196: “One Disease, Long Life” (Benjamin Hoff)

                “A saying from the area of Chinese medicine would be appropriate to mention here: ‘One disease, long life; no disease, short life.’ […] Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not.”
                -Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

                I’ve been diagnosed with piriformis syndrome, and it’s wonderful. I mean, okay, the actual having of it is a bit of a pain: a little pear-shaped (hear the latin? Piriformis?) muscle in my butt is too tight and inflamed, so it rubs against my sciatic nerve, and ouch. But still, it’s wonderful. Because as far as I can tell, I got my piriformis in a bunch by slouching at my desk, hanging on muscles instead of supported by bones, and carrying my backpack on one shoulder, and stressing so much at work that I stopped doing other things. You know, like walking. Like moving through the trees near my house, and noticing that the junipers nearby have something called cedar apple rust (which is gross, and beautiful, in a weird way), and that once every year a happy crop of baby spiders sail through the sky on silk strings, land in fields, and leave a world webbed with tracing light. And there are foxes. And friends, sometimes, to go walking with.
                By the way, the spiders fly by using electric fields.
                “One disease, long life; no disease, short life.” I’m a little uncomfortable learning about Taoism from someone named Benjamin Hoff, but all the same, ever since I read that line it just makes sense. I think I might well have gone on obsessing about work and forgetting to move for weeks at a time if a little pear-shaped muscle hadn’t have started saying ow. But it did. Now, mostly, I remember to walk, and when I don’t, there’s a building ache that says go do that. And then I realize that the ground is thick with today’s rain.
                Perhaps being hurt, being imperfect, being limited isn’t so bad. If I understand my anatomy (and I don’t, really, except in as much as a certain piriformis is explaining it to me), it’s the rigidity of bones and the pull of muscles that lets a body move. Or to put it another way: when he was teaching us to write poetry, Richard Wilbur said that a poetic form would be a cage when we started. And then, at some point, the cage would become a scaffolding in which we could build.
                Look at that (says Hoff, or Pooh): we all come with our own cages, our own bars beyond which we cannot go. And those bars can be the ladders we climb.

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