And today’s prize for “Misleading Headlines” goes to: “Scientists say there may be life after death” where even the article acknowledges that scientists say no such thing. This comes from “The Daily Life” an Australian online magazine that appears to be run by monkeys with ADD. (Apologies to any monkeys with ADD, it’s a serious condition and I shouldn’t joke). The article “written” buy Katie Kenny talks about a large scale study of near death experiences and brain activity post mortem.
Stop judging me!!!
The Awareness during Resuscitation (Aware) study, involving 2060 patients from 15 hospitals in the UK, US, and Austria, was the largest ever medical study into near-death or out-of-body experiences.
The study which was published two weeks ago has been getting some traction because it seems to suggest that awareness continues for much longer than was previously thought possible and possibly even after what we consider “Brain activity” has ceased. What it actually found was interesting but not inconsistent with anecdotal evidence that we have had for a long time. As one of the Doctors involved in the study said
“Contrary to popular perception, death is not a specific moment. It is actually a process that begins when the heart stops beating, the lungs stop working, and the brain ceases functioning – a medical condition termed cardiac arrest, which from a biological viewpoint is synonymous with clinical death.”
Which is really the key thing here, what the study suggests is that we are just moving the goal posts, again. In Shakespeare’s time someone was dead if their breath did not condense on a mirror. Then in the 1800’s it became when the heart stopped beating and now in modern times we call it often when there is no detectable brain activity. But the key word in that sentence is “Discernable”. More than anything the study suggests that there is still brain activity we just aren’t detecting it.
The study’s results showed 39 per cent of patients who survived cardiac arrest described a perception of awareness, but did not have explicit recall.
A total of 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections, 9 per cent had experiences compatible with near-death experiences, and 2 per cent exhibited full awareness compatible with out-of-body experiences including “seeing” and “hearing” events.
One man even recalled leaving his body entirely, and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.
Despite being clinically dead for three minutes, the 57-year-old from the UK recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.
So a large proportion of people experienced NDE but the study basically has nothing to say about that, the assumption is still that the old “Light at the end of the tunnel” NDE is still an hallucination.
As for the other 2 percent that reported experiences that were going on around them after what we might consider brain death this is interesting. However of course this does not mean that the details that they gave were true, they might simply have been post-hoc extrapolations, they were after all in the room, they knew the doctors they knew the circumstances they have seen hospital dramas. The study has been criticised but not as much as the reporting on the study which almost universally has missed the point. We know as little about what happens after we die as we did before, what we can say is that it seems to take longer than we thought it did.
Ok so something a little different today.
I have never thought of myself as father material. My Dad wasn’t exactly present in my life when I was young and it’s not like my history is overflowing with good male role models so despite lots of people saying “Oh I think you’re going to make an amazing father” there have also been people who I respect and care about….one notable example I’m thinking of here…..and I’m thinking of a particular time when they were drunk said when I announced to them “I’m going to be a Dad!” their immediate response was “What you? Fuck! That’s nuts, there’s no way you should be a dad”.
Now some people might have taken offence, but I didn’t, I got it. I didn’t feel like Dad material either. I felt too selfish. I felt too squeamish. I was the guy at friend’s places that when they handed me their child I held it at arm’s length and regarded it suspiciously. “So what does this do?” I would ask.
But then of course I got one of my own. And as some of you will know know it was the best of times and the worst of times. A hard time for me because my partner and I broke up shortly afterwards. And then the conversation in my head changed from “Am I going to be a good father” to “Am I going to be a father at all?” “How the fuck am I going to do this now?!?!”. This isn’t me blaming anyone, this isn’t me taking my ex to task this is just me saying that the reality of the situation as I saw it was that I was now going to be an absent father. One of those guys who takes their child every weekend and that’s it. And I didn’t know how to be a regular father let alone one who didn’t get to see their daughter every day. I went from not really knowing what I was doing or how I was going to do it to feeling like I was being asked to solve a Rubrics cube, underwater, in the dark with no air in a tank full of sharks who really don’t care if you solve it or not, they just wanted to eat you. (That’s a terrible metaphor)
And then strangers start asking you odd questions. Like when I was talking to the Child support people and the woman went “Ok so are you going to quit your job?” and I said “Um…what? Why would I do that?”. “Oh well a lot of guys quit their jobs so that they don’t have to pay their ex’s child support”.
Faith in humanity…..squelched.
Or when I was talking to the people at the mediation centre when we were nutting out the support arrangements and the guy was going through the questions about the relationship.
“Do either of you take drugs?” “No”
“Did you abuse her?” “No”
“Did she abuse you?” “What!? No!”
“Would you describe her as a bad or terrible person?” “No…!”
“Do you have concerns about your child’s welfare?” “No! If I did I wouldn’t be sitting here calmly talking about it I’d be over there getting my child”
“OK….well…looking over your answers and your partner’s answers, if you don’t mind me saying I’m really not sure why you’re breaking up”
“Doesn’t this fall outside the scope of your job?” I asked because this really wasn’t what I wanted or needed to hear.
Then there was going to the single Dad’s support group.
“How often do you get to see your daughter?” the group leader asked me on my first visit.
“Twice a week” I said staring at my shoes.
*murmuring and unrest from the group*
“Yeah, I know…but it’s the most that we could arrange, logistics and all that” I said sadly.
“I get to see my son once a month” said one man who was lighting one of those old style torches.
“I see my boy twice a month” said another who was polishing a cudgel.
“Yep it’s every fortnight for me!” said a third who was taking a pitchfork out of what looked like a custom pool cue case.
I didn’t go back.
My brain was full of worries. “If I only get to see her two days a week, will she know who I am, will we bond?” “What happens when my ex starts dating?” “Will I ever get that “dad” feeling?” “Am I capable of being a father?” “Should I even be here?”. The guy at the mediation centre said that it was crucial to see your child three times a week for a father and daughter to properly bond, and well…that just wasn’t going to happen.
I got told over and over again (mostly by mothers and midwifes) that when I first hold my child that I will get a whole suite of emotions and feelings that I’ve never had before and the second she holds my finger I would be in love.
Don’t get me wrong I’m sure that it happens to other people. But I didn’t happen to me. This of course worried me too. What’s so wrong with me that I’m not attached to my child? Why don’t I have normal human emotions? Am I a robot? Is all this just an elaborate test to see if you can make a realistic handsome, overweight robot love? When was the last time I cut myself shaving? Have I ever had the flu?
Of course then something happened. My little girl started to grow and become an actual person as opposed to a small annoyance that was fed and then pooped. She started to engage with me. She fell asleep in my arms, she clearly demonstrated a preference for me over my mother, which is a sure sign of intelligence.
But more than that she earned my affection. She’s whip smart, independent and bossy. I’m not easily won over. But my daughter is up to the task. She is nearly talking but she knows her mind she knows what you are asking and is more than able to say “Yes” or “No” depending on what you have in mind. She laughs and she is curious. She wants to see what is over the next hill and she only seems to cry when something really is wrong.
Sure you’re sitting there all judgy going “Yeah but you’re wearing your Dad glasses” well maybe, I’m sure that I’m as susceptible to that as anyone, and I’m sure I can’t convince you otherwise. But all I know is the catchcry for dads everywhere is singing in my heart. MY little girl is the cutest, smartest and most amazing little girl ever. And my worries and concerns have melted away. Sure she won’t know what it’s like to see her mother and I together. She won’t know the love that made us decide to bring her into the world and that will be odd for her. But it can still work, she knows who I am she remembers me. She likes me and I like her and I never thought that would happen. It’s going to work because she’s amazing and worth making it work for. And I’m totally objective about that.