What is the ideal state of being? Is it strict focus on the expansion of the mind? But what about the maintenance of our physical bodies—quality of life certainly does rely heavily on the quality of our health.
|The Golden Path|
Pico Iyer writes about this balance in "Healthy Body, Unhealthy Mind." Once a happy consumer of Big Macs, he gradually learned to eat better, and to exercise more. However, he remained the same person mentally: Busy, busy, busy. Too busy to think.
But I recalled something a 17th-century mathematician and philosopher had whispered to me . . . We run and run in search of contentment, Pascal wrote in his “Pensées,” and so ensure we’ll never be settled or content. We mindlessly race away from the one place where happiness is to be found.
I was, in short, what I’d call an externalist — a person who’ll exercise great care over what he puts into his body and never think about what he puts into his mind. Who will dwell at length on everything he can see, in order to distract himself from the fact that it’s everything he can’t see on which his well-being depends. Who will fill his head with so much junk that he can’t remember that wolfing down Buffalo wings is not the problem, but a symptom.
Are physical trainers any more enlightened? I find them quite frightening sometimes. The sculptured form of the human body is the divine extreme.
That requires constant motion to burn off any errant ounces of fat. While they eat like a caveman, they could also be doomed to thinking like one.
An externalist makes a point — even a habit — of cherishing means over ends, effects over causes and everything that fills him up over everything that truly sustains him. He interprets health in terms of his body weight, wealth in terms of his bank account and success in terms of his business card. He’ll go to the health club, and never think of the mental health club, like someone who imagines the only arteries to be unclogged are the ones that course with blood.
Iyer discovered the serenity and joy to be found in quiet contemplation, in exposing himself to intellectual prose as opposed to People magazine.
When one makes a choice to become healthier in weight, it should also be a choice to become healthier in mind. The negativity of jealousy and anger can be just as poisonous to the body as cholesterol. Getting to know oneself can be delightful, and also leads to the understanding of where and how one requires self-improvement.
But I know that one day my doctor is going to come into the room with a very dark look on his face and news that no treadmill or repudiation of onion rings is going to make better. And then the only thing I’ll have to turn to will be all I’ve done when going nowhere — and everything I might have stored in some less visible account.