The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, Philosopher
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus, Explorer
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist
Nothing is more revealing than movement.
- Martha Graham, Dancer
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
- A. A. Milne, Author (Winnie the Pooh)
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
- Loretta Girzartis, Author
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat . . .We must find each other.
- Mother Theresa, Saint
In American life, we think we are most free when we don't need anybody. Exactly what Alzheimer's represents is absolute dependency - That's what we all need to learn - how deeply we need one another.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, Missionary
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
- Bil Keane, Cartoonist
A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.
- Lin Yutang, Writer
All real living is meeting.
- Martin Buber, Philosopher
Memory Bridge Newsletter
03/23/09 - The Curious Case for Caring: The Story of Benjamin Button
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" has a fascinating premise: a child is born in an old body and grows physically younger throughout his life, while his mind develops and ages in the usual trajectory. Yet this is a movie that is less about what it means to be a young mind stuck inside an old body (or an old mind housed by an infant’s) and much more about the universal need for care. Perhaps this film has had such an impact because we live in a society in which being cared for--especially if one is born in an imperfect body or has aged into an imperfect mind--can no longer be assumed. Benjamin’s father, a button manufacturer named Mr. Button, illustrates this idea when he abandons his son shortly after birth on the steps of an old folks’ home. Ultimately, however, this is a film about the love required to truly care for another human being. Every other encounter in the film exemplifies this worthy ideal.
Newborn Benjamin is immediately embraced by Queenie, the primary caregiver at the old folks’ home; she informs the residents that he is her sister’s child who has only one deformity: he’s white. What this humorous explanation of Benjamin’s origin calls attention to is how real caretaking bridges gaps—between black and white, young and old, man and woman. At first—and finally—Benjamin is naturally the recipient of others’ care. However, in the middle of the film, it is Benjamin who provides the perfect model of caregiving. When he forgives the father who left him in order to care for him before he dies, Benjamin truly earns the last name of Button: he is one who, like the small, round clothing fasteners his father produces, connects.
But the most remarkable instance of caretaking is always the one that occurs at the end. When Benjamin is physically a five-year-old, he develops dementia. Daisy, the love of his life, now an old woman herself, returns to nurture him through his infancy as he gradually forgets how to walk, how to talk, how to eat, and how to recognize those that love him.
If we all aged like Benjamin, becoming babies again before we died, would we be easier to care for? No one expects an infant to recite poetry or run the mile or remember the events of the previous day. After only three hours, we ourselves are likely to forget the ultimate lesson revealed at the beginning of the film: attentiveness, presence, and compassion are just as important to those who inhabit aged or aging bodies as they are to the newly born. At both stages of life, we cannot survive emotionally or physically without extensive care. As Daisy illustrates at the end of the film, to take care of another human being—as he is either entering or exiting this world—is the greatest act of love there is.