Chapter 73: The Allegories of Ennis
Kilrush to Ennis
It wasn’t the most inspiring place to be. An explosion of bush by the roadside, ivy and scraggy hazel. The red bells in a band of fuchsia rang silently with the passing cars. It was the edge of Kilrush but could have been the edge of anywhere. The Tesco superstore with its blue and white totem pole quietly homogenised the place and made it like anywhere else.
A small white car with a squashed-looking back stopped on the roadside. The driver was a stern man. He looked intimidating at first with blue eyes and a hard bald head, leaning against the headrest. A small beard clutched his chin and a pair of old Apple earphones dangled from either ear. He didn’t take them out.
His name was David and he said he was a security guard. I could have guessed as much. He wasn’t intimidating though, quite reserved in fact and perfectly kind. Conversation was strained to begin with. He said only a few choice words in response to my filling chatter. He nodded as I told him what I was doing and where I was going. When he did speak his voice was neither high-pitched nor deep, it was somehow both. He spoke softly with a whistle that seemed to come from the back of his throat.
I asked about his job. He worked in a hospital. He’d done many jobs, bouncing bars and clubs mostly, now he worked in A&E but his job wasn’t how he defined himself - he was a reiki healer. I was surprised. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed.
I asked about it. Though I’d heard of it, I didn’t know much about reiki. It’s a Japanese invention. The word comes from “rei” which means “God’s wisdom and higher power” and “ki” which is a life force energy. Reiki therefore literally means “spiritually guided life force energy.” It says there’s a universal energy that flows through us all and gives us life. When a person’s energy levels fall they may become ill, stressed or anxious. When it is high they are more likely to be happy and healthy.
Peter explained all this patiently. His eyes stayed on the road and his head stayed on the headrest. There are seven chakras in the body he went on. The crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, sacral and root. The heart was the most important. “You have to have an open heart,” Peter said and I noticed he was beginning to warm up. Part of the healing process is realigning the chakras. The healer uses their hands, transferring energy to the patient and straightening the energy flows allowing it to run unbroken. He said I had a lovely energy, which made me laugh. He sensed it as he drove by, that was why he stopped.
“How did you get into it?” The question was on my mind. It still seemed an unusual fit.
His look clouded. “A few years ago I split up with my wife and my son committed suicide.” I murmured that I was sorry. “I went from a very stable life to suddenly losing the two people that mattered most to me. Just like that… I got a completely new life.” Someone introduced him to reiki and he got through it.
David practised in a wellness centre where sessions were cheap. They only charged €40 for a treatment. There were many healers out there who charged much more but the idea was anathema to David. “I don’t do it for money. People helped me when I needed it most and they didn’t charge. So I won’t.”
I asked about his job as a security guard. He spoke about it more openly now, explaining again how he worked in A&E and what that entailed, looking after people, making sure there were no scraps, keeping people safe. Most of the time things went smoothly so David spent his shifts observing. He loved talking to people and hearing their stories. Of course often people weren’t in much of a state to talk, they were in A&E after all, but over the years he’d learnt a great deal. “It’s like a university in there,” he said, “I have books but I find people are much better sources of learning.” I agreed. I said it was why I loved hitchhiking.
In David’s opinion hospitals are the great equalisers, “Rich or poor we all share our health.” The thought amazed me. How true it was, how obvious it was and how I’d never really considered it. He put it so simply. Of course the rich would probably have better access to healthcare, they could pay to get to the front and they could pay for the best, but we’re all at the mercy of our bodies. Watching those faced with sudden reminders of this basic fact, David could see, could experience, just how equal we really are.
We talked about Silicon Valley and those that were trying to escape the trap. I’d heard of a Silicon Valley mogul who takes the blood of a young man to try and preserve his youth. To ensure the ‘blood boy’ is in peak health, with the best food and the exercise regimes, he’s given a wing of the house. It’s vampiric. David agreed with a nod. In centuries to come I can imagine wise elders telling the story of the billionaire and the blood boy as an allegory, and not because the billionaire succeeded… Sometimes it feels like we live in an age of allegory writing. There are many things like that, people and corporations driven by greed trying to escape the realities and constraints of our physical world. It sometimes feels like we’re the subjects of King Midas.
David understood the desire to ignore allegories, the sense we have that they don’t apply to us. As a young man, he’d ignored the wisdom and advice given to him. People told him to do things in moderation but it didn’t stop him drinking. He was sure that people would have told him that it’s no use looking for happiness ‘out there’, how you have to find it in here. He tapped his chest gently. “Some people can learn these things from conversation, stories or books, others have to learn it the hard way.” He learnt it the hard way, but he learnt it. “We all come to these things in our own time.”
David saw an opportunity to learn in everything. Really it was this that had rebuilt his life. In many ways reiki was a side thing, a channel for his attention, but what really changed his world was embracing learning. “We should learn from everything,” he continued, “If we see it like that, it removes any hurt. The hurt becomes an education. Nothing can hurt you then.”
He’d been through a lot and now felt, wisened as he was, that it was his duty to pass on his knowledge, experience and wisdom, even if some would ignore it. I thanked him for it.
We were approaching Ennis. Tiny raindrops were beginning to fleck the windscreen. Cars had their headlights on already. I began to worry about making it to Galway that evening. “Oh I think you’ll get a lift quite quickly,” David said nodding slowly. He seemed to know it from somewhere deep and that gave me confidence.
We pulled to a stop just shy of the junction. The sign ahead pointed to ‘Galway’ and I shook his outstretched hand. He said everyone meets for a reason. “I know why I met you,” he said. The look of great knowledge was still in his eye, “but maybe one day you’ll look back on something I said and it’ll serve you well.”
I said it surely would.
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