Lessons come to you daily in all shapes and from all directions. You generally only need to keep an eye or an ear out for them, and sometimes, as in my case, an inability to walk and aching bones.
My most recent life lesson recently came in the form of a bearded osteopath from Les Vosges, the mountains to the east of France, in between two cities of healing, one of mineral water and one of famous baths I think.
He was imported to Congo by some of his faithful clients, like some gastronomic cheese one can’t live without.
I saw the ad pinned to the cheap board outside the “Sporty Beach” restaurant, in between the sale of a fridge and a generator, and I knew this was going to be it.
He unfolded his Crayola sea-green professional table and read all my bones with an imperceptible touch. He fixed all of the old ankle sprains, mis-alignements, inflammations, sprained cervicals, painful vertebrae, contracted spasmic muscles and phantom pains that I had started to live with and adjust my life around.
There was a lot to fix. And I slept for two days after that, constantly parched, swimming up from my sleepy coma only to drink more and take consciousness of how profusely I was sweating, and realize I wasn’t in pain anymore before sinking back into alternatively fitful and deep sleeps.
But as my health was unfolding under his hands, the most important lesson was his beautiful life. He talked about his calling and his long arduous studies, and his specialization in so many different types of osteopathy as to make anyone head’s spin. And about how fulfilled he was in his practice, for the last 24 years, 14 hours a day, with no vacation, and how upon taking up a medical profession he’d abandoned vacations and used his free time to simply regenerate himself by cooking gourmet French food, learned from his grandmothers.
He talked simply but excitedly about what he was seeing in my aches and pains, what the story of my bones were, about how much he loved getting to know people and interact with them in his work that he loved so much, and about particular patients of his that had taught him huge lessons about the body’s miraculous and extraordinary interrelationship. He talked about the people he treated in the villages who sometimes couldn’t pay him, and of his stone house in the village of ten.
Work is worship.
Some spiritual aphorisms remain meaningless in the profoundest sense, even if you’ve lived them and experienced them and believed them your whole life sometimes, until you meet a walking example, a pure example. It’s like seeing an illustration of the truth, something affecting and beautiful, that you always think about with gratitude.
I will be thinking about his courageous, his noble and beautiful life for a long time still…