Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Here's one for you...

Last night after my "sprint" workout, I had a couple cans of sports drink, a bowl of fatback rice, a bowl of miso soup, a banana and lots of water. I was also fortunate enough to take a nice warm shower (something I don't always do), and the closer it got to midnight, the mellower I felt: that blessed kind of "tired" from good exercise, as opposed to the cranky-making tired of too much office work or traffic. I had a good night of sleep. (Thanks!)

When I got to work (early!), I nearly dove into my notes on working up my 4-day workout routine, but I caught myself--a tug of the Holy Spirit--and instead sat for a few minutes to dwell in Scripture. My devotional life has been rather scattered the past few months, apart of course from the Catholic missal readings, but I didn't know the readings for today, so I "just opened anywhere." In a single flip my eyes fell upon Isaiah 41:1:

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.

It's a topic as old, at least, as St. Augustine's conversion whether Christians should put much stock in "random" readings in Scripture. On the one hand, Christians can't treat the Bible like a folder for casting lots, since that is simple divination. On the other hand, Christians do believe the Holy Spirit guides us in small ways, constantly giving signs (semeion) to deepen, challenge, or alter a course of action and reflection. Somewhere in the middle is a sort of Jungian synchronicity doctrine that God's creation naturally brings patterns of informed energy together, such that, in my case, my recent attention to working out--to strength in body and in spirit--is itself somehow meaningfully and naturally connected with the physical influences that led me to flip open to such an apt verse. However you parse it, stumbling upon Isaiah 41:1 really grabbed me. I was touched, even a bit stunned. "Yes, this is what I am feeling--silence and strength," I said within. "Strength training as a way of ordering my life and energizing my whole self in tandem with renewed spiritual discipline."

Even so, my exegetical brain felt the random verse was kind of, well, random, so I backed up to see what the context was. Whereupon I read Isaiah 40:29-31:

[29] He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
[30] Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
[31] but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

As you might imagine, my "providential synchronicity" buzzers were abuzzin'. As I mentioned in my recent post about my past in athletics, the past year has been very grueling--truly cathartic--for me and I have felt on many levels like one "who has no might." Even I, a famously youthful youth, can "faint and be weary," yet, as I wait upon the Lord in silence--rather than, say, oh, diving into bodybuilding notes as soon as I have a moment of leisure--, He shall renew my strength.

As readers of FCA should know, I have written a great deal on the soul, the body, cognition, perception, and cognition, all from a Catholic perspective (cf. archives for posts containing "anima", for example). In classical Christian anthropology, there is no simple divide between the "real you" as a "ghost in the machine" and the bodily "prison" in which we "dwell." Rather, there is a natural, divinely ordained harmony between the poles of energy we call "the body" (somat) and "the soul" (psuche) which constitute the person as a dynamic, formal whole. It's a harmony akin to that of what unites the shape and water as a wave. This post from a couple years ago may capture best what I have written about this catholic Catholic anthropology.

The point is that, while I alluded, in my athletics post a couple days ago, to the typical disregard for the soul in the bodybuilding world, I intentionally called it typical, not necessary or essential. For the truth is, as Arnold Schwarzenegger discovered and taught, serious physical sacrifice, divorced from vicious impulses like, say, rank vanity and sexual predation, naturally generates both physical and 'psuchic' power--whole-person power. Arnold once said, "You'll find, as I did, that building muscle builds you up in every part of your life." Insofar as my own feeble efforts in bodybuilding are consciously 'animated' by a gratitude to the Lord for a body fit enough to exercise, my bodybuilding feels like true person-building. As we read in I Corinthians 10:29b-31:

For why should my liberty be determined by another man's scruples?
[30] If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?
[31] So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Weightlifting doesn't just "build up your body," since there is actually no such thing as "just your body": there is just you, a whole person, an embodied psychosomatic beacon of conscious energy.

Stay tuned, stay psuched.

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