M.A., Chinese Medicine, New England School of Acupuncture
M.A., Psychology, Vermont College
President Emeritus, North Carolina Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Somehow, somewhere in my early twenties in the midst of that youthful angst of trying to figure out who I was, where my place was in the world and society, and all that early adulthood seriousness — too serious and painful in proportion to circumstances — I fell into being in the present moment. I also discovered a few other things not the least of which was that however mentally bad I felt at the moment I could make myself laugh — one of the better skills to stumble upon in life. So when I have been asked to describe myself, my motives, my purpose or even to summarize how my week went or even my day, I am naturally at a momentarily loss. Being in the present moment, however spiritually chic it has become, has its disadvantages, too. It is all just too horribly complex to describe when you notice all those details.
So I have muddled along, being always in the present moment — where or when else could we be? — my rendering of how my life has gone or how it all hangs together is a nice story but really in point of fact hardly the whole. I accept that.
But stories have their usefulness, too; even if they are a compilation of the past and future that is hard pressed to encompass a present. Yet, they can be greatly useful, even therapeutic. It is the way we make some sense of an overwhelmingly impossible complex ever moving world and try, sometimes desperately, sometimes with ease and aplomb, to make our way and get along reasonably safely, healthily and happily. There are, as we all know, stories of fiction, novels and poems from the totally fanciful to the almost realistic; and, there are stories of science, from the cosmology of astronomy to the mechanics of physics and how the world works, what electromagnetic forces influence what and where quarks and atoms go on a windy day; and there are the stories of the body, the circulation of hormones in your blood, the forces within that motivate us in the world, the tales of the DNA and viruses and bugs that tickle our nostrils at night. And there are other stories, ones harder to categorize; are they fiction, are they non? What of the shaman’s journey, the astrologer’s charting, and Chinese medicine’s Yin and Yang and Element schemes?
From hard nosed geologist splintering rocks and digging wells to soft eyed artists lost in mythological imaginary worlds of their own making where idealized nymphs and satyrs gambol about, each will tell but a story, a temporary attempt to make sense and perhaps, finally to be more or less useful, as in the finding of pockets of oil or the resolution of emotional conflicts.
I have been there and done that, over and over again. I have studied story after story, the anatomists’ and physiologists’ tales of enzymes and mitochodria, the ancient Chinese philosophers’ tales of qi and blood, the herbalists’ stories of ginseng and forsythia and honeysuckle, the shamans’ stories of power plants and power animals, possession and intrusion, the astrologers’ rendition of Aries and Scorpio and which house is which and what to do when Mercury is unseemly and going backwards — or so it seems — and the psychologists’ interpretations and summaries of our stories, whether therefore we are manic or depressive or just plain anal retentive and in need of a certified drug to get us through tough times in our minds.
And knowing these stories, and a few more, I can help a bit, turn a needle at just the right angle in the right place as part of the story of the movement of qi along meridians that carry qi so that the qi is made to flow smoothly and, therefore, the pain goes away; and, I can mix together two or a dozen of roots and leaves and tree bark and a tea is made that fits a Chinese medical theoretical story, your Wood Element being out of whack or a shen that goes bump in the night, and having fit the herbal formula to that story which fits your tale, you feel considerably better, your bowels work as they should and that distress you have always felt when your menstrual cycle reaches a certain point is no longer. And I can beat a drum and find another story inside your spirit and with a song and maybe a dance, maybe your anxiety is assuaged or depression lifted. And I can tell the story of planets and starts and your birth and it is all miraculous again; and you, too, can know a bit, a little bit about your place in the world, where you are going and where you have come from, what your story is and how you fit within yourself.
So, I am someone who knows a story or two or three and more; and the stories and the techniques and therapies that go with the understanding of stories is useful and pain relieving and healthy. I like stories that help! I like happy endings, even if it is really happy middles, not the end of life.
Even though I know that in the present moment, in the reality of the world that holds an infinite variety of tall, short, long, simple and complex stories after stories, that we only ever tell tales of wonder and worry and we can never get it wholly and totally right. Still, we can help.