I believe that one of the common problems of our modern era is that our relationships with our bodies have become abstracted. This abstracted relationship manifests itself in a lot of ways, but I’d like to focus in on our modern concept of physical fitness. I’m implicating fitness as an abstracted relationship because we talk about fitness without much discussion of what exactly our bodies should be fit for.
As far as I can see, the implied answers to these questions are rather unsatisfying. Fit to inspire envy. Fit to turn heads. Fit to be admired, liked, loved. Perhaps secondarily we hear in the chatter around fitness some answers along the lines of fit to keep living, fit to live longer, or fit to feel good. Whatever degree of merit these answers deserve, I submit that they all likely fall short of better answers that we might come up with.
I think that the question of fitness has to point to whether or not we are using our bodies in useful ways. I am certain that we are all using our bodies in some useful ways, but probably not always in ways that would inspire the label of “physically fit.” For most of us, the most strenuous activities of our week involve moving around for the sake of moving around, or, perhaps with a bit more purpose, moving around for recreation. It is much less common to move around to get somewhere or to do work that helps us and others to live well. And so we have behemoth gyms that are pumped with cooled air and filled with machines so that people can move around without going anywhere. I can’t help but think that such a scene would be a real puzzler for those pioneer children who sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked (and walked).
My point is not that gyms are bad or that exercise needs to be productive. My point is that it is odd that we use the term “fitness” to describe a goal without really identifying what a physically fit body is fit to do. I don’t have a good answer for the fitness question. I’m not even sure that fitness for any purpose should be the highest virtue toward which we should strive in our relationships with our bodies. But I do think that grappling with this question and not taking fitness for granted might help us to be less abstracted in the ways we approach our bodies.
Now, I haven’t looked at the scriptures with this specific question in mind. Maybe some of you have some light to shed in this regard. However, the one scripture-like line that has kept coming to my mind is from the hymn “More Holiness Give Me,” in which the supplicant pleads to become “more fit for the kingdom.” I’m fairly confident that fitness for the kingdom goes well beyond any kind of physical fitness, but perhaps it does not exclude a sort of stewardship that we have for our bodies. It leaves me wondering how I might be physically fit for the kingdom. How might the way I use my body make me fit to love and serve others? How might it make me fit to enter the celestial kingdom? Like I said before, I don’t have many answers here, but I like the questions.
Filed under: Culture, Mormon Culture, Relationships | Tagged: "more fit for the kingdom", abstractionism, Celestial Kingdom, embodiment, exercise, Health, Latter-day Saints, More Holiness Give Me, Mormons, physical fitness, Word of Wisdom |