Between “de-mens[tia]” and “memory, mindfulness”

On Wednesday December 11th, 2013, the G8 will deal with the problem of Alzheimer’s disease during their session in London (Great-Britain). The illness is refered as “demens” in the Scandinavian language and still questions about treatments and care.

The word “demens” (as used for example in Norwegian and Faroese, i.a.) comes from Indo-European roots “demens”, from Old French “Démenter” (a word that disappeared from Modern French)

“to drive mad,” 1540s, probably from Middle French démenter, from Late Latin dementare “to drive out of one’s mind,” from stem of Latin demens “out of one’s senses, insane, raving, foolish; distracting, wild, reckless” (a less technical term than insanitas), from phrase de mente, from de + mente, ablative of mens mind”.
1806, from Latin dementia “madness, insanity,” literally “a being out of one’s mind,” from dement-, stem of demens “mad, raving” (see dement) + abstract noun suffix -ia. It existed earlier in an anglicized form, demency (1520s), from French démence. Dementia praecox is a Modern Latin form recorded from 1899 in English, 1891 in German, from French démence précoce (1857).
There are indeed several forms of “dementiae”, but the name of “Alzheimer’s disease progressively enters the scope of reference as the syndrome is more and more determined and analyzed.
I had dealt with the problems of memory in Psycho-Linguistics in 1978 for my dissertation on “phonemic mnesia” (Prolegomena of Phonemic Mnesia in Afrikaans speech, Stellenbosch). The essay was about the process of phonemic mnesic systems developed by some languages, in particular Afrikaans whearas compared to Dutch and subject to strong creolization via Bantu and other Native African languages (Bantu, Zulu, Tshwana, Xhosa and Swahili).
I had continued the work in Psycho-Linguistics by comparing the consonant geminating systems of the Indo-Germanic (Indo-European) languages, in particular with Prof. Emile Benveniste and the speech speficities in the Scandinavian languages (Faroese, Icelandic) with the followers of Louis Hjelmslev at the Royal Library (Den Kongelige Bibliothek) of Copenhagen, Reykjavik and the Sorbonne. Some languages do show the process of “phonemic mnesics”, dropping some consonants to get them back in certain structural forms.
My main problem was not to focus on any form of disease, but to describe the invariant structural pattern of using memory as being a full and required element of brain development. Thus, I specialized in Yiddish and thirty years ago it did not seem evident that the language was utmostly “Talmudic”, A Semitic language built up on all the Indo-European dialects but mentally based on the memory of Aramaic as conveyed in the Talmud for the use of the Jewish communities of the dispersion. Things have being clarified by now (Dovid Katz, Michael Wex).
In Israel, as trying to implement the principles described by Y.I.V.O. and late Professor Uriel Weinreich along with the scenes depicted by Nobel Prize Awarded Isaac Bashevis Singer, I reflect with Scandinavian and South African groups upon the meaning of memory and memory diseases.
At the present, this work and reflection does not target the diseases or the linguistic features but the spiritual “guidance” as quite intermingled in Israeli society. The situation is peculiar since there is no direct reflection on the importance of memory, memory defect and the reality of mental and spiritual development in both the Jewish and Eastern Orthodox Christian life and survival or memorizing capacities. This often paves the way to healing, in both spiritual and mental contexts. It also complies with the works of Martin Buber. It explains the persistent split between Hebrew traditions as conveyed by Ashkenazi Hassidism, inter alia, and the absence of dialogue [Einsame Zwiesprache] as defined by the German-speaking Catholic Swiss theologian Hans-Urs von Balthasar.
We have a lot of Altzheimer’s sick people in Israeli society. It is always important to track back on the way things can be settled with regards to the disease in different parts of the world as we have all possible approaches in the country.
The spiritual role of memory, memory defects and the possibility to use the techniques and experience transmitted by the spiritual masters of the Talmud and the Fathers of the Church should be explored accordingly. It is an immense field of research that appears to be rather segmened if not framed at the moment.
In Summer, I had the possibility to attend the theatral essay proposed by Prof. Anne-Marie Ergis (Professor of Neuro-psychology at the René Descartes University, Sorbonne). She organized a play where the actors who are Alzheimer’s syndrome sicks did show a great capacity in acting in a wonderful way on the stage. The régisseur is Shuli Cohen, an Israeli man specialized in “curing theater” (for the injured, i.a.) who mainly resides in France. Prof. Anne-Marie Ergis interestingly studied Psychology in Israel. She considers she is an atheist as Shuli Cohen does. it makes things intriguing. Their work has been applauded. I do not know of the further developments.
The play used elements that refer to tracking-back memory, in particular movies, ads, songs that have been very popular in France over the past 50 years. This makes sense as a technique to sustain the sick and allow them to get to their memory capacities and human experience. Anne-Marie Ergis has used her good knowledge and great love for the French realm of images: films, advertizing (she likes to refer to movies, short films and (city) wall drawings that were quite frequent in France). On the other hand, it does not appear that her work relies upon any Talmudic backgrounds, though it surely is present in her proposal of a healing method via theater.
I took a scene during the play and show it with the permission of Prof. Anne-Marie Ergis and Shuli Cohen. it is the visit of a woman to her sick father at the hospital.
http://youtu.be/g4vwK68EWYs”
(Dated September 13, 2013) . The play was welcomed with much appraisal by the audience: mostly were professionals invovled in health care and volunteers. It was applauded as a pioneer work.
The work is indeed interesting: secular approach (as a rule in French scientific circles) developed by two scecialists of Jewish backgrounds with identity quests though using methods that can be tracked back from inside the Talmudic tradition; personal experience of the initiators that cope with the question of how to meeting the significance and meaning of absence of memory and to healing the defects.
In Scandinavia, I am more in contact with Norwegian and Faroese groups that are rooted in other cultural backgrounds. The works do not drive aside from the religious traditions and alerted on all the pending events of great importance for the healing of the sick and a human caring of their families.
http://portal.fo/talid+av+demenssjukum+kann+trifaldast+naestu+35+arini.html?fb_action_ids=10202632293998255&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=.UqCuC_fWeuc.like&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%2210202632293998255%22%3A594719433916881}&action_type_map={%2210202632293998255%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map={%2210202632293998255%22%3A%22.UqCuC_fWeuc.like%22}”
In Norwegian: “OSS (Us) “http://vimeo.com/77302577”.
Protopresbyter Alexander (Winogradsky Frenkel)
av aleksandr (Jerusalem)

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