Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Grave Concern.

All through the years spent living, breathing, observing and thinking, an individual creates a vast memory and knowledge warehouse of facts, figures, words, thoughts, inferences and deductions. I, like every other person with a similar disposition, treasure that figurative cerebral repository more than most things I have ever had the capability or fortune to possess. It falls to reason that if what we are is defined purely and in entirety by what we think, what we believe, and what we know, is it not a cause for concern that essentially, all it would take is amnesia to wipe out a person's existence?


Pratyush said...

Statistically, I think more people die than fall prey to amnesia (not sure about the exact figures, though). So one should probably worry more about death, if there is worrying to be done.

Of course, you might say that once dead, you're dead, while post amnesia, you're alive yet not yourself. But post amnesia, you don't remember being anybody else pre amnesia, and thus it can be modelled as a death-rebirth sort of scenario...

Priyanka Suresh Mehta said...

Could it then be called existence without definition? Or a chance(lack of choice) to start afresh?
Btw, this also implies that we humans cannot but live with minimal vanity then.

Srishti said...

Ooohhh, thats a good point. But even though after we have amnesia, people still react to us as if we were our same old self, and in the end, its your surroundings and the people who make you who you are.

Also, by watching Samantha Who?, I've learned that even if you are a bad person before, you should change for the better, because as Priyanka says, its a chance to start afresh.
Do you read Meg Cabot? She wrote a book by the name of Airhead in which this geeky girl's brain is transplanted into a supermodel's body by an evil corporation which is trying to take over the world. They tell that girl that she has to pretend to have amnesia, which would explain her clueless-ness in modelling. But her best friend develops a program and exposes Stark (the evil corporation)at lkeast that should happen in the third book.
Anyway, you can read that, it has some cool amnesia things. :)

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Pratyush: Death being a cause for wiping out a person's existence is very valid. Being final, by definition, it does not leave one with the worry that is ascribed to amnesia. Amnesia is minor. Can be caused by a single blow to the head, and leaves one with no physical injury, save a bump. A death-rebirth scenario does include the aforementioned wiping out of a person's existence. For it to be triggered by something as little as a blow to the head is the cause for worry.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Priyanka: Of course, I am implying vanity. Vanity lies in what a person makes out of himself, by accumulating knowledge, skill and talent. It may be viewed as a chance to start afresh. But do you also view a hard-disk crash that causes you to reload your operating system and thus lose all pre-stored data, in a similar manner?

What I am saying is, that an amnesia-stricken person would lose his identity, in far more literal a fashion than a name would suggest.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Srishti: I thought about your viewpoint for quite some time. The reason why I can't wrap my head around it is that I do not believe that it's your surroundings and the people around you, who make you the person you are. I believe that you are the result of the choices you make, based on your perception and judgment of things and situations you see. It may be argued that that would depend on your surroundings, but I am of the firm opinion that surroundings are merely stimuli. People born and raised in different surroundings and among different people would come to face the same decisions eventually, only they may arrive at such a point by taking different routes and at different times.

:) I would have to skip on the finer points of Samantha Who? and Meg Cabot for now. Chick-lit and a major chunk of the pop-culture pie is lost on me. And I find it a little unlikely to find the meaning of life and higher things through the saga of geeky-girl to supermodel brain-switch.

Alok said...

You speak of the x and probably of the integral(x.dt).

But what about the dx/dt? Probably this is what Srishti here is alluding to.

Wouldn't it be much more disastrous to lose that?

Priyanka Suresh Mehta said...

My bad. Wasn't articulate enough earlier. I meant that if what you say, so is the case then we must live with least vanity. I don't really know if amnesia affects a person's reactions and decision making capability. Depends on gravity of the amnesia probably.
Therefore I agree that there is loss of identity but I'm not sure of it's totality.

Tangled up in blue... said...

I agree. Its scary to contemplate the loss of memory and thence, that of a sense of identity and individuality. The thing is memory is a very complex thing. There's semantic memory, consisting of facts one has learned and language skills. Procedural memory or muscle memory for walking, running, playing the violin which comes from the cerebellum which no amnesia wipes out. Then there's episodic memory which is usually what is lost in amnesia. Only Alzheimer's robs all of it gradually. Which is why the thought of being afflicted with that disease sends a chill down my spine.

To digress, in our textbook, there's an interesting case story of a twenty eight year old Finnish prisoner, who was in jail for murdering two men, who was found to have lost his episodic memory after head trauma and cud not remember why he had committed the murders. His frustration at not knowing the reason for his crimes led him to want to live a peaceful life. He was a model prisoner. When he was released from prison twenty years later it appeared that his violent behaviour which was a result of his upbringing and environment was forgotten by him entirely. His rage was gone and he lived out his life working with an NGO that helped street children. Strange, isnt it? That memories we create influence so much of our personality. Now I understand why its so important to forgive and forget.

Pratyush said...

Thought came to my mind - one might have a look at the silver lining too here.

Things start going down, a conk on the head's all you need to reboot.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@Alok: Running the risk of coming across as delusional, I can say that I disagree, with surety.

x and integral(x.dt) take up the major chunk, or at the very least, 2/3rds.

@Priyanka: Totality becomes a trivial matter if you think in terms of whole numbers. Going by the same binary logic, it's either 0 or 1. 0.999 just doesn't cut it. Too much is lost within that 0.001. It's usually more than just that.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@TUIB: That, I agree with wholeheartedly. To forgive and forget is always the better thing to do for yourself. Even selfish, to a great extent.

But what really fascinates me is how easy it gets to disguise masochism as ethics once you've been at it for long enough. And vice versa, it seems.

Also, I understand that in addition to precariously perched flower-pots and cricket balls, I now have Alzheimer's to look out for. *smiles*

@Pratyush: TUIB's comment got me thinking... the human capacity for convincing oneself of virtually anything is astounding. You can find a silver lining even in the murkiest of places and times. The question is, how do you know you're not distorting what you see, into what you want to see? Or whether it is even right or wrong to do so, purely on intellectual grounds.