Growing up POCA; or, Community Acupuncture in 2031


I wrote this almost 3 months ago, referring to my then 27 month old son.
Julian said “acupuncture” very clearly this week. Also inserted a needle at my LI10 with force and tenderness, using a guide tube. Walks through clinic and looks straight at each patient with relaxed curiosity, gets beamed at by almost all. In this context, he must recognize the different energies in what his daddy is getting to do, the power in the whole situation, recognize the love, must think that’s natural.
This is a letter I’m writing now to Julian. Maybe its to him now. Maybe to him in a few years.
Dear Julian.
It was delightful getting pine-needle acupuncture from you today along that blue and orange blazed path by the pond. It’s really fun playing acupuncture games with you. I love all the places you go, the different jobs you have when we pretend. Its generally amazing getting to be with you while you discover the different things that capture your interest and imagination.
Spending time in the clinic, my workplace as you call it, you seem to already know a lot about how the acupuncture is to help people feel better, to heal, to get re-connected, but I wanted to tell you about ways its been really important to you and me and mama.
Once when I was halfway between your age and mine I got pretty sick. I couldn’t stop coughing, and I coughed so hard I broke a rib. I was wheezing like you did when you had the croup, but for many months. I also had a lot of pain in my back. It made it so I couldn’t do much. It made playing soccer or laughing or singing too painful. I got really, really sad at the same time, but the kind of sad where you don’t want to cry. Crying hurt, too. I decided to try acupuncture, and, boy am I glad.
It made it all feel better really fast. At first I thought it was something special or magic this man had done to me, but the more I read about acupuncture, the more I realized that it worked for me because acupuncture just works. Then, along with being happy that I had discovered it, I started feeling disappointed and confused that no one had told me about it before. I didn’t understand why acupuncture wasn’t everywhere, or why everyone was just being given really strong drugs for everything. I told everyone to try it.
I decided I wanted to be someone who does acupuncture to others. To go to acupuncture school, I used all the money I made from my children’s librarian job and I’m still paying every month for those three years of school.
I met mama when I was half way through acupuncture school. We fell in love writing love notes to one another every day. We created our own language where we talked about our bodies as made up of rivers and pipes and moments in time. Our minds were made up of the northern lights and the ocean floor. The whole wide world was made up of poems and stories and blood and turnips, and of animal breath. I think we fell in love with each other because we both saw that everything is inside a tiny rock and that we are inside everything. I like thinking about this now, Julian, and thinking about how you came from those love notes, and the stories we told each other.
When I finished acupuncture school, I made most of my money as a gardener, and I did acupuncture in the evenings. I had thought that I was going to be somehow different than thousands of other acupuncturists who weren’t giving acupuncture to many people, and who weren’t making any money. We were all confused. We were all thinking that we were special or magic and this made us a little selfish with how we shared our skills. Thank God, a couple very important people came along a few years before you were born to remind us that we’re not special, (well sure we’re special but not because we know how to do acupuncture) but that we have a very special and magical tool that everyone needs, that we should take this really seriously and go out and tell everyone we know about the tool of acupuncture and tell them to come get some and to keep getting some because it will change their lives for the better. And these two people also showed me and hundreds of acupuncture do-ers that we CAN have acupuncture be our real jobs. Because of them I have a wonderful and useful job that I get paid for. Though this should be true for everyone, it is not.
Because of these people, Skip and Lisa (you met them at the house where we lived with Uma and Ellen, and at Andy and Karen’s this fall, and you’re gonna get to see them again in May), there are clinics like my workplace all over the wide world where lots and lots of people are getting acupuncture with each other. It seems to us that the more people that come sit in the clinic and get poked the more special the tool of acupuncture becomes. You have seen that when you come in; and,you have felt how just you showing up and walking around the clinic makes the lovey and healing energy even stronger.
Remember your playgroup in Philadelphia, up in the firehouse? Remember playing and snacking with Ida and Oscar and Rose and Sunny and Nina and Saj? That place felt really nice, huh? That’s another acupuncture place that’s an important center for thousands of people around it. Me and mama and the other parents always felt relaxed and pleased to be in there with you and the other young people. We all had lots of help with our bodies in there, including the moms when they were pregnant with you little guys. Right now, there’s probably lots of people in there getting needled by loving acupuncturists. And, there’s so many sweet clinics like that in our world now. And they’re all connected like a gigantic playgroup, or workgroup. Its one of my favorite things about this world. I can’t wait to introduce you to more people like Cris and Ellen and Skip and Lisa, people who make up this group and who created all these acupuncture centers.
Not only are these people really fun, but they’re really good at fighting to change things so they make more sense. Like making it so that as many people as possible can get acupuncture if they want to. One of the things we’re fighting to change is how people learn to be an acupuncturist. Like, right now, lets say you were 19 years old and you decided you wanted a job being an acupuncturist, you probably couldn’t because the school you’d have to go to would want way more money than your mama and I have or will have. It shouldn’t be that way. You have dexterity and grace in your hands and fingers, and a heart full of love, and you’re really good at listening and connecting with people. You should get to be an acupuncturist if you want. So, we’re trying to change it so that you or any of your friends could afford to go to acupuncture school. And, better than that, we hope to make it so that you could become an acupuncturist just by learning with the great people in our playgroup/workgroup. And this means that all the things you’re already learning and will probably keep learning from me will actually mean something for your future. And, that is just SO incredibly cool.
Love, dada 
Author: korben

I'm an acupunk and owner at Kindred Community Acupuncture in Pawtucket, RI. I co-founded Philadelphia Community Acupuncture in 2007, and moved to Providence in 2011 to be close to family after the birth of my son, and to work with the inimitable Cris Monteiro at PCA.

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  1. So cool Korben- you made me cry! I’m always happy to have Morgan spend time at the clinic. I feel like she’s going to see and experience a lot, some good some bad by growing up in Philly. But having early experiences of walking around the treatment room, seeing lots of different people relaxing and getting better quietly will have a deep effect. She has a very large family and community who love seeing her tiptoe back saying shshshshshsh, and like Julian, walking person to person with a smile and a “hi!” It’s something that I feel lucky as a role model to be able to expose her to and share! Julian will love that letter some day!

  2. Korben, dammit, I’m trying to read at work and now you got me all leaking out of my eyes and heart! Mala came to visit me at work today… I looked up and saw her peeping through the glass door between the reception and the treatment room. A few of the peeps looked up and saw her too, and I’m glad they all smiled. Cause one of her favorite games right now is to play “knock knock” on doors. She’s 18 months now, and I’m glad that she’ll only get easier to have around the clinic as she gets older. I can’t wait to teach her to needle me. I figure in the next 2 decades we’ll have a decent chance to be able to pass on an honest trade to our critters.

  3. (Through tears…) Have a 2 and half year old. She’s gone with me to the local Occupy a couple times to help out and watch as I needled them. At home, (on her own) when she pretends that her babies and stuffed animals are sick or hurt, she taps on some pretend needles to make them feel better. When I go to work she asks me if I’m going to help people and then when she pretends to go to work and we ask her what she does, she proudly answers “I help people!” So great! Thanks for sharing Korben!