Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Words, words, words!

So many words to read in so many different books and in so many different languages, and so little time to do this in!  I have a large pile of books sitting waiting for me to read – books I have borrowed from the local library (most of them), books I have bought secondhand from Oxfam or on-line, and then (just a few) books I have bought for myself using a generous book token given to me for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Looking at this pile, I realise again, as I have increasingly begun to realise, that I have no chance of re-reading any but a few of the many of my own books filling my book- cases.  Sometimes I look longingly at volumes of Marcel Proust (in French, of course – being a linguist), which are waiting hopefully for me to open their pages again, many, many years after I used them to work on as part of an (unsuccessful) postgraduate degree.  I say to myself that if I decide to submerge myself once again in Proust’s glorious French I will not be able to read anything new for at least a few months – and I don’t want to sacrifice for this the time I would like to dedicate to discovering some exciting new writer who will open my eyes to a new world of words.

The only writers I have regularly re-read in the past are some of the classical authors, such as Dickens, Trollope or George Eliot, and, perhaps considered slightly odd, some old-fashioned detective stories which belonged to my mother and to which I return again and again as they envelop me in a familiar and comfortable world of the past, such as Ellis Peters or Patricia Wentworth.

I now have an absolute font of knowledge about good detective stories.  As for many people, they are my escape into a fantasy world where the good always triumphs and the bad is eventually defeated.  In the real world the opposite often seems to be true, and particularly so now.  In these very uncertain times, I need an escape route like this which goes some way to relieving some of the distress I feel at what is happening in the world outside.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The filter our element lays between us and the world

The more I try to teach people about the elements, the more I realize that over the years I have worked out my own personal, possibly rather idiosyncratic way of interpreting the signals a patient’s elements are sending me, and using these as pointers to a particular element.  I imagine that all experienced five element acupuncturists must do the same.  None of these pointers will be exactly those other practitioners have discovered, because everything we experience has to pass through the filter with which our guardian element envelops us.  Even though some of the impressions we receive from a patient may have some similarity with those which others will experience, we will each put our own interpretation upon them.

I was reminded of this a few days ago when I ran a seminar with Guy Caplan.  He is Metal and I am Fire, so inevitably we see life through two very different filters.  This was emphasized for me when both of us were interacting with a very lively Fire patient.  As usual, whenever I am in the presence of Fire in another person I relax because I can feel that I am on familiar ground.  So this particular patient, though very much out of control Fire, did not prove a problem for me to treat.  On the contrary, I felt I knew exactly how she needed to be treated, which was in a robust, quite challenging way, my Fire, as it were, blazing away to control her overheated Fire.  Guy, on the other hand, told me that he found her exaggerated gaiety uncomfortable to deal with, and would have taken longer to work out how to react to it and contain it.  We can interpret this as hot Fire threatening to melt Metal, whilst hot Fire just makes me feel, not perhaps always completely comfortable to be with, but certainly not difficult to deal with.

This is why as practitioners we should do all that we can to find out what our particular element is, recognize its qualities, make allowances for its weaknesses, and take all these factors into account when dealing with our patients.  This is not an easy task, because we all have a tendency to think that when we have an uneasy relationship with our patient the fault lies in them not in us.  It is good to remind ourselves at intervals that this is not so.  Often it is the balance of the elements within us, particularly that of our guardian element, which is shaping our relationship to our patient, and perhaps distorting it in some way which we fail to recognize.



Friday, November 11, 2016

A new world order perhaps?

I find it exhilarating – both fascinating and appalling – to be a witness to the enormous events of the past few months, now culminating in Trump’s triumph.  These events are called seismic, because, like earthquakes, they burst out and demolished much of the old political order.  First we had Brexit, and now we have Trump (Brexit, Brexit plus plus as he himself said).  Brexit was bad enough to deal with, and many of us, me included, are still unable properly to deal with it (which is why I now wear a badger proudly proclaiming “Brexit does not mean Brexit”, to be obtained from Joy Gerrard at, who very kindly designed this at my request).

Being appalled by what is happening in this country and the US is, in my view, easy – but to see this as forming part of some kind of important trend in the history of the world is much harder to envisage.  This only became possible for me after I heard Madeleine Albright, the US Senator and former Secretary of State, giving a very illuminating talk on the BBC Today programme yesterday.  Among other things, she said that “the social contract has been broken.  People are talking to their government with 21st century technology,  the government hears them with 20th century technology, and answers them with 19th century technology.”  I interpret this as meaning that there is a huge disconnect between how we are now governed and how we need to be governed in this new world of ours.  And what can be seen as the protest votes of all those who supported Jeremy Corbyn or voted for Brexit or have sent Trump to the White House are all signs of this huge disconnect.

Perhaps we are now seeing the last dying struggles of the old order, in which the money and power of the elite 1% has dominated over the feelings of inadequacy and abandonment of the remaining 99%.  Seen from this viewpoint, the triumphs of Jeremy Corbyn, the Brexiteers and Trump represent a powerful uprising of those who feel dispossessed and marginalized against an established order which has so far always favoured the advantaged, a sad symbol of this being the mantra of “austerity” imposed for many years upon the disadvantaged in many countries from Greece to this country.

Maybe, then, what we are seeing happening now are the death throes of one world order and the inevitable birth pangs of another hopefully more enlightened one.  It may be fanciful of me to hope that this is so, but hope is what we need when what has seemed to be a dark pall of despair has hung over us for so long.  We need now to hope for a breakthrough to a better world which will build itself slowly on the ruins of the breakdown we are witnessing today.

This is why I like to read the blog written by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister., to be found at, because he and those working with him throughout the world are endeavouring to make the case for a new world order.  This gives me hope that there are enough people out there not content just to complain about the state of the world but to do something about it. ,