out of something or if we wait a few more moments they’ll remember who we were or something magic will happen and everything will be all right. But in real life “the kids aren’t alright”. Sometimes stuff hits the fan and we realize that we were hoping for a better outcome but it wasn’t going to happen because the gears had already been set in motion.
In a previous article we said that most things can be changed and it may seem contradictory in this article that we’re basically saying sometimes things might not go your way. But truth is not black and white and sometimes even we contradict ourselves and you have to figure out truths that apply to only certain situations.
And the truth is we’re all going to get older, our parents or siblings and relatives and friends are going to get older. And some of us live sheltered lives while others have had more lives of hardknocks and setbacks and running disasters. Some of us folks that seem a bit rough around the edges have seen a thing or two, commiserate with friends and have even had one or two of our friends or idols pass on to the great beyond.
We can’t reach out or understand some of these folks because the struggle is in their head and some people can’t let go yet and struggle to understand and move on. If you’ve seen a friend get moody or sad or are a bit morose at certain times or seasons in the year, maybe even during the holidays let them be them and try to be understanding or supportive.
The other truth is that holidays are manufactured spending and commercialism and everyone is expected to be so “damn cheery” in most of the big three holidays. But when you’ve been let’s say married and divorced or dated and dumped or someone pass away on and around the holidays then it becomes another sign post for remembrance.
The mind is an all powerful thing. We have worked on designing artificial intelligence systems and chat boxes and supercomputers and even quantum computers but all that hasn’t quite been able to compare with the fact that computers still haven’t been able to exactly duplicate what an intelligent human being can do.
Unfortunately Alzheimer’s, bipolar, manic and schizophrenia and other mind issues are prevalent still and we’re no closer to totally perfectly understanding everything although we are a lot better at many levels of understanding and controlling these illnesses.
The world is currently a go-go-go pace and with the Internet and TV and instant gratification consumerism and desire for speed, we are automating everything, 1-800 toll freeing everything, and putting everything on answering machines and texting and putting up walls between how humans used to behave and act. Rather than talking in person we text the person in the next room or tap out a message or on a screen and never get to see a person’s facial and emotional nuances which may be why sometimes we don’t always know how to read a person.
We are doing things more efficiently, but we need that human and personal touch and sometimes to know we’ve connected and understand. Sometimes we need distance and privacy and cool aloofness that technology can provide us, as well as, speed and interconnectedness that the Internet allows. But we must never be exact clones and forfeit the human side and personal touch and additional levels of communication and expression that these “nonverbal cues” can provide us. Like a mating dance or busy wiggling bee it helps us quickly discern information and get right to the heart of a matter. Humans need each other and can’t be ostracized and expect to do well on the order of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And we can’t completely go back as Luddites either because the genie is out of the bottle.
Most importantly we can’t box everyone up into a single serve toy meal and send them along the conveyor belt of life and treat them the same. People have different levels of mental register and learning abilities. Some have disabilities, illiteracy and reading comprehension and other issues. The more we’ve been on this green earth the more we realize that we have this ideal that everyone is privileged and can hear and walk and afford day to day living when this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The other day a friend was accosted and deemed “not right in the head” and was sent for evaluation. At what level do we judge what is normal? And how can we give people a fair shake and chance to live in modern society?
You’ve seen or heard people pulled out of planes or hurt during routine stops of enforcement. And some of these people had either special needs or disabilities that prevented immediate responses.
So next time someone asks you for help to carry something or move an object, write a signature or fill out a check, etc. then take a moment and think how it might not be because someone is lazy but that genuinely they have issues. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
Although some of the characters in the movies couldn’t bridge the chasm of that came with old age or disability or a fixed no-turning-back mindset you don’t have to believe in the fiction of the movies that life is perfect and all or nothing. We need to address disability more in society and that includes making them a part of daily life and culture. With that, we’re encouraging future media influencers and makers of movies and the next generation of Hollywood to incorporate people that are different or include the disabled and show how they can operate and not automatically antagonize them or talk about them in a hush-hush manner.
Disability, death and mental illness do not need to be taboo topics or something to avoid. They are need not be horror fodder or things to fear. We fear that which we don’t understand and we just need to understand things better. When we know a bit better, we can do a little better. Society is getting smarter with the Internet and some old superstitions and myths are getting busted up, while other new ones are coming up.
We all need to do our part in understanding the human condition, every part of it, even the ones we don’t publicly acknowledge or difficult to talk about presently. And with people now able to become their own content producers we’re hoping that people accelerate this and incorporate more of this diverse media into their productions.
It’s okay to be unique and different.