“Deceitfully the painted mirror lied its daily wages.
And all the rages and the storms
In the early morning shower
Or the bath at night,
Coupled as they were
To the noonday washing of his hands.”
As a young man reading about certain ancient Mystics in India who took odd bodily positions and maintained those positions for more than a decade, I developed an imaginary encounter with one of them.
In this fantasy, I was a combination therapist. That is, I not only helped people learn to think about themselves differently, but how to develop new physical habits to merge the body and mind in a united, concerted effort to make the desired changes.
In that fantasy, I was in conversation with one of these mystics who had decided, after years of living with his body twisted, arms directionally distorted, head and neck bent and turned to look continually at a distant tree, that he wanted to change.
“Here is my dilemma,” he said, in a forced harsh whisper. “I have decided that what I really want to do is play tennis.”
I pondered the painful situation he was in. And since it was the kind of fantasy I could play with for a while, and leave, and then return to days or weeks later, there was no rush for me to provide an immediate solution.
Real life is rarely that kind.
As we talked, off and on, while I walked, or sat in the park, or dreamed my way through a meaningless class, he told me how he had come to such opposite life choices. The polarity of his temptations was astounding.
Stricken to his core by the suffering he saw all around him, he left his parents and their lavish home. He wandered, aimlessly at first, through the slums of his city tormented by his feelings of helplessness. His whole body began to feel the kind of twisted turning of our intestines. His only solution was to join a mystic group of fakirs who practiced body positioning, and among them, to find a place where he could shape his body to replicate what he felt.
And then, one morning, as the sun came into the sky it seemed to come at the same time into his darkened soul, and he felt an illumination of understanding: ‘I have done nothing but become numb to the suffering that surrounds me. I am a costume of the despair I once felt.’
He lived into that realization for a week, and then decided to become alive as he could become, and to do that, he needed to make his body graceful and athletic. He decided to learn to play tennis.
In my fantasy, we met the day after his decision. I was tasked with helping him become the new person he wanted to become.
The Hunched Man was also twisting himself to fit; to become the good boy, grown into his understanding of what a worthwhile young man should look like. His new watch had become a talisman worn to protect him from the overwhelming suffering that seeped in and out of his pores each day. He kissed it, held it to his forehead, and kissed it again in the morning before putting in on, and he repeated that ritual every night upon taking if off.