Beyond Living Histories
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
First of all, my heartfelt thanks to the participants at the May
20-22, 2005, Beyond-Einstein/Socratic Training workshop for the totally unexpected, very
thoughtful and most welcome gift of an IPOD device. That fits absolutely
perfectly with my music improvitaping and related involvement. The way I've had to be
hurtling through my affairs, it would have been years before I would have gotten one
for myself. That was a most welcome and gracious surprise gift.
Second, thinking about that gift gave me a quite remarkable idea involving
IPODs and Alzheimer's victims an idea which, if implemented, could make a
staggeringly huge positive difference in human terms...
1. There is a movement in some quarters where sociology students at some
universities go out to elderly persons and collect their memoirs on audio
recordings, part of a sociological effort to develop local and regional histories (and
generate material for TV documentaries).
2. We have proposed, from time to time, "Operation Wings of Humanity," the
wings referring to the young and the old among us. In great awareness of the
fact that the vast majority of human beings spend their entire lives without ever
really having been heard (and all the incredible ramifications of that
issue!!!), and of the benefits to both parties in a Socratic exchange, and of the need
to improve language skills in at least our young, I believe it would be
most extraordinarily beneficial to all concerned to organize young volunteers
to record and transcribe the day-to-day collected memoirs of as many very
elderly persons as possible, especially those sequestered semi-forgotten in nursing
3. What if that were done and one organized IPODs for Alzheimer's patients
from their own memoirs as follows
a) Simplest operation possible, one button to push for play, slide left for
"rewind" (return electronically to an earlier part of the track) and slide
right for forward. Button clearly labeled "push first"; IPOD visibly bearing the
name, address and phone number of the person; almost as simple for recordinga
second, slightly less prominent button; erasure possible only by a much more
elaborate code. Downloading and uploading would be kept simple, mainly done
by volunteers assisting.
Everything concerning that patient's identity, what he is currently doing
and currently about, his current situation, the most important-to-him things
he wants to remain aware of or be reminded of, and all of the rich tapestry of
memories which helped to define him as a unique and meaningful human being, would be right there for him at the push of a button.
b) Name, address and phone number first on the track; special message by the
Alzheimer's patient to himself next; recent and current events and entries
next; then the accumulated memoirs of that patient.
Material benefits and cost-savings: for some, this should enable another year
or so of independent living. Human benefits for all would be the assured
retaining of most of what one deemed it meant to be that particular special human
being. The preservation after death of that IPOD would also be a form of
immortality just as surely as one's accumulated diary or journal or a written
This seems to me meaningful and desirable.
Once the necessary general programming and/or engineering were done, young
people all over the world could assist in collecting the living histories of
elderly people in their respective areas. For such of the elderly as either
suffer Alzheimer's or were showing beginning signs of that disease, the further
version of the program could, with young volunteers' help, be made to provide
that Alzheimer's patient conveniently the secure external referents as can
literally extend and continue that person's existence in the world as a meaningful
The necessary Socratic skills are simple and very easily and quickly learned.
Not only the one being interviewed or "drawn out" but also the "Socrateur" doing
the drawing out, both ends of the Socratic exchange, harvest huge personal and
intellectual and perceptual benefits. Volunteers of all ages, not only the
young, might usefully be drawn into this role. This includes younger or more
competent elderly just getting into making up their own memoirs, helping their
colleagues as part of that process. This project could make certain aspects of our current way of life considerably more humane and richly human.
I am writing here for this reason: I do not think our Project
Renaissance is positioned to carry out such a proposal, but I think the proposal has
potential for stunning human benefits. (Yes, I think the manufacturers of
IPOD-like devices should have a very strong interest in advancing such a project,
but it will fare much better if we have individuals referred by you with whom
to communicate.) So, does anyone reading this know anyone who is in
position to take up such a project and might be gotten interested in doing so? Can
you refer them to us and vice-versa?
You may copy this brief in whole but not in part,
including its copyright for use with people
whom you care about or wish to inform.