One of my next writing projects is to add something about the 12 officials to what I have written about the elements in my Handbook of Five Element Practice. I have been asked to do this by one of my five element students in China, who is now teaching her own students and tells me that they seem to find it difficult visualizing the 12 officials as anything apart from as organs of the body. So I am now thinking more carefully about expanding my ideas on the elements to cover the officials in more detail. This morning, therefore, I had just written a few paragraphs about the Fire element's four officials, emphasizing the central role of the Heart, and put down my pen to do what I always do, which is to pick up a book I'm reading to give my thoughts a little rest. Imagine my surprise, then when I experienced this lovely serendipitous (beautiful word!) moment, when the first words I read were the following:
"Zen said his piece and left as soon as he could, fearful and depressed at this reminder of the primitive, messy plumbing on which all their lives ultimately depended. It didn't seem remotely surprising that it should break down without warning. On the contrary, the miracle was that it ever functioned in the first place. In growing panic he listened to the thudding of his heart, felt the blood coursing about the system, imagined the organs going about their mysterious, secretive business. It was like being trapped aboard an airplane piloted by an on-board computer. All you could do was sit there until the fuel ran out, or one of the incomprehensibly complex and delicate systems on which your life depended suddenly failed." (From: Michael Dibdin: Cabal, an Aurelio Zen Mystery)
What a lovely coincidence, if coincidence it is, that I just came across this the moment I laid down my pen. I think our bodies are indeed "incomprehensibly complex and delicate systems", for this describes beautifully how we should look at the work our officials are faced with at every moment of the day.
I always think it is a miracle that this body of ours, a miracle of evolutionary development, functions at all, for it is always at terrible risk of breaking down by reason of its very complexity. it is fortunate that we have devised many ways of helping us maintain as great a balance as possible so that we can live good and fruitful lives, none more so, I am glad to say, than by turning for help to five element acupuncture.