The needle went into the palm of my hand without much pain, although I could feel it hanging there.
“It’s weird,” I told the acupuncturist. “Just having something jut out from the palm of your hand is an odd sensation.
“That’s a Qi point, very important.”
Qi (pronounced “chee”) literally means “the steam that comes off of rice.” As rice is the centerpiece of the Chinese diet, he explained, it is seen as giving life. Thus, Qi came to embody the idea of “life energy” or “life force.”
This was not a new idea for me. I had first learned of it when I was a sophomore in college and I worked at the campus movie theater. My boss, John, saw himself as my mentor, for good or for ill. One night, after closing the theater, John dispensed some of the wisdom he had collected as a fifth- or sixth-year senior.
“You gotta be careful, man. Women will sap your life force.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your Qi. Women will sap your Qi.” He then offered a definition of the term similar to the one above.
“How would a woman steal my energy? With nagging?”
John gave me a smile full of pity. “No, with sex. Every time you ejaculate, you lose some of your essence. She’s taken a little piece of your life force. Why do you think men die younger than women?”
“I think it’s actually heart disease–“
“It’s Qi. You’ve squandered your Qi.”
This prompted an obvious question. “So, John, when you’re having sex, are you saying you never come?”
He sighed deeply, a sign that the student has not learned the master’s lesson.
Very quietly, he answered, “We all have to die of something.”