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There, They’re, Their

May 14, 2012

Jean Dominque Bauby blinked every letter to write The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Why blink? Bauby suffered a massive stroke that essentially left him locked into his body. He couldn’t move or speak and was essentially paralyzed. All he was capable of was blinking. He set out to write a novel of his experiences by blinking each letter to a physical therapist who waited patiently to transcribe the novel. Each word took about two-minutes to spell out and the entire book took ten months. Bauby writes about his everyday life from the perspective of someone with locked-in syndrome, the first book of its kind.

Many may question whether Jean-Do is there as a person since he is entirely dependent on others.  This man can think and is aware of what is going on around him. It is almost an insult to him as a person to consider him not “there”. He is not an empty-shell of a body or an inanimate object. He even managed to figure out a way to write a book. (Something that very few of us can brag about.) Since this man is still living, he is there. I believe a person is a self until that person passes and is no longer a living, breathing, and thinking being. As long as a person can form thoughts, opinions, and beliefs, they are a self. A self begins at birth and ends at death. By saying Jean-Do is not “there”, it can be inferred that since he is unable to move, he is dead or lifeless. I am sure people believe that since he can not act like a normal person that he is not “there”, however, if they were in his situation, I am sure they would have the opposite opinion. Self resides in the mind and soul of the person that is alive. Jean-Do has lost neither of these and therefore is present.

For further evidence of why I feel the way I do, please view the video below. Henry is old man who had suffered several strokes. He had lost the ability to communicate and was in a near wordless, silent state. Based on music therapy theories, nurses gave him an iPod filled with music from his youth. The music brought Henry back to life! The change was both physical and mental. The neuroscientist in the video states,  “He’s reacquired his identity for a while through the power of music.”

If people believed Henry was not there, just as they might believe Jean-Do was not there, they probably would not have employed music therapy. Although music is what “woke up” Henry, I am sure he is a thinking, feeling human even when there is no music. Just because he can’t verbalize things does not mean he is not there, similar to Bauby.

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