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Where Am I?

My grandmother, in the final weeks of her life when she was affected by dementia, repeatedly used the phrase 'Am I here?' I used to wonder what she meant by it. It's a question with several possible meanings. The most obvious way to ask it is with your finger on a map, or with a certain location in mind. Yet the experience of a place can never be explained in coordinates, or even in terms of the firing patterns of your spatial neurons. You know where you are only if you can tell a story about that place or remember how you found your way there. In the end, I believe my grandmother was questioning the history of her relationship with the room she was in, and perhaps whether she existed at all. In many ways, it is the ultimate question, one that all of us might ask at some point in our lives. Am I here? We want to hope so. What could matter more?

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