One of my favorite stories from Antiquity is that of The Five Blind Men and the Elephant.
Supposedly its provenance is Buddhist. This is the story: these Five Blind Men are located at different parts of the elephant from the trunk to the tail, and each gives a report on the piece of the elephant he can touch. All he can do is feel it and try to describe what he feels. Each of them thinks he has the whole elephant. The one at the trunk says the elephant is this, and then the one at the tail says the elephant is that, and so it goes, as Vonnegut might have put it. None of them really can grasp the whole elephant, only pieces.
The implication of the story is clear. It takes everyone to see the whole, pooling all of their knowledge. I have used the idea to help myself, and maybe some others, understand the political landscape, for example, or what’s going on in an organization. The story can help people be more tolerant of another point of view, once they realize the limited scope of their particular lens.
I also think there’s a way, though, in which every part of the elephant, trunk to tail, is suffused with the elephant nature, pachyderm essence, the core of “elephant-ness,” if you will. No matter what part you have, it is still all elephant, even if not the whole.
I was thinking about elephant-ness, recently, while lying on the acupuncture table. Elephant-ness and man-ness and what our Legacy Magazine is about. The title of this column is Craig Jones Notebook, but I like to think of it as having the subtitle An Inquiry into the Soul of the American Man. My inquiry is every man’s inquiry, my being is akin to every man’s being, no matter how different we seem to be superficially. One of the truly great gifts of being on a men’s team for twenty seven years has been the realization that, as one man likes to say, we are not terminally unique.
If you could cut out a cross section of my thoughts and examine it closely under microscope, it would look familiar, somehow. You’d look and you’d say, yup, been there, thought that, too. Which is why I was on the acupuncture table, needles grouped in me strategically like little arrows, thinking thoughts for an hour and knowing there are men out there who’ve had them, too.
The first time I ever had acupuncture was also my first earthquake, while we were living in San Francisco. I mean you couldn’t make this shit up, you really couldn’t, unless it actually happened to you. I was in the room, she had just left me with the needles in, she put on the flute music, turned the lights down and said she’d be back in a little while to check on me. As soon as she closed the door I felt this rumble and I said holy shit, this is some seriously detoxifying stuff. No wonder it’s lasted for thousands of years. Jesus, this is better than sex. As soon as I was thinking that, she came back in and said we’re having an earthquake and if it keeps on going I’ll have to take out the needles. Seriously, you could not make that up. What I thought was the acupuncture was a 4.6 rumbling down the street like a like an 18-wheeler.
Anyway, tonight I was trying to get comfortable on the table and wondering if acupuncture really helps. I was estimating with my internal clock how long until an hour passed and was completely lost about that. The sensation after the needles reminds me of a little cortisone shot.
I came home afterwards and asked my little Amazon Alexa to play Carlos Nakai (Native American flute music), which she obligingly did, and then I put on some incense and I looked for the note from Karen she always leaves when she goes somewhere and sure enough it was there taped to the wine, the first place she knew I would look, and it said “I love you so much! I miss you already” and there were six hearts drawn on a pink piece of construction paper..
I drank my first glass too fast, not mindfully, and there are signs of her everywhere, like the laundry she did today and all the cooking and the pink note she left and I was thinking about the song “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone,” by Bill Withers. Then I was grateful for my warm car, warm clothes and the quiet and wondering would my email get there to my west coast editor faster than Karen gets to Long Beach, where she’s flying for a weekend with her sisters.
I had been anxious to get home and pound some wine, but I didn’t actually, and was more temperate than I thought I would be. Then I thought about the current coverage of “locker room talk” and what a gift women really are, oh my God, yes.
Watching chicks, man, it’s like a fashion runway at the store, from the front door to my department, a work benefit right up there with health insurance. I remember that one wearing camo pants and black high heels and a white top and necklace. How does a woman pull that off?
I think about that customer, one of the several to whose image I have jerked off, and wonder who gets to have sex with her, what kind of man? It hurts to masturbate, that’s a tough reality right now, and it’s hard to imagine asking someone to watch me like Louis CK did. Karen has only watched me a few times and she’s my wife for Christ’s sake.
Then I thought of that joke about what the most sensitive part of a man’s body is when he’s masturbating. Of course, it’s his ears, listening for footsteps. I thought the point of masturbating was privacy. What’s up with that, Louis CK?
So the air is filling up with smoky vanilla from the incense and I remembered reading that all odors are particulate, and I poured another half glass, and I still thought about snapping one off, but it’s too painful with my shoulder now, and I still had this inebriate lightness after the acupuncture.
I was thinking about coming home and reading the new Michael Connelly, watching movies just to transition and shut down, take a shit with the bathroom door open, and that made me think of what you do when your significant other is not home and gone away for awhile.
The point is, I could also jot down notes from grocery shopping, going to the gym, watching a Patriots game, being at a team meeting, my working day, anything, anything at all, doesn’t matter, and other men would say, “Yup, been there.” An acupuncture table is as good a place as any other to look into the soul of the American man.