Robert D. Newman, “Saving the World with Metaphor: Toward an Ecological Poetics” | National Humanities Center

From the Director

Robert D. Newman, “Saving the World with Metaphor: Toward an Ecological Poetics”

May 23, 2018

Los Angeles Review of Books (May 23, 2018)

Recently, a good friend who has practiced and taught transcendental meditation for many years told me a story about a trip to India on the occasion of the death of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, his teacher, the one who famously instructed the Beatles during the 1960s. While there he consulted with a renowned Ayurvedic healer whom he had visited previously. This man’s gift was his ability to diagnose people based on touching the pulse points on their wrists. Scores would come each week seeking his counsel, and despite the volume of consultations and his own advanced age, he seemed always to remember his patients through the touch, even after several years, and could remark on the progress or lack thereof resulting from his prescribed therapy—usually some herbal remedy but sometimes a lifestyle change.

The group with which my friend traveled to pay homage to the Maharishi included a troublesome American woman who continually complained about the unhygienic conditions and general poverty she encountered in India. Her practice of meditation seemed to have little effect on her demeanor, and she often would hijack the conversation with negative rants. One day, my friend tells me, the group was walking down a busy street on their way to visit this pulse healer when the woman, who was once again casting her sour spin on things, suddenly stopped and turned in horrified dismay to her colleagues. A gull had just flown over and let loose on her face so that a white smear was now dripping from her nose — nature’s seeming commentary on her behavior. Temporarily chastened, she wiped her face clean, and they proceeded to their appointment. My friend tells me that the old man, after holding his pulse for about 15 seconds, remembered him and commented on his progress and the need to continue his herbal infusions. When it became the splattered woman’s turn, he held her wrist for a while and offered the following two remedies to alleviate her unbalanced condition: (1) she should watch cartoons daily, and (2) she should go to the local schoolyard and give candy to all the children.

Read the full essay at the Los Angeles Review of Books