Toby Stephens – Clinic Director

  • BSc. Health Sciences (Acupuncture)

  • 6 years Traditional Clinical Apprenticeship in Japan

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Blog

Outside the Box – broader perspective medicine

September 18, 2013

Please enjoy this short story written by my teacher, Edward Obaidey Sensei. It illustrates (amongst other things) the power and extent of the broad view and approach possible in oriental medicine & acupuncture:

 

I would like to tell you a story. It concerns a young man who lived in China a long time ago. His family had high aspirations for him and they made him study hard from boyhood. As the boy grew up he became eligible to sit for the government exams. These were exams that allowed bright young individuals to be assessed and if they showed sufficient merit, they would be selected for government posts. If this happened, the individual was guaranteed a stable and prosperous future both for themselves and their whole family. Not surprisingly, the competition was fierce, a bit like getting into Beijing University today.

A big difference between the exams then and those of today was the time factor. Of course you had to remember loads of classical literature and be able to regurgitate it at will, but you had to do this over a period of three to five days! When I say days, I actually mean days and nights. The examinees had to stay in the exam room continuously for the allotted time period (day and night) and were not allowed out. If you have ever seen these rooms, a few of which are still preserved, you will know what I mean when I say that we’ve got it easy today. The examination rooms were actually individual cells with a little opening where food and drink was passed in and out. No contact was allowed with anybody during the exams.

Anyway, the boy lived in the countryside and was sent by his family to the local big town to take the exams. He tried his utmost and was rewarded with success. He was in! When he was notified about his success, he was overjoyed. He told all his friends and they celebrated for days on end and he was high as a kite. Then he remembered that an old friend of the family lived nearby. In those days it was rude not to inform these sort of people and with Confucian ethics in force, the consequences could be severe.

When he arrived at the old gentleman’s house, he took one look at the young man’s face and said:

You had better make haste, your mother is seriously ill. Return home immediately.

The young man was so dumbstruck, he nearly peed his pants. In the midst of his joy, to be given this grave piece of news was a severe blow to his emotions. All joy left him as he made his way home. His home was three days horseback ride from this big town. He hurried home and at last came into the room where his mother was. She was as healthy as can be and welcomed her son with a beaming face. The young man was so surprised. Nonetheless he still felt like peeing his pants, though this time it was for a different reason.

After that the young man became somewhat ill as a result of his mental and physical exhaustion and spent the next month with his parents recuperating. Upon his return to the city to begin his duties, he returned to the old gentleman’s house. This time he was in a more sombre mood than before. He was now an official employed by the government and thus conducted himself rather differently than before. He was shown into a spacious courtyard room where the sun played idly on the floor and walls giving an amber hue to the room. He noticed while waiting for the old gentleman that he appeared to be in a doctor’s surgery.

The old gentleman at last appeared and smiled mischievously at him. After exchanging rather long formal pleasantries, there was a pause. The young man looked again at the old gentleman. Wisdom softened the strong jaw and the twinkling eyes spoke of a youthfulness belying his age. He began to form a question, actually the question, the whole reason for him being there.

Sir, may I ask you a question. I was wondering …

Before he had formed the question, the old gentleman began to explain in a sing song voice the following:

When you appeared the other day, I took one look and knew that your Kidneys were deficient. On top of that you were overjoyed which brought a lot of pathogenic heat into your Heart. This combined with your exhaustion after your exams put you in a dangerous position. I could see that you were destined for a rather short life, in or out of government, so I acted.

The young man’s face shone with gratitude and he dropped to his knees in a spontaneous gesture of gratitude very nearly peeing his pants in the process. The young man went on to become a very famous high official and regularly visited the old gentleman for treatments and advice.

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