So to this morning’s tiny incident: I feel very strongly that I must support my two small local newsagents, one at each end of a long street, at the centre of which, and closest to where I live, is a Tesco’s. (This comes under the politically correct heading no 1, which is “Support your local shops”.) I have a weekly subscription to the Guardian/Observer newspapers. (This comes under politically correct heading no 2, which is “Keep buying newspapers to save them from the threat of the internet”).
The problem arises if 1) it is the weekend, as today, or 2) I am in a hurry, also as today, when it would, of course, be far easier just to pop into the Tesco’s just over the road. At the weekend, one newsagent opens late on a Saturday and is closed altogether on a Sunday, and the other only opens for a few hours on a Sunday morning, so I have to remember to get there before it closes. So today I set off virtuously on my long walk to one newsagent, forgetting that it was Saturday and not yet open, turned to walk back towards the other end of the long street, passing the doors to Tesco’s on the way. I spent (or at least my Small Intestine spent) the 100 yards or so of this walk towards Tesco’s debating whether I would or would not succumb to laziness and pick up my Guardian there, or whether I should continue for another 5 – 10 minutes up to the other newsagent. Giving myself the excuse that I was in a hurry, I gave in and popped into Tesco’s. Each time I look at today’s Guardian now I feel a slight twinge of guilt.
To some people, this dilemma, which acts itself out surprisingly often, is a ridiculous waste of energy, but try to tell that to the Small Intestine. If it feels something is wrong - here supermarket chains crushing small shopkeepers - it has to do something about it, even at the cost of all the apparently unnecessary heart-searching that it has to do (and remember the Small Intestine’s function is to advise the Heart to do what is right).
Not to mention, should I buy my books from my small local bookshop, rather than Amazon, or, a further dilemma, through the Guardian bookshop? Which needs my support more, the local bookshop or the Guardian? Or should I not buy the book at all, but order it from my local library, which also badly needs my support? (These come under pc headings 3 and 4, Support your local bookshop and Support your local library.)
I give below another example of the unnecessary pressures my Small Intestine official can put me under. I travelled by train from London to Salisbury one day, not something requiring much mental exertions, one would think. But with every train journey I take comes the moment as I walk along the platform when I have to decide whether I want to head for the carriage with the quiet zone, and opt for a journey theoretically free of people talking loudly on their mobiles, or just sit in an ordinary carriage and suffer. As everybody now probably knows, I absolutely hate mobile phones, however necessary they have become, not only because of the complete disregard for other people their owners show, but also because they are increasingly cutting people physically off from contact with one another - ironically, because they are intended to do just the opposite. So do I suffer a journey interrupted by the endless pinging of mobile phones, and forced to listen to conversations I have absolutely no interest in, or do I sit in a carriage in peaceful silence?
Except it is rarely silent, I have found. What usually happens is that somebody, finding that there are more seats available than elsewhere, plonks themselves down without seeing where they are sitting, and immediately switches on their phone. Then there comes the moment when I look round to see if any other occupant is as annoyed as I am, which they, surprisingly, rarely are. So I am forced yet again to gesture to the signs on the window, to be greeted usually, not by an apology, but by irritation, with the speaker either hurriedly grabbing his/her bags to walk to another carriage or walking through the carriage to the area beyond the door still talking loudly.
And this may happen not once but twice during a journey. And if it doesn’t happen, then at every station along the route, as new passengers come, in I tense myself for another such encounter. What an utter waste of my energy! Wouldn’t it be far better for me, plagued as I am with bad hearing, just to turn off both hearing aids and sit in utter silence wherever I choose? But I know that when I take my next train journey, I will go through the same rigmarole.
It is on occasions like this that I would love to be any other element than Inner Fire to allow my poor Small Intestine simply to relax and enjoy the journey, rather wasting so much time sorting things out in such an unsatisfactory way. But, sadly I often think, it can never truly relax, as it sifts and sorts, sifts and sorts to protect the Heart. Oh, the burdens upon my Small Intestine of trying to do what is right!
Finally, one of my Inner Fire patients delighted me this week when she said, rather sadly: “I run on my thoughts. Other people seem to run on their emotions.”
Cars run on petrol, lorries on diesel, and she recognizes that she “runs on thoughts”.
Yes, I thought to myself, that is an excellent description of what powers the Small Intestine. It always has to think everything through, sorting and sorting its thoughts out to make sure that its companion official, the Heart, receives good advice. I have described the Small Intestine official as acting as the Heart’s secretary, often doing its deep thinking for it, and then passing on what it hopes are only pure thoughts to the master of all, the Heart.
This is how I have learnt to distinguish Inner from Outer Fire, which is never an easy distinction to make. If you think a patient is Fire, ask them some rather complicated question, and watch how they try to answer it. Inner Fire often looks slightly puzzled, frowning a little as it tries first to take in what you are asking, and then start sorting out its reply to your question. There will always be signs of a kind of slight hesitation, as if the answer is not easy to find, and the reply may sound slightly confusing, as though the patient is still sorting out what to say as they talk.
Outer Fire, on the other hand, will perhaps take a little more time to answer, but tend to give a more straightforward reply, and one which is much less involved in its own thought processes.
Being an Inner Fire person myself, I have often said that I sort my thoughts out as I talk. And now, hearing what my patient said, I agree that I, too, run on my thoughts.