I heard some sad news recently: a brilliant man has closed his acupuncture practice due to illness. The loss of his genius as a healing artist is profound, and I grieve for that, and for the fact that he likely is suffering. It’s possible that death isn’t far off. This man—I’ll call him Dr. A—has the kind of genius that to me sets him apart from the merely super-intelligent; his mind seems to function on a different plane. His quirky sense of humor, his intuition, his nonchalant utterings of “Oh, I can fix that”—all things I remember vividly, though my main interaction with him took place 25 years ago.
What I’m realizing, though, in thinking about this man, is how he opened my eyes to a way of thinking I’d had no exposure to as a child and young woman. I grew up in a household where conventional thinking reigned. Illness sent you to doctors who practiced Western medicine; there were no other options. It seems odd to me now, since my family’s lineage can be traced to uneducated people in tiny villages in Italy who laid bricks and mended nets and worked wood or the land, that these people who probably were superstitious and very close to the natural world did not pass on what I imagine would have been a more fluid sense of existence. Perhaps they did, and my branch of the family somehow missed out on it. But it wasn’t until my first acupuncture treatment that I learned that Western medicine doesn’t have all the answers and that there are other ways of perceiving and thinking about the world than the ones I grew up with. I don’t mean different opinions, political bents, religious beliefs—I mean different ideas about the nature and potential of the human mind and body.
Dr. A is very much on my mind, but I take heart in the words my new doctor said to me yesterday. Listening to my pulses, he asked, “Do you practice any kind of art?”
“I write,” I said.
“It would be good if you could make more room in your life for art.”
I looked at him, startled. It’s the kind of thing Dr. A would have said.