Dr. Abt was a dapper eighty year old man who attended several of my lectures. He was blind but always found someone to help him if the need arose and he was courageously friendly. He carried an elaborately carved and hand painted cane and his clothing while from another era was stylish and charming. He introduced himself after one of my lectures. He offered to take my wife and me out to lunch. We drove him to a Mexican restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood where he treated us to margaritas.
We had to drop by our nearby apartment for a moment so we invited him in. He took the opportunity to teach us a lesson. While we were preoccupied, he carefully set aside his hat and eyeglasses. Then he popped into a head stand. He certainly got our attention. He told us he had done this to demonstrate to us the true elasticity of human bodies. Too many get caught up in superstitions and media delusions regarding old age. The soul can make the body do what needs to be done, he said. Then he gave us three simple common sense observations we have always honored.
Use your hand like a cup and if you can’t brush your teeth after you eat, at least get some faucet water and rinse out your mouth vigorously a few times. Teeth are the foundation of health, he said, and sick teeth will corrupt the rest of the body. This simple practice he claimed would prevent most cavities which are caused by food fragments given too much time to fester against enamel.
He had been a bone doctor and he had set many finger bones and corrected many dislocated fingers caused by people who instead of making a fist spread out their fingers then pushed off the floor to stand up. If you accidently lose balance, he pointed out, you can easily snap a finger and lots of people do. So honor your great ape relatives who always make a fist when they support their body weight with their hands.
Whatever program you choose to keep yourself physically fit stick to it all your life. He said the persistence and consistency create a momentum of surprising power. You can see that in a fellow like Mick Jagger who having run for hours for years can still do so after six decades at a time in life when most people expect to be arthritic and out of breath. The same holds true for meditation. The momentum of constant practice is like a harmonic in a musical note, it adds a new dimension to experience.
I never saw him again. I asked around about him. Nobody knew him. He never attended anyone’s else’s lectures. I still wonder what will o the wisp brought him to mine.