What we know and what we don’t know is a recurring theme in the tapes my father left me. He had been inspired to record the one about consciousness after reading a piece in Time magazine, titled “Glimpses of the Mind.”
“Oct. 5, 1995, at 7 a.m. I just completed reading this article,” he starts out saying. He quotes its conclusion: “It may be that scientists will eventually have to acknowledge the existence of something beyond their ken — something that might be described as the soul.” He continues: “My conclusion is that there is relation between the soul, the mind and the brain, and from there on, the brain and the body.”
I’m not sure I believe in a soul, but I do think that the “essence” of who he was remained, even as his disease wore away at him.
In his other tapes, as he recounts some of the attacks that he witnessed as a young man in Haifa and then the civil war we lived through as a family in Lebanon, he remains inquisitive and searching. About the competing histories behind each conflict, he asks: “Truth? Whose truth? My truth, your truth?”
He was obsessed with the meanings of words and how easily they can be misunderstood and misconstrued. “Every word, depending on its place in a context, has a different meaning,” he said.
Despite the horrors and injustices that he witnessed, he was always fair-minded. He taught us to not take anything on face value and to recognize that truth is a malleable beast. That might have been one of the reasons I became a journalist.
As my father sat in the rehab center, did he have moments of lucidity and ponder the meaning of his existence? Did he feel abandoned? Did his body just fail him? Or did his mind make the final call and decide to quit? In his younger days, he believed in the possibility of communicating through telepathy. Dad, I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you.
Nana Asfour is a Staff Editor in The New York Times Opinion section.
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