There once was a young man, only sixty or seventy, and he had started thinking he was old. Now thinking that one is old entails a lot of misery, and the old fellow started thinking that his joints were stiff, and so they were stiff. And, he thought maybe he had diabetes, so he had diabetes, and a lot of other stuff.
But, that was okay, reasoned the fellow, he had lived a good life. It was just a fact of life that he get old and miserable. That’s the way it had been through the ages, so why would it be different for him?
So he hobbled through the streets of life, becoming more and more bent over, feeling the aches and pains, and eventually he started thinking that maybe it was time to forget about life. Go on from the body. Die.
And, after one particularly brutal day of dealing with his pain, feeling his impending mortality (and – truth – being glad of it!) he went to bed. Maybe tonight he would get out of his body and waft away.
The night stretched, the idle chatter of minds subsided, and the old man was stunned to find himself standing in a throne room, and sitting on the throne was Buddha!
Tears streamed down the old man’s face, and he hobbled towards the throne.
“Oh, Great Buddha!” rejoiced the oldster, “You have come to take me away!”
Buddha raised his head, ceased his eternal meditation (a meditation, it might be described, in which he kept total and constant tabs on ALL beings in the universe, and all the universes ever) and opened his eyes.
Golden light washed over the old and half crippled man, and he fell to his knees under the onslaught of pure bliss.
But Buddha said, “It is you who came to me. Besides, what use do I have for a cripple?”
Shocked, the old and near dead senior citizen type dropped his jaw and opened his eyes.
“But… but… “
Buddha stood up and glared down on the kneeling one. “I’m not a butt… I’m a Buddha, and it would be well to remember that!”
Pure bliss turned to terror, and the old man shriveled and cringed.
But such an action was not what the Lord Buddha wanted, and he took pity on the poor creature kneeling before him. He descended from his mighty throne, lifted the man to his feet, and they were both instantly transported to Buddha’s eternal garden.
There, in paradise, song birds trilling gently and flowers spritzing their elegant perfume into the heavenly air, Buddha walked the old man.
“Old fellow,” said the Buddha kindly, “You have misconstrued.”
They stopped while Buddha shone his heavenly light upon a baby deer. The mother deer immediately bounded over a nearby leafy shrub and nuzzled the baby deer lovingly.
“Life is not to be an inertia of pain until you give up… it is to be a healthy joy of living, of experiences and friends and discovery of the truth.”
“But, Lord Buddha, I don’t understand!”
“Then think upon this simplicity: you have two tools. One is your integrity, and the other is your imagination. Your integrity is intact, you lived a good life, didn’t kick dogs or shave cats, so that is not the problem. The problem is that you have come to believe in the inertia of pain, and that it cannot be solved.”
Light began to seep through the old fellow’s age bound cranium, and his eyes flickered in dawning awareness. “I think I understand, but… how can I use the imagination to… to undo the inertia of pain?”
“That is the problem, isn’t it? I suggest you use whatever the discipline you have used throughout your life.”
Buddha disappeared. The garden evaporated as if it had never been (though it would be forever in the old fellow’s mind). Only the scent of eternal flowers remained, and that as if a distant memory.
The old fellow lay on his bed. It was three o’clock in the morning, and he knew the truth: it was always darkest before dawn.
But how could he find that dawn? How could he imagine himself back to the good health that the Lord Buddha expected of one?
For several, long minutes the old fellow lay in the dark. He felt his pains. He felt the pain of arthritis, of low blood sugar and all the ailments that went with it.
His integrity was intact, he just had to use his imagination, and he suddenly understood something about imagination. It was what you made up. And, if you made things up good enough, you could change things. If you imagined… you could change life. The trick was to have enough discipline to do that.
So what was his discipline?
He had been a contractor. Built houses. Put in swimming pools. Built hotels. Fixed things. And… wait a minute! He fixed things? So all he had to do was imagine himself fixing his body!
So thinking, excited over his epiphanies, the old man closed his eyes.
He imagined himself in his body. He imagined the body as space, and the flesh as encasing walls. He imagined the contours of his body from the inside.
Since he was lying down it was pretty easy to walk around inside his body, so he walked over to one shoulder.
The shoulder had been bothering him a lot, so he climbed onto the bones and began really looking. Huh! There was some black stuff slathered around the joint! That must be the arthritis! And, as soon as he realized that, he imagined a bucket of goo in his hand, and a brush in the other hand.
He slathered on the goo, knowing that it would eat at the black slime, and, sure enough, there was a bubbling, and the black slime was loosened.
He imagined a towel and began blotting up the arthritis in his shoulder. When he was done, me tossed the towel away, and it disappeared while it was still in flight.
Then he looked down the leg. Poor circulation. Toes hurt, felt inflamed. He walked down the length of one leg and reached the foot. Such a strange shape, the foot, and he saw that it had a bunch of curves that were good for catching… stuff. And, sure enough, stuff and gathered in his toes, and the swirling energies of his body had began swirling around, instead of through the toes.
He pulled out a power drill with a big, ball shaped, fluffy drill bit. He inserted the drill bit in his toes, and he began drill out the stuff, the calcification or whatever it was, from his toes. He drilled quickly and efficiently, and the ball-shaped drill bit flared, and soon his toes were empty, and the energies of his body began to circulate. And he knew that as the energies circulated, so did blood and good health.
Finally, done with all ten toes, feeling like tap dancing, he stood back and inspected his work. He was satisfied with his workmanlike job, but why had such obnoxious material gathered in his toes in the first place? How had the calcification, or whatever it was, come to gather in–
He blinked. To imagine the question was to get the answer, and he saw the culprit. His pancreas!
He walked out of the legs and went into the room of the fleshy machine that was his internal organs.
The organs were laid out in a circle, each one leading to another, with minor connecting lines running this way and that over the floor of his back. He stepped over the lines and stood over the pancreas.
The pancreas lay there, weak and quivering, gasping and dying, and the old fellow knew that he had been remiss. So he gave his pancreas CPR. He bent and massaged the faithful organ, bent it over and patted its back, hugged it.
The pancreas began to respond. Though it had no eyes, it emitted gratitude. And it began to exude from its hide the correct balance of sugar.
Suddenly, the old fellow realized it was near dawn, almost time to awake.
He had done a good job, and he knew he would be feeling better the next day.
Yes, he might have to turn contractor and fix his body on the following night, might have to do it several times, but then… he might not.
After all, imagination was a pretty powerful tool. With a little integrity that tool could be used to chisel, blot, hack, slather, put up ladders to hard to reach places, and do anything in the universe.
And, so thinking, he suddenly found himself awake. He opened his eyes and sunlight flooded through the window. He sat bolt upright.
“Dear?” asked his wife next to him, “Are you all right?”
The old fellow moved his shoulders, stretched, yawned, and said, “Actually, I feel pretty good.”
The wife was glad, for the old fellow had been feeling so much pain recently he had been, shall we say, less than pleasant?
“That’s good,” she said, and relief was in her voice.
The old man rolled out of bed and sauntered to the bathroom and a shower.
The wife sat upright at his activity. “Are you all right? Where are you going?”
The old man ignored the first question, and responded to the second by saying, “I heard there was a Yoga class down at the Y. Got to go do a little yoga-lizing. Got to bend that old pancreas and make it work.”
“Yoga?” The old lady got out of bed and followed her husband into the bathroom. While he sudsed and sang, she pondered, and when he opened the door she asked, “What’s got into you? I haven’t seen you this energetic in years!”
The old man smiled, kissed her and gave her a hug, and he said, “You’re just imagining things.”