Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Amnesiac American Wakes Up Swedish

Sounds like something from The Onion. But no, there's the headline big as 64-point font, in no less a publication than The Guardian: "American man wakes up with amnesia speaking Swedish." It appears that a California sexagenarian (stop it, I know what you're thinking) named Boatwright, who has spent time in Sweden, was found unconscious in a Palm Springs motel room. On waking up in the hospital, he began speaking in Swedish and claimed to be none other than Johan Ek.

"Sudden, unplanned travel"

In March, doctors diagnosed Boatwright with transient global amnesia, a condition that can last for several months and is triggered by physical or emotional trauma. The rare mental disorder is characterised by memory loss, "sudden and unplanned travel," and possible adoption of a new identity.

Lucky devil, I thought when I read this tale of a lost self. It's not that I'd want a new identity particularly, having grown so accustomed and (if I may say so) complacent with my own. It seems to suit me right down to the ground, so much so that I've been tempted more than once to "like" myself on Facebook.

But it strikes me that if some chap who's roughly my age can doze off in a motel room in the course of "sudden and unplanned travel," and immediately upon awakening launch into the Swedish tongue, what new vistas might await an amnesiac Miguel? It reminds me of the one about the fellow who sustains a head injury, and on coming to he asks the doctor if he'll ever be able to play the piano again. "Why, I don't see why not," the doctor assures him. "Great," answers the fellow, "I've always wanted to be able to play."

The story sets a man thinking: if amnesia were to blot out the familiar, the tried and true, the old accustomed Miguel, what new skills and talents would I wish to discover in myself? I'm not sure about being able to speak Swedish. Greek and Latin tempt me. But if I could speak and write in Urdu it would have been worth the trauma of losing my mind.

Another thing that appeals, having been unmusical through the years, is a musical skill of some sort. Not just the usual thing - you know, becoming popular among a wide circle because I can unaccountably play "Roll Out the Barrel" on the harmonica or the accordion - no, here's a chance to think in larger terms.

"Pull out my stops, big boy"

I'm certain I wouldn't want to come to consciousness as a pastry chef, let's say, or an accountant. But I'd not mind taking a page from Boatwright/Ek, who was a medieval history buff, and come back around as an expert jouster . . . 

. . . or an ace fighter pilot . . .

Ace fighter pilot

. . . or better yet, an ace fighter pilot who's also a European aristocrat of the old school.

Le Baron Rouge

It's possible I'm getting beyond myself here, letting the old imagination run rampant as my days wind quickly into senescence. I can see how this would unfold. A good whack on the cranium, a longish doze in the hospital, and I know how I'd wake up.

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