Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mythos and Logos

I just finished reading “The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism” by Karen Armstrong. The book was mentioned in the Columbia Tribune last week. Karen Armstrong was the recipient of a high award in Spain for her books on religion.

Living and working in an academic environment, I have experienced part of the events she reviews. It is like having lived the past 70 years looking out at the world through a square inch hole. The book presents the entire view in a perspective that I was not at all aware of. I knew of events, but had no idea of how they may fit together.

My response to students from the monastery near Maryville, who did well in the General Biology course until the word evolution came came in to view, was to say, “Don’t limit your God. Because we now know something about how creation works, that does not take anything away from God. Actually it makes creation more marvelous as we can now appreciate how it works. AND is still working. The creation is not finished.”

I got a surprise this morning from the little robot that lives with us. I carry it in my pocket. It evolved just a decade ago.

Last night I clicked the alarm for 6:00 am. This was about the fourth day. I wanted to get to breakfast when it opened. Since about six of us eat about the same thing each morning, the server greets us with “special” or “the usual”. We do not have to wait to be waited on as is the case later on with the dining hall filling up.

Click. A menu popped up requesting me to respond to a bedtime application. My iPhone was smart enough to know what I was doing. I filled in the need information and went to sleep.

This morning I was partially awakened by someone’s music. It varied from soft to louder, with each cycle getting a bit louder. This went on for six minutes before it occurred to me what was happening: this was my wakeup call. The genie in the sleep number bed reported that I actually woke up at 6:00 and then waited six minutes (restless time) to get out of bed.

We need myth and logic: religion and reason; God and science. Our relatives in San Antonio introduced us to the Saturday afternoon non-denominational community mega-church. Provision Living at Columbia streams the Crossroads community church here in Columbia into the theater. Members of the church, who now view the service with us in the theater, report that the theater overstuffed chairs are a great improvement over pews for the elderly.

Myth looks back in time. Logic looks forward in time. Each has it place in human existence. Some people believe in myth, some in logic, and others in both. There is nothing wrong in believing in both. In fact, what I get from the book, is believing in both is healthier than in just one.
The book makes a good case that modern man has great difficulty in thinking like the pre-modern myth thinkers. More than one event in the Middle East was pulled of with the expectation that the end result would spontaneously develop as expected with the actors only starting the event. Applying myth where logic is needed can get yourself killed (and a lot of other people too).

During the time I have been reading, I have also been attending a meditation class three times a week.

God spoke to the Jews in dreams. The Moslem tradition is based on meditation.

I have reached the point where time is lost. It is also difficult to tell when I am asleep or just suspended inside an empty shell of my body. The number bed reports that I am asleep for say 30 minutes when I judge the time to be less than five minutes. I really need to get something to replace the BASIC body monitor that includes heartbeat, sweat, and skin temperature.

Also my inward directed experience is still pretty much a swirl of grey clouds. I have yet to get a clear color picture of the things mentioned in the guided medication.

The most puzzling thing is that before, I would go directly back to sleep if I got up in the night. Now that I am interested in defining sleep, it may take several minutes. It seems that wanting to got back to sleep quickly may produce the opposite effect. I think I am having that same problem with meditation. "Relax."

The sleep number bed can sense heartbeat, motion, and breath rate. This produces restful, restless, and out of bed. This is logical. The leap to sleep is myth.

The report states that it took me 45 minutes to fall asleep. It also shows that the first hour in bed was 49 minutes restful followed by eight minutes restless. This means being restful does not require me being asleep.

The three red out of bed bars are of uniform size but represent different times of being out of bed and restless: 1 minute out of bed/3 minutes restless; 3 minutes out of bed/3 minutes restless, and 2 minutes out of bed with 1 minute before and 6 minutes after restless. [The blue shaded one-hour slider provides these details.] That means it takes 45 minutes to define sleep the first time and 3 to 6 minutes later on. The software "learns" based on averages, to my knowledge.

The facts are interesting but they do not define the time I am asleep. It took 45 minutes for the sleep number bed to figure out that I may be asleep at the start of the night. It then calls sleep after just a few minutes after being up at night. My experience with meditation doubts this call. To say that I went to sleep AT 45 minutes is a myth. Marketing often includes easy to accept myths.

