Creativity, Classical Chinese Medicine and our right to be wrong

The impact of this video should be experienced by everyone. How does it relate to Classical Chinese Medicine? How does it relate to this blog? Where do I begin?

All over the planet, there are people who think like I do. There are people who find a sense of hope in Classical Chinese Medicine, its way of treating human beings and its way of opening our minds to a perception of reality alternate to the one most of us are schooled within. I’m not talking about anything you can dismiss rapidly, so please, let rest your assumptions.

For 20 years, I’ve been frustrated by the oppressive, soul killing, pervasive worldview that so dominates everything one sees through the mass media and through public education. This worldview says that the left brain is where it’s at, that logic (narrowly defined as it is in most University philosophy departments) should always rule, that there are no ghost or fairies or spirits, that something isn’t real or useful if it can’t be tested placebo-controlled and double blind and that intuition is a chemical reaction and nothing more. I’ve been frustrated by this worldview, but also enticed by it.


Because it brings the promise of security. Of safety. Of making the chaotic and gut-wrenching world into something that can be calculated, predicted, understood and dealt with. Also, because some of the most dynamic and interesting people in my life have been ruled by this worldview. Only sometimes I forget that they are dynamic and interesting despite their religious fervor for the elements of this worldview as described above.

I’ve also variously drawn close to this worldview because sometimes the alternatives make me ill. It seems, at times, that the only choice is between what I’ve described and a kind of dreamy-eyed, crystal worshipping, close your eyes tightly and hope for a better future kind of stance. Neither is an option for me, and I guess the former seems more likely to be productive of something worth having.Yin Yang symbol and Ba gua paved in a clearing outside of Nanning City, Guangxi province, China.

Chinese medicine, for me, opens the door for an alternate interpretation. The world is both chaos and order. Both predictable and unpredictable. We predict with caveat and we accept unpredictability with tools to deal with the result of that unpredictability. We embrace chaos while seeing the beauty of the order within. We calmly respect order while allowing space for the chaos that whirls in the eddies of the human soul. We breathe in, we breathe out. We dream. We memorize. We try and fail. We fail and get back up again.

I have learned all of these things and so many more in my brief three or four years seriously seeking to understand Chinese philosophy and its flowering in the most complex and promising medical system ever to grace our planet.

I know that for some of you all of this is easy to dismiss. But, I’ve grown tired of caring. I’ve grown tired of stifling myself for the sake of avoiding conflict with people who simply don’t think like me. Rest assured, this is not the abandoning of logic. It never has been, not for me. Watch that video again. Does that seem like a guy who has abandoned reason? Do his arguments ramble with no sense? Sure, you could probably find a way to logically refute his arguments – but what does that feed? Where does that go? I think we can all see where the worldview I have described is leading us. I refuse to walk that path.

Classical Chinese Medicine rests firmly on a scientific basis that accepts contradiction, embraces the totality of human experience and – perhaps most of all – makes a real difference in the lives of real human beings.

It resonates deeply with the essence of the TED lecture linked above and, really, the essence of the entire TED project. That creativity and inspired intelligence are the deepest inheritance of humankind, that these traits are what will save our species and take us into a beautiful tomorrow. That color and sound and movement, art and introspection and perception, that THESE THINGS are what will lead us towards cures for disease – regardless of what else is necessary. That the symbols contained within Chinese characters are instructive, that symbolism in general is a language we can all understand. All of this I take to be self evident.

On a more personal level, I really feel that this lecture has unlocked the last little bit of reservation I have had about stepping into my power as a scholar, as a clinician, as a blogger and as a person. As you know from reading some of my recent posts, I’ve been struggling with what to write. This struggle has come primarily from my worry that others would attack me, would call me “wrong,” that I would make my teachers and my program look bad – a pervasive perfectionism shaped by a misguided sense of self preservation. I cannot always be right, and neither can you. But those of us who care about the world, who care about human beings, who love the beauty and the power of Classical Chinese Medicine (and, of course, other modalities) need to speak out, speak freely, and be willing to be wrong.

It’s our responsibility and our right.

About Eric Grey

Hi - I'm the founder of this site and the primary master of all functions here. When I'm not writing, you can find me reaching out to the Chinese Medicine community across the web and in my own backyard. I currently teach Chinese herbs at my alma mater, the National College of Natural Medicine. Additionally, I'm the founder of Watershed Wellness, a thriving local clinic in Southeast Portland in Oregon. No matter where I'm working, you'll find my focus on the Classical approach to Chinese medicine laced throughout everything I do.

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