Friday, February 12, 2010

Reading between the lines

I've been seeing a new physical therapist for my unremitting lower-back pain. This one is a specialist in Feldekrais, a technique developed by an Israeli physicist and judo practitioner of the same name. My PT spends up to two hours at a time inspecting my (lousy) posture, pursing his lips, performing mysterious layings-on of hands, positioning my parts in unflattering positions and uttering a few very carefully chosen words.

His utterances are so carefully constructed (judging from his name, which has a lot of consonants, especially J's, I think he's Polish, so that may explain part of his carefulness) and pithy, I try to memorize each pronouncement. Then I mull it over at home to elicit the maximum amount of meaning. It's like having my own guru.

One of the first things he said to me was that the body tells your entire emotional and physical story. And he told me a few things about myself: that I was embarrassed about being tall, that I subscribed to a no-pain-no-gain philosophy and pushed myself beyond my comfort zone, and so forth. Nothing earthshaking.

But it got me to thinking about how a single artifact or snapshot in time can reveal much about the past and predict much about the future. The other day, my friend A offered to lend me a hardbound memoir by Patti Smith about her long relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and after she left, I opened the book, and a receipt fell out. On the receipt, it was noted that she was given a 25% members discount. And on the lower righthand corner was scribbled in her handwriting "Ganesh." Now, even if I didn't know A, I would suddenly have a wealth of information. I would know that she's "old school" in that she shops in brick-and-mortar bookstores rather than online, that she values "good things" enough to buy a hardback rather than a paperback, that she's a reader (or at least enough of one that it was worth it to her to pay dues to join the bookstore members club), that she's retroflective, that she has an interest in esoterica and perhaps a desire to move the obstacles in her life.

Am I right, A?


A said...

Cool! You nailed me exactly -- as well as teaching me a new word, "retroflective." Thank you. But I'm not sure about "esoterica"--isn't Smith fairly main stream? And I suddenly remembered Ganesh! She is an older African American B&N sales clerk who rang up the sale. We chatted about hot books, meditation and ashrams, to which she had devoted extended periods of her life. Thanks for your astute analysis and for reminding me of Ganesh's sweetness. I hope you enjoyed the book. A

Mia said...

I was assuming "Ganesh" was a ref to the Hindu god, remover of obstacles, and thus indicative of an interest in esoterica (i.e., Hindu gods) and obstacle removal. Never dreamed it was a real person!

A said...

Correct on both counts. Ganesh, the Hindu remover of obstacles, is the god for whom the inspired and inspiring salesclerk at B&N had been renamed. Must have been from her ashram days. How rich it was to connect with someone at an ordinary checkout counter who had a background in such esoterica. You never know. (And this blog is great!) A