Since retiring from my career in the Natural and Organic Food Industry, I found that I still needed to augment my retirement savings, and so I found a residential treatment center for advanced Alzheimer’s patients nearby to where I had settled in Paradise, CA, and spent afternoons and evenings helping out, several times a week.
At work one night, as I was going about my appointed rounds, the night-duty nursing supervisor approached me in the hallway, inquiring:
“Have you ever wondered, Bob, whether this world has an actual objective reality, or is it all rather a subjective fantasy of interpretation on perception, perhaps experienced as the momentary collusion of various transient and dependently-originating conditioning factors with certain impersonal vibratory
sensations and neural thingamajigs?”
I paused for a moment to fully savor the expression on the face of a small dog peeking out from a patient’s room. Then, in my best Rastafarian inflection, I quietly (so as not to wake the people already sleeping in their rooms down the hallway) sang back in reply,
“Night Nurse, Night Nurse —
Only you alone can quench this thirst . . .”
She smiled for a moment, then suggested that I not give up my day job, to which I replied that, since retirement, my night job is my day job. Not to be deterred, she pressed on mercilessly with her ticklish investigation:
“If any arising phenomena came forth and un-systematically did something that could be described as a probability distribution, would you express a preference for some particular outcome?”
“Ah,” I replied, “it’s been many years now since I’ve been fooled by that kind of stuff!”
With that exchange, we dispensed with any further water-cooler small talk, and she asked if I would turn around so she could see the back of my t-shirt (slightly stained tonight with some liquid remnants of a patient’s dinner tray).
Your own mind!”
A moment of silence followed, the little dog yawned, and then she mused, as if to herself, “So neither real nor unreal, hmmm? Perhaps one could say that the non-existence of any objective reality simply indicates that things in themselves have no enduring or independent existence, just like us. Moreover, in thus contemplating the totality of phenomena, we are contemplating the totality of Mind. All apparent phenomena are intrinsically void, and yet this Mind with which they are identical is no mere nothingness.”
“So you say,” I grinned as I walked away – I still had work to do.