technovelist wrote:If you lost all of your memories, would you still be you?
This is something I think about a lot, since I have a parent with late-stage dementia. When you realize that progressive degeneration of the brain can cause a person to not only lose their most significant memories but to undergo such a profound change in personality as to no longer bear any resemblance to the person they once were, it does pose a challenge to the idea of an eternal, non-physical "self."
Since this is the religion thread, I would propose that all of this is far more mysterious than a simple logical proposition of being yourself if you have no memory.
I am no expert on this, though I do have some personal experiences during retirement home visits, of the concept of "Terminal Lucidity."
Again, not saying this is proof of a soul or anything else, but, strangely, there are often reports of people whose brain long ago turned into Swiss cheese, who, just before they die, have a final few moments of complete lucidity before they go.https://www.huffingtonpost.com/stafford-betty/the-miracle-of-terminal-l_b_5863492.html
An elderly woman never speaks, no longer recognizes her loved ones when they come to visit, and shows no expression. By the looks of her, she is a human vegetable. And she’s been this way for over a year. Her brain’s cerebral cortex and hippocampus — necessary for memory, thought, language, and normal consciousness — are severely shrunk. Her brain bears little resemblance to a healthy one.
Yet something utterly astonishing is about to happen. As reported by both the nursing staff of her care unit and her family members: “Unexpectedly, she calls her daughter and thanks her for everything. She has a phone conversation with her grandchildren, exchanges kindness and warmth. She says farewell and shortly thereafter dies.”
Similar cases have been scattered side notes in the medical literature, but recently a small body of researchers, such as Bruce Greyson, professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, and Michael Nahm in Freiburg, Germany, have begun to take a careful look at the phenomenon and agreed to call it terminal lucidity, or TL. Professor Alexander Batthyany, who teaches cognitive science at the University of Vienna, is currently running a large-scale study on the phenomenon — the first of its kind. He is sending out detailed questionnaires to caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims, mostly nurses and medical doctors, and as the questionnaires trickle in, new mysteries arise as fast as older ones are clarified. The case cited above comes from Batthyany’s database.
Almost all brain scientists have assumed up until now that a severely-damaged brain makes normal cognition impossible. But Batthyany’s preliminary results, presented at the annual IANDS Congress in Newport, California, last month, suggests that normal cognition, or lucidity, does occur in spite of a severely-damaged brain — not often, but in about 5-10 percent of Alzheimer’s cases. And only when death is very near.
Make of it what you will. For me this points to a theory of a persistent soul existing alongside of, and submerged under whatever is going on with the brain. Again though, I am not making that claim for anyone else or the world in general. Only for my own spiritual world view.
I was once visiting a relative in a nursing home, and one day this totally vegetative, slumped over woman I had seen many times, straightened up, opened her eyes, and gave a five minute speech about how beautiful the rest home was, and how beautiful all the souls were there, and how we could all meet each other on a spiritual level and be friends. An eloquent, beautiful speech, and darned if it didn't feel spiritual in a direct way, as if an messenger from God had taken over her body for a second to give us hope, and then disappeared.
You could feel goosebumps to hear this formerly mute, inert figure speak with such eloquence and authority, and when it was over, it was over, and she was gone, just a form in a wheelchair in a corner for all the rest of the days I went there.
This is the way of faith though, coming in an inspired moment, and then disappearing, impossible to share in any meaningful way, and too elusive to nail down in theory. Only there in your memory--yeah that really happened--and then gone.
When I hear accounts like this, in scientific journals or personal testimonies, I smile to myself, been there myself brother, just for a second, and then it is back to all the elements of what can be seen and can be heard and most importantly what can persist.