I noticed him from a distance. A man in his late forties, early fifties at the most, all dressed up in a business suit, and with a black leather case thrown over his shoulder. He was walking with a sense of purpose. A doctor seeing one of the residents maybe? I forgot about the man, and went on to attend the afternoon group. Sitting with the people there, throwing a pink balloon around, I felt my heart sink, and much unpleasantness. Judging mind was wondering, what was I doing here in the company of those whose minds were slipping? There was no pretense, no fancy talk, no opportunity for brilliance. Only laughter, and a pink balloon floating. The moment did not last long. I remembered why I had come, and how in this place, the real truth lied. The 'smart one' had to step aside, and leave room for just this moment. Another day of visiting a specialty eldercare community to learn about the subtleties of dementia care . . .
I was about to leave and step in the elevator, when the supervisor warned me about the escape risks. "You need to be careful and not let any of the residents get in; some of them want to go home, others think they still need to go to work." She talked about the man with a briefcase, how he keeps on trying until 4 pm every day, then stops when it is no longer time to make it to work. Driving back, I kept thinking about the man. Such a poignant image of the persistent self, that won't quit even when it no longer makes sense. The only difference between he and I, is I have the capacity of awareness, to know when to say no to the selfing mind.
"Whenever there is somebody, there is suffering."
~ Ajahn Sumedho, as quoted by Ajahn Anandabodhi, in her recent talk about 'Working with Self' ~