I’m reading an interesting book called, “The Ascent of Humanity“. The author talks about how early peoples probably didn’t think in terms of symbolism.
What that means is that they understood symbols to be the thing that they were representing. In other words, a picture of the sun WAS the sun, not just a photographic or hand drawn representation. I was thinking about this in terms of acupuncture, which was no doubt being observed and understood around the time period the author is talking about.
From my Western point of view, we see the elements in the body as being LIKE the things in nature. For instance, the liver, which is considered the wood element, behaves LIKE wood does in nature. What if the communication was not that the liver is LIKE wood, but rather the liver IS wood. It is the living wood inside the body. With enough water it expands and grows and blooms and later on in time it may be harvested or will set seeds to create something new. As an acupuncturist my mind takes that as a sort of metaphor. Spiritually or emotionally or even physically, I need enough of the water element to allow my creativity to grow and expand. It will bear fruit at some point and then I will have seeded a new idea or where I will grow. What if I take that more literally? What if I really envision that part of my body growing and changing and absorbing water and clearing out the stagnant ponds that may exist in it’s thirst and using that grow and change? How does taking this literally change the way I view the medicine?
I get this little aha that suggests it is deepening my understanding. I can’t explain in words exactly how that changes. Likely it is because it is so culturally ingrained to interpret through metaphor (culturally the author of Ascent suggests that we like to think of ourselves as apart from nature which is why this is so ingrained) that I don’t even have words to describe the differences.
I think it helps me remember the cyclical nature of things in both my body and the world. To be wood, there will be times when creativity is lowered. There will be times when it bears fruit and other times when things fall to the ground (and create more fertile soil for further fruiting). There will be times when everything seems to be growing and changing and there is so much creativity that it can’t be stopped. While the seasonal nature of the world offers some clues as to when this will happen, some years are better than others. A year of drought will likely mean less creativity that year. However, a year of good rain (just enough) will allow further creativity that is likely to bear more fruit later on.
I know that I frequently think about trying to force my body into better health. This mind set allows me to flow with my body. It opens to the possibility that everything is as it should be. I hope that I can communicate these ideas to my patients more fully.