I am truly asleep when I am unconscious. When a weight falls from my hand at night, I figure I must be asleep. I will give it a try. I will also see what happens during meditation in the same way.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Maggie's Milkweed Mystery

This is one of the most difficult posts I have written. It has taken a week. Up to now I could play the part of independent observer as my wife and I traveled this tangled path from health to passing. Even after being on this journey over three years, it was not really real.

It was scary.  The heart fibrillation in December was real scary. The line between life and death was razor thin (three to five minutes). But it was not really real as she recovered. She still continues to talk in the morning, to laugh, to tease, to be pretty much herself until the “worries” catch her. Her drift from her world, in and out of our world, in the activity area is now “normal” for both of us.

Her world is most characterized by the random collection and distribution of anything she can put in her pocket, or at times, pick up and move anywhere in memory care. She shares with a few others the need to be given notice, and time, before having something of interest removed from her or her table space. A violation can bring a quick punch. “May I take this? May I wash this? May I . . . “, yields a safe way to proceed. [A few other similar residents express themselves by a loud yell or a strong grip.]

Part of 300 Milkweed Plants
Then I became active on the monarch butterfly sanctuary (see previous post). We needed milkweeds to feed monarch caterpillars. It took three years for my wife to create the milkweed garden in our backyard from seed. It produced over 300 plants each year. We needed a faster way to do that here.

I found two packets of seed at Wal-Mart for butterfly weed. One with just seed and the other with coated seeds (experiment!). I also got a 36-cell seed starter kit.       

Milkweed Seeds
I put a few seeds of each kind on a shallow dish of water. The coated seeds sank to the bottom. The uncoated seeds floated until I touched them. The floating seeds germinated in three days on the south window ledge (17 April).

I added a piece of white paper towel to the dish with all the seeds on top. Now all had maximum access to oxygen in the air. The remaining seeds then germinated over a period of more than a week. They also endured several trips to various parts of our apartment; some times more than one trip a day.

Two Expanded Disks
The seed starter kit was watered. The little disks of compressed peat expanded into little brown haycocks. I transferred the very new seedlings and added enough uncoated seeds to fill all 36 expanded disks. 

Another Missing
A few days later two of the disks were missing. I found them in her bathroom toiletry tray (23 April).

A week later another went missing. I did not find it. There was fiber on the bathroom sink drain (2 May).

Crumbs on Daybed

Then one of the best three plants, that was first to germinate, went missing. Crumbs were on the daybed sheet (7 May).

Third Best Missing
The third best plant is missing (9 May). Why did she pick the three best plants; about an inch taller than the rest?

A caregiver was in the apartment as Maggie turned from the window behind the daybed. She had an expanded disk in hand with part of it in her mouth. I was shocked (The caregiver was amused. This was nothing new to her). Maggie could not tell the difference between a chocolate candy haycock (?) and the expanded disks?

Yet another plant is gone (19 May). I found it under the heat exchanger behind the daybed (20 May). [It is still there.]

The next day the entire tray traveled to the dining room table during the night (20 May). She has not bothered the remaining plants, since part were transplanted outdoors (29 May).

We have removed everything in the apartment that she can eat that could be harmful or it is locked in the file cabinet. Newly purchased garden tools are all in the car trunk that is parked by our apartment and milkweed patch.

She fell as I was writing on this, this morning. Her legs were badly twisted. Once again she seems unharmed. We will know in a couple of days. Time to go to lunch (dinner in the old days).

We will never know if Maggie ate one of the disks including a milkweed. We may still find one on our next through search of the apartment.

Last night, Maggie said, “I don’t know what I want to do”, when we went on a walk after supper. She really is now a creature of the moment. We need to clear out the apartment down to things she still likes and that can be seen on the shelving. The things in the sorting boxes have served their purpose and are now extra baggage.

[Back in from watering the milkweeds. The nurse said the flower decorations from the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary on the memory care tables were removed because Maggie was eating them.]

I must now accept that all of this is real. Happiness is now dependent upon the environment skilled caregivers create in this building, fully restored (and improved) from the flood. I still have a role to play here in, “I need your help, getting these pills down and getting . . .’ when there is not another caregiver to hand Maggie off to when things do not go as expected for the present caregiver.

From time to time during the day, she still misses me. I seem to love her more each day. For now our bond grows stronger as I spend several hours a day staging getting dressed and other daily activities (including all hours of the night). [I get in lots of naps.]