Ogden Nash said it best:
How are you is a greeting not a question / Don’t tell your friends about your indigestion.
Nash, in his wisdom, was trying to forestall an “organ recital,” a narration of bodily ills and woes that might start with an upset stomach and work its way downward, outward and even upward. It’s a phrase that used to be the province of impatient doctors, but now is entering the vernacular.
The organ recital is one of the go-to’s when my friends and I get together. We have reached the age when stuff starts to “go.” Hips and knees, elbows and shoulders. Our reproductive systems, no longer reproducing, respond in ways we’re just getting used to. And Nash was on target: our digestive systems don’t work exactly as they once did, sometimes with horrifying results.
God knows we’re eager to share this information – with friends, doctors, even strangers – to make sure we’re normal. Still, we want to complain when others go this route: our ills may be fascinating, but there’s nothing more boring than someone else’s aging body.
There is a potential upside here. To get it, you have to dig a little deeper into an alternate meaning of “organ recital.”
Buddhists have a meditation that encourages enumeration of 32 organs and processes in the body. They include expected things like blood, stomach and brain as well as some of the more disgusting stuff like mucus and pus.
OK, I’ll stop there. But the Buddhist meditation, which can lead to “deep freedom and peace,” is meant to remind us that our body and all its processes and excretions belong to us, but they are not who we are.
So, let’s meditate on the 32 parts of the body before we visit. We’ll talk about the weather or the arts, politics, religion or philosophy. And spare each other the organ recital.
Listen to this post (and we’ll throw in a real organ recital while we’re at it!)
Music courtesy of Lemieux and Associates, Organ Builders
Photo of organ player: Manassas Chorale/Flickr
Image of body and organs: Mikael Häggström via Wikimedia
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