This past weekend, my wife and I went to a party with a lot of old friends whom we hadn’t seen in awhile. One person greeted me by saying, “Hi John… ah, the healthy one.”
I responded with a smile and said “I sure hope so.” I wouldn’t want to be unhealthy after all.
This short interaction got me thinking about our culture and what we have evolved into. Healthy people are a rarity in our society and tend to stand out in a crowd. This is a really sad truth, but I’m not going to gloat over it for a minute.
Ask yourself: Have we come so far from natural health and physicality, that we label people by their physical vibrance or lack thereof? Oh, the shame! Tell me it isn’t so! But that’s EXACTLY what we do. We put people into imaginative boxes when trying to figure them out. We actively label each other in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. I’m shamefully guilty of it, too.
We all have relationships with people whom we consider the workaholic, the unambitious stay-at-home-mom, the gossiper, the over-achiever, the under-achiever, the religious guy, the healthy one.
The truth is, we aren’t those boxes we like to put people in. Ryan Murdoch says it best in his personal manifesto…
I believe that we are not our boxes, and that we’re free to assume whatever form suits us at that moment.
It’s a simple idea, certainly not profound, but it’s the product of utterly revolutionary thinking.
As a representative and educator of physical culture, it is my duty to embody what physical living can and should be like. Naturally, this puts me in a position of going above and beyond the call of duty. So, it makes sense that I would receive comments and gestures suggesting that I’m different, awkward, or atypical. However, it should be my goal and yours to blend in with others, so as to prevent them from mis-labeling us as a “health nut” or “fitness freak.”
The truth is, I’m not those things – and neither are you. There’s nothing that makes me different from the next guy. This type of labeling isolates people and keeps them inside their comfort zones – unable to experience new things, to learn and grow more. In general, if someone isn’t interested in fitness, they won’t hang out with “fitness people” – and therefore, will miss out on many of life’s best experiences.
No, I’m not using my lifestyle to try to convince anyone that trudging away on a stairmaster for an hour or grunting in the squat rack under a heavy barbell is one of life’s best experiences. On the contrary, I’m trying to convince people that vibrant physical living is something that everyone can and should enjoy. If the stairmaster doesn’t work for you, then try something else. I can’t stand stairmasters. I’d get bored to tears if I forced myself to use that silly contraption – or practically any other exercise machine for that matter. So, I do things that are inherently fun. Play can take so many forms, and vigorous physical activity can be a part of almost all of them.
The truth is that if people really knew what it was like to live an abundantly healthy and physically active lifestyle, they would strive to continue seeking after health and joyful movement everyday. Trying to explain what exuberant physical vitality feels like is like trying to explain color to a blind person – you can’t explain it. Words are no justification, not nearly enough to convey the magnitude of the experience. I’m sorry, but if you haven’t experienced this yourself, you just won’t get it.
Unless we actively try to help each other overcome our personal boundaries together, we may not break free of our presuppositions. Luckily, I think we have a viable solution to our predicament. Frank Forencich (I conducted a great interview with Frank here) is known for saying that it is his goal to help people fall in love with movement. I’d go a step further and say that it is our goal to help people fall in love with physical living. And there are many many easy ways to do this.
Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to play some physical games with friends and family. They were all silly games really, devoid of rules, and filled to the brim with individual expression and enthusiasm. We were bumping hips, chasing each other around, laughing and roaring at each other uncontrollably. I would doubt that anyone in that group has ever played games like that since they were young children – adults just don’t do these things. But it was just some simple games that were the solution to getting past our individual boundaries and opening ourselves to free expression and truly joyful physical living. It wasn’t awkward at all, even to the onlooker. It was just a close-knit family having fun together.
Sadly, most people don’t have the interest or patience to listen to such reasoning or entertain such a simple idea, and they content themselves with a false understanding of another persons lifestyle (or of their own). So, in many people’s minds, we will remain forever misunderstood as “the healthy ones.”
But I won’t give in to them, and I’m going to continually challenge their belief systems throughout my lifetime. I hope you’ll join me!
To your health and success,