Vitamins. Chiropractic treatment. Aroma therapy. Magnet therapy. Healing crystals. Music therapy. Acupuncture. Meditation. Tai Chi. Ghosts. UFOs. Mind control. Alien Hand Syndrome. Breast feeding until the early teen years. Spontaneous combustion. Suspended animation. Astral projections. Amnesia. Freemasons. Reincarnation. Karma. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Real life zombies. Gluten free diets.
The list of things I ride the fence on is endless. As a son of the South, I peer at odd new ideas or old exotic ones with a slight suspicious squint, but it’s the duty of every New Yorker to keep an open mind. My mind is open. As soon as it begins to close, new evidence appears to sow a seed of doubt or a small bud of hope that something I disdained is worthy of new respect. I read an article and change my opinion. Then I talk with a friend and revise that opinion. Possibly I should take a stand and say “stuff and nonsense” to all these things at some point. Maybe I am just wishy washy and should let the new age notions I can’t quite embrace take hold.
I am on a subway train and a new acquaintance is describing how he uses his Didgeridoo to heal a broken spirit. He puts one end of it up against the person’s chest and blows into it from another end. The vibrations are healing and soothing and rhythmic. You mean like a mother’s womb? I ask. Sort of, he says. Only it sounds nothing like that, he explains. Touching someone with a didgeridoo sounds immoral and possibly illegal in some states. But no, it’s just a healing thing. He’s convincing in his argument that this improves the person. Since I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a didgeridoo, I guess I’ll just take his word for it.
I believe in the power of massage therapy. Put me down for a yes on that one. Deep tissue. Hot stones. Yes. And yes. One year for our anniversary, Robyn arranged for us both to get massages at Grove Park Inn’s Spa in Asheville, North Carolina. We got in robes and waited for our masseurs to arrive. I pictured a small Asian woman. That’s a stereotype. I should let go of such notions. But when an average-sized white guy showed up in the waiting area I unconsciously clutched my lounge robe a little tighter. The massage was bought and paid for. I had no real rational grounds for objection, just a preference for a female touch.
Cue the pan flutes. The candles. It’s all happening. I am comfortable with my masculinity. I said that to myself in my head several times, and it was reassuring. The hot stones. Yeah, the hot stones. It’s all good. “How was your massage?” Robyn asked later. “Good. A dude did it, but I was OK with that.” She nodded. A dude did her massage too, she said. I decided I was comfortable in my masculinity and my marriage and let it go.
A year or two ago I read about the US Army’s attempts to explode the hearts of goats with their minds and to use astral projection to sneak behind enemy lines and gather intelligence. One theory the folks behind the effort had was that physical reality was an artificial construct. Walking through a wall should theoretically be possible if one concentrates and believes hard enough that it is. That is our tax dollars at work, and you can read “The Men Who Stare at Goats” (or watch the movie of the same name) for a good laugh or as a cautionary tale on New Age concepts run amok in the U.S. Military.
One of my favorite movies of all time is “Army of Darkness” starring Bruce Campbell as a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court with a chainsaw that straps into his arm where his right hand used to be. He uses the chainsaw and a shotgun from “S Mart” to great effect against the evil undead hordes that attack him in medieval times. That movie is the end of a trilogy. In a prior movie we see our hero cutting off his own hand after it “went bad” in a horrifying case of Alien Hand Syndrome. I am on board with Alien Hand Syndrome when used for dramatic purposes, but I remain on the fence with it in real life. Until my hand goes bad, I guess.
I remember when the baseball player Ted Williams frozen body was under much debate. His head had been separated from the rest of his body at a cryogenics facility, and there was some debate as to the disposition of his remains. He believed, apparently, that he could be frozen in a state of suspended animation and restored to life later by some miraculous process in the future. What fun! But would his lifetime batting average suffer or benefit if he were reanimated and returned to the major leagues with his head reattached? That’s my burning question.
A good friend pays for her dog to receive Cranial Sacral Therapy to relieve his pain. Do you mean he gets a head massage? She swears it works. OK then. A third cousin once removed has Diverticulitis. This just sounds made up. Maybe he’s not removed enough. You can’t digest corn? How hard are you trying? No, really, he says. OK then.
Palmistry. Brain Games. Feng Shui. Handwriting Analysis. Lie Detector Tests. Collateral Damage. Parallel Universes. Sleepwalking. African Sleeping Sickness. Stigmata. Voodoo.
You can’t stay on the fence forever. When some enlightened New Yorker is waxing on about the benefits of breast feeding children until they are ten years old, I suppose I’ll have to weigh in as a traditionalist from the South even if I’m dismissed as a troglodyte bore. “When he can ask for his mother’s milk, he’s too old to receive it,” I’ll say. Although this does seem especially cruel and ironic.