So What About Buddhanature, Mind, and Dementia?

And, the thing is, there seem to be no rhyme or reason for the thoughts or notions.  My uncle Henry is a perfect example: recently I talked to him for a couple of days this past summer.  He lives with the family of his former wife and they care for him in their home.  A nurse comes to the house daily to take care of his needs.  He is able in that he can walk, talk, and feed himself (if food is placed before him).

As we spoke, he made the same kinds of comments over and over again: the time when his caregivers had a house moved onto their land, or how bad Obama was as president, or thoughts about the sorry state of education.  Those three topics came up over and over again.  When I changed the topic, asked him about the distant past, he remembered, vaguely, events and people.  In a couple of cases when we talked about the past, he did not remember his father died when Henry was 14.  When asked where his father lived, he commented, “oh somewhere in Athens” (Henry’s hometown).

Henry, Talking About The Weather

I noticed that time no longer locked him into the present.  He was young, old, planning to go to school or work, any number of events that formerly existed on a timeline, a sequence of events.  Now, the timeline was gone.  No sequencing of things from beginning to end; all ideas were tossed together in a whirl of concepts and memories that he touched on given the right trigger.

My experience with Henry, my great uncle Raymond, his sisters, and many other folks have really brought into stark relief what mind is (or is not).  Fundamentally, we organize events in our experience in a somewhat sequential reference.  Mind then is the great ordering mechanism of our lives.  It creates order out of the chaotic mess of human existence.

And…and I have to ask the question: IS IT mind that creates the order?  Or could it be that our ego-mind defines the experiences we have and orders them based on their relation to how we feel, think, or respond to those events.  For example, some events hold prominence in our minds…getting a puppy or watching a traumatic event or experiencing a sense of wonder and awe.  Those moments take on increased meaning in our lives.

Does an event take on that increased meaning because of the emotional connection?  What if we say, for a moment, that the emotional connection doesn’t matter…so can we imagine a place in which that traumatic event does not take on the strength of meaning it otherwise would?  Can we extract a completely different meaning from an event that appears in our mind meaningless?  Similarly, can we imagine a place in which an experience has no meaning beyond that it happened?  No significance whatsoever; just something that happened as a result of cause and effect.  A thing happened because we were in the right or wrong place in time.  That’s it.

If we see those events as just events in our lives, with no attachment to their supposed significance, then how might we be completely different?  Would our thoughts be different as a result?


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