This will likely be the strangest blog I’ve written to date, so strange that I’m not sure even I believe the words I’m typing. My acupuncturist earlier today said about this that I shouldn’t try to rationalize it, I should just be it, or something like that. So I’m immediately ignoring his advice by writing this piece. I mean, It’s what I do, I write. The question is, is there something else that I do? So here goes….
A number of years ago, a colleague of mine with whom I’d had somewhat of a friendship suffered a massive heart attack. In fact, he died seven times on the operating table. When I found out, I felt that I had to do something. Knowing that he was the Coordinator of Multicultural Affairs at the College and very interested in the cultural roots of himself and others, I found, called and made an appointment with a small store in Manhattan specializing in African and Indian artifacts. After much exploration, I settled on and bought a small Ethiopian medicine bag. The next day, I took a trip to the Bronx, to see my mother and then have her drive me to the hospital in which he was struggling to survive, and, with my son, sneak up to his room and leave the charm. He has largely recovered and is back to work. At first he was confused because he had once bought himself one identical to it.
I had a student who was nodding off and falling behind. When I talked to her I found out why. She was on pain killers because of the cancer that ravaged much of her young body and the treatments she was undergoing. She fell into my arms sobbing. When she told me that she was a Buddhist, I knew what I had to do. Since I had begun seasonal pilgrimages to my home away from home, Woodstock, anyway, I quickly planned one, with a certain peaceful Buddhist store I had previously visited in mind. I bought her a healing Buddha, and, to her great surprise, gave it to her after class at our next meeting. She came up just short of completing the semester, but I gave her a B+, as I remember, one of only two times I have ever given a student a projected rather than realized grade. The other one had been posthumous, and it seemed that this student’s fate would soon be the same. She wrote me a beautiful letter, which I still have, and then disappeared, and since I found myself unable to contact her for years thereafter I assumed the worst. Recently I made brief contact, long enough to find out that she is alive and healthy and happy, and still has the Buddha.
I also had a colleague, a friend whom I became very fond of, and who (spoiler alert) will probably be reading this. She was diagnosed with M.S., and after struggling for a few semesters with her memory and balance, this wonderful teacher had to reconcile herself to the fact that she could no longer teach. She would be moving to the West Coast to be near her sister, and a going away party was arranged in her honor. I knew she had a fascination with things Medieval, so I found a small Celtic statuette which I presented to her in private. I think she may have misunderstood the intention, as I discovered that she was using it to protect her garden rather than, as was my purpose, herself. Nonetheless, although I haven’t asked her about her health, she is, now many years later, most often the first one responding or reposting when it comes to my many political diatribes on Facebook, and appears to still have that sense of humor and force of spirit that endeared her to so many colleagues and students here.
And then there is Anthony Colletti, Sr., the late Anthony Colletti, Sr., my would-be father-in-law, who died this past week. Tony lived his life in pain, but the previous time he was in the hospital he was going downhill. After a little research, I decided on an Italian horn pendant, and got one for him. His daughter, my girlfriend, who is much more open to spiritual possibilities than I have been, swears that he began to recover soon after putting it on. Unfortunately, or at least that’s how I feel, he wasn’t wearing it this time. It seems to be hiding somewhere, and I hope we can find it so I can give it to his son, who is, to be blunt, slowly killing himself, while there is still time at least for his rescue.
As many of you know, my son was diagnosed as a toddler with Classic Autism. I did my best to give him supports, advocacy, dedication, fumbles in the dark and love. Since the whole matter of Autism is still so misunderstood, it is impossible to say that he is mostly “cured,” but he is both the most social and the most brilliant person I know, with limitless potential for unimaginable success. And, along the way, I’ve picked up some “wounded birds” whom I’ve tried to heal, most notably one who, a decade and a half ago, staggered into, of any place she could have chosen, my office, asking me to help her not commit suicide. She credits me with saving her life three times over the years, and even though, when her self-destructiveness turned from suicide threats to cutting to anorexia, there was nothing left in my arsenal anymore but to distance myself so as to not be an enabler, she is still alive and, inexplicably, relatively healthy.
So what does this all mean? It’s probably all coincidence, right? Why do I have this urgent call to some mysterious action when someone is sick? And where did these ideas about what to get come from? Is it merely the kind of “magical thinking” I teach about in child psychology, while never considering the possibility that such thinking might not be the undeveloped, unreal state of cognition that Piaget claimed it to be, that maybe magic in some form and universe actually exists? And Physicists and Buddhists agree, at least to my limited knowledge of both, that reality is only a matter of perspective anyway, don’t they? I try to apply my middling knowledge of psychology to “fix” people, with or without their consent, isn’t that what my son says? When ego or lust or pettiness didn’t get in the way, didn’t I, more often than not, leave the someone with whom I had a relationship better than before we met, or would I just like to think so? I could be working on my latest novel, but instead find myself morosely addicted to political Facebook exchanges because I have to do something to miraculously heal the world of its bigotry, injustice and war, don’t I? Is all of this wishful thinking inwardly or outwardly directed? Is it all delusion and self-aggrandizement, or is something more afoot? “They” say that we have a purpose in life. I’ve always thought we should find purpose, but never quite believed “them” that we are given it, so is the ability to heal others inherent in all people, or in none, or is it a special gift? And if it is a gift, why did it take until I am so old to unwrap it, and what would I do with it now?
Perhaps my acupuncturist is right, and since he’s been waiting patiently for the latest blog, that’s the least I can concede. Maybe expressing all this changes or even disempowers it. Maybe parallel realities are supposed to stay that way. You see, I’m slowly catching on. It’s clear I don’t know what to think, and maybe that’s the clarity. Or is this, instead, all a bunch of wannabe Jew-Bu bullshit and I’m just trying to find a different way of rationalizing irrationality. So let’s drop this for now, and we’ll see what happens next time. I already suspect whom the next trinket will be for, but won’t give any thought to what it will be until called upon, whether it be by practicality or destiny. After all, purpose or not, gift or not, reality or not, if one could, who wouldn’t want to be a healer?