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Consensus Reality

I am sure that we are all confronted from time to time by the three questions:

What could we do? What should we do? What DO we do?

I am confronted by these on a daily basis, often wondering what the basis of my decisions is. Of course, I want to do the right thing, the ethical or moral thing. When someone is begging at the traf c light, should I give them something? Morally it is the right thing to do – I have a lot, and that person has nothing. Then the logic

(consensus reality) sets in. If I give the person money, they will be encouraged to come back again tomorrow to beg because I have shown them that it is worth their while to beg. What other options do I have? Should I try and give them a night shelter voucher? Perhaps try and nd out what brought them to this point? Or do I simply look down at my phone and hope that the light will turn green any minute? There is a lot I could do, I am not sure what I should do and in the end, I do nothing. I suppose this would be rational decision-making. However, how much of this is actually rational, and how much is about self-preservation, avoidance, denial, and selfishness? Consensus reality makes it very dif cult, as there is very little consensus out there about what the right thing is to do. So many people, so many opinions.

A very similar dilemma comes to the surface when we talk about people living with dementia. There is more and more research into what we could do. Therapies and activities and centres and organisations that specialise in possible positive outcomes for people living with dementia. In fact, there is now a global industry in providing therapeutic interventions for people living with dementia. Maybe we should give it more time, but to date, very few of these actually show much benefit.

Yes, there is momentary relief, fun is had, belly laughs and full-voiced sing-alongs are heard. It is great, really!

What DO we do? We stubbornly refuse to see or to look beyond consensus reality. As long as they laugh, participate, clap their hands, eat their food, get to the toilet on time, and sleep well at night we have done well. The minute the consensus is challenged we run for medication. “The other people do not want to see them”. “It is not nice to see someone mess with their food”. “They cannot just say things and hurt people”. In other words, if they do not fit in, we have to make them fit in, or remove them. It is such a complex catch-22 situation. The more we marginalise, stigmatise, isolate, remove and medicate people, the more dif cult it will be for us to understand them. How will we ever learn to communicate with people whose minds have changed if we are not prepared to change our minds?

If we can change our minds about people whose minds have changed, we will see a different reality. If we can go deeper than consensus reality and explore the reality of altered consciousness, a different way (NOT a lesser way) of being-in-the-world, we will discover the essence of reality. That place where we know our Connectedness with every living Being – human, animal, plant. And if we can see that Essence in the person who no longer cares about consensus, we will treat them differently and they will react differently. Why is this such a dif cult concept for us to grasp? Is it based on fear? I have no idea. Today I visited the Hangberg Senior Club again. I go there with my filters (“poverty, illiteracy, alcohol abuse, unemployment, state grants, lack of education” etc) and see exactly that. Now that I have learned to see beyond consensus, I spend an afternoon with a group of people who carry with them the Essence of what so many of us have lost. Their spontaneous praise of God or Allah, and their deep gratitude for Life make me humble and deeply ashamed. For I cannot see beyond my filters, my indoctrination. I battle to not judge or question.

How do we unlearn our prejudice, our need to control, and predict? How do we unlearn our desperate obsession with consensus? I don’t know, What I do know is that if we are not prepared to face our consensus obsession we will never honour the Essence of people living with different abilities. And people living with dementia will never flourish until we see them as PEOPLE firstly and living with dementia secondly.

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