Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Only Thing That Makes Sense

My father was already 50 when I was born and so I've been acutely aware of the aging effect from the first moments of my life -- as well as noticing the studied movements of my father teaching exercise (Tai-chi) in the house he designed and built as an exercise studio for that purpose. So whether I wanted to or not, I've "studied" exercise all my life -- because nothing else was possible.

But even though my father was very diligent, devoted and dedicated to these studies and practice, I was shocked and disturbed by the deterioration that had taken place while I was away at college, and wondered if there was some missing factor he overlooked which would have made exercise the magic bullet it has often been claimed to be against the deterioration and aging process, especially in the new manner that extended lives made prominent and commonplace -- as the dementias.

To those who are not aware of its symptoms, it is probably best described as the head being cut off from the rest of the body -- in the sense of the mind losing that sense of body awareness, which was the ultimate disintegration of mind and body that exercise hopes to integrate, as its highest achievement. That is the attainment of a true exercise guru -- this mastering of the oneness of body and mind, the inner and outer universes.

So as I sat looking into the vacantness and unresponsiveness of his eyes, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that his lifelong devotion to exercise had still kept the core of his body in remarkable condition -- but there was no responsiveness otherwise, at the usual sites indicating high sensibilities and sensitivities. Obviously, at the most basic level of functioning, the body continued remarkable health otherwise -- but the body was cut off from the mind, and could not show that responsiveness of voluntary movement.

A physical therapist came by one day to assess his condition and whether further attempts at recovery were fruitful, but he could not respond to her commands to lift his leg from the bed. At that point, he could not even blink his eyes to indicate any responsiveness to her instructions -- and I thought the physical therapist would see response and lower the bar for signs of any capability -- instead making her commands even more difficult. This was a person who was also not in touch with any reality.

But what was impressed upon me, was that human responsiveness was best indicated by the face, hands, feet -- rather than at the "core" muscles, which contemporary exercise/fitness have moved onto from a misguided control over the autonomic function of the heart -- as though that was a necessary and wise thing to do. The rationale of emphasizing movement of the core muscles, is that being the largest muscles of the body, if one wants to get into shape expeditiously, one should activate these largest muscles with contrived movements for that purpose -- rather than recognizing that the primary function of those large muscles is not to provide movement, but stability and support -- for the effective and precise movements that take place and are expressed at the muscles of the head (face, neck), hands, and feet, as the distinctive characteristics and accomplishments of human movement and activities.

There are no such meaningful expressions at the core, other than mating, but that is not distinctively and distinguishingly human. But rather, it is the almost infinite variety and control of expressions at the extremities of the human body, that distinguishes virtually all achievement and accomplishment -- beginning with the refinement of the first tools shaped by the hand. That is the quality lacked by all other animals that is a handicap they cannot overcome and requires them to be specialized and limited at what they do.

It is the development of the hands, feet and head (face), that marks the human as vastly superior to others -- and that high development, implies the more rudimentary ones have in common with all other animals. The hearts have evolved similarly, as well as the lungs -- but no other animal has the distinctive human hand, foot and head that makes humans the supremely evolved species beyond all the others.

Those are the qualities, one would seek to develop, strengthen and maintain throughout life -- as ensuring the dynamism and proficiency of that individual specimen -- at all times of life. That implies the supreme functioning of everything else -- but not necessarily vice-versa beginning at the core muscles.

This is a very key concept in understanding anything. One critical element will imply everything else, while many other things, will just be one disconnected thing not implying or impacting anything else -- and no amount of energy and effort, will alter this relationship -- of the critical path by which all things are accomplished, instead of many fragments that even in sum, don't amount to much, if anything.

Once that key is understood, everything else basically falls into place -- because nothing else is possible.


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