Learning from No Experience

Learning from No Experience

Michael J Setter

When I realized that an operation would be necessary to correct damage from a sports injury, and after examining the risks of full anesthesia, I decided to ask the surgeon I had chosen if it would be possible for him to perform an arthroscopic procedure. Sitting in his office he patiently examined the imaging, asked a few questions, and said it was possible. Dr. Goodyear was a prominent expert in his field very congenial, and I liked him. I left feeling quite satisfied with the consultation.

When the day arrived for the procedure, after being prepped I was wheeled into the operating theater. Immediately I observed there was an attending anesthesiologist and an anesthesiology cart next to the table. But regarding my surgeon, I assumed it was there in case it became necessary during the procedure due to excessive pain. So, when I saw that the anesthesiologist was about to place a mask over my face, two things occurred to me. First, this was indeed going to be full anesthesia and second, that I wanted to examine just how deeply unconscious the experience would be.

Instantly a thought arose to tell a joke when they woke me up, and as I was asked asked to count backwards from 100, I thought of one. A second later that familiar sickly-sweet feeling arose, and I was out.

Time of no length elapsed and then I heard the anesthesiologist asking if I could hear his voice. I replied “you gotta go with the guy who can afford a blimp for advertising”, the joke I thought of as the procedure began. I could hear laughter but still had not yet opened my eyes.

How was it possible for me to tell that joke at the very first instance of being able to if there was an interruption in consciousness? What was the biochemistry that allowed this to happen? Molecules, atoms and atomic particles are always in constant motion, and I was supposedly “unconscious”. If consciousness is discontinuous how did this occur?

My conclusion, lacking an adequate description: the conscious aspect of mere awareness is a reference for the mind in a kind of plastic unity of interaction which occupies a space in which nothing occurs.


Listen to Adi Da on this phenomena.