Sunday, April 14, 2013

Apologetics of the Body


And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
--Walt Whitman, "I Sing The Body Electric"



I bought a 50-pound bag of rice not to cook but to lift over my head and throw to the ground. I heard of a hill and drove the twenty minutes there to run it up and down, then drove the twenty minutes back.

I was asked by someone who doesn't know me well if I'm "still competing," and when it became clear she knew only the part of me that buys the rice and runs up hills, this bothered me.

And it bothered me that it bothered me.

So let's run up that hill together and see what's at the crest of my approaching midlife career shift, a certification in personal training after years of working in the arts and activities of the mind.

I think what we'll find is that the body needs no justification. Call me a gym rat, laugh at football players on a scholarship, assume the thick-necked among us are dumb, and I will tell you your identity cannot hide from your body image and abilities. I'll tell you that working with people on health and wellness means I have access to their full selves, because parts cannot be separated out without absurdist efforts.

Day One of theatre games with homeless women I told them that their bodies--prostitutes, some of them, sexual abuse survivors nearly all--their bodies are temples. Their bodies are homes, the only kind they have right now, the only place of regular familiarity; they must honor and care for what has been given.

But you might next scoff at my efforts to sculpt the deltoids and I'll remind you that God considered the human body the most worthy vessel for his arrival on earth, its frailties vehicles for a grand story of hope and, finally, strength.

No justification needed. Except to myself, for my feelings of discomfort. This woman knew only that I work in fitness, a field so branded by shakeweights and top ten tips that it's hard to appreciate the true successes. I wanted her to know that I read Yeats at home, and Zizek, and I teach theatre sometimes, and write some plays, and there's a book I'm trying to get published.

Because the body is tied up with the mind and soul, so, too, are my thoughts. It's embarrassing to admit how long I'd gone without purposeful movement, which is, as it turns out, how I learn and process the world. Because of time wasted, I want to help others see the big picture. The view from the hilltop.

I will have you, too, lifting that giant bag of rice once (and if) you're ready. Then maybe we'll talk recipes, or philosophy, or how you're feeling about it all. I'd like to think I'll draw like-minded clients, at least in spirit, the kind who'd appreciate an intuitive trainer.

One who likes the books but throws them out sometimes. With her nicely-sculpted arm. A June exam, here I come.

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