Work-out mania has always disturbed me. Perhaps it is my inherent fear of people too buff to touch their face, or my annoyance with some people’s incessant need to post pictures of “the results” via every form of social media imaginable. Whatever the root of my disturbance, the fitness frenzy contains a much more concerning issue; not only is it making you thin, healthy, and obnoxious, it might also be destroying your life.
This may sound like a pretty serious claim to raise against something as mundane as a home fitness system, or a workout/dance video. Perhaps Richard Simmons is strange, but surely he isn’t a threat to our very lives. I’ll admit that he, as a person, is in no way a threat, or at least I assume he’s not; however the fitness craze which he has come to represent, in a rather passing manner, just might be.
What I Mean By Destiny:
Destiny is a word with a lot of connotation. And I do not use it lightly, or without knowledge of this connotation. By destiny, I do not mean some divine intervention or plan which is set for us, although I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with believing that these things are real. Instead, I mean having a meaning in life. A prime example of this can be seen in the life of Odysseus. Even if you take out all of the gods and witchcraft from his heroic tale, it’s still pretty damn heroic. One could even say that “he had a destiny.”
Thus, when I use the term destiny, I refer the ability to look back on your life, in the moment of your last breath, and say “Damn, I did good.” Destiny need not be something public, it could be something completely personal and private. It also need not be something drastic: saving the world, defeating a villain, etc, but could instead be something totally commonplace, raising good kids, loving your spouse. Regardless of what it is, it should make your life a story worth telling.
The Fitness and Youth Obsession:
It’s news to no one that our society is obsessed with being and looking young. We, more than any civilization before us, have ourselves nipped, tucked, prodded, injected half to death, all in the vain hope that we will look younger.
We have 40 year olds who want to look 20, 20 year olds who want to look 16 and even our 16 year olds worried about looking young. At the rate at which our societies obsessive fear of age goes further and further down in age range it would be no surprise if in 20 years a child’s first full sentence will be “My God, is that a wrinkle?!”
Aside from the odd tendency of plastic surgery, there is another, much more common tendency which may have the same root. The “health” fixation. These are those of us who spend countless hours working out and degrade themselves to eating food not fit for commercial live-stock. And for what? To die at 111 years old? To be the healthiest and most athletic 111 year old?
The Danger to Your Destiny:
There is a serious danger lurking in your wheatgrass smoothy. It’s not the taste, or the smell, or that awful color; no, it’s much worse, it’s a defense mechanism.
It’s not much of stretch to say that a culture obsessed with staying young and living a long time is afraid of dying, afraid of even thinking about dying. Being old doesn’t mean you’re dying, but it does mean (typically) that one starts thinking about it.
Looking in the mirror and seeing that your face has become old and worn from many years of use is a reminder that there is one thing that nobody escapes, death.
But the realization of death is not a macabre or morbid thing, instead it’s what allows you to have a destiny. Being aware that at some point you’re life is going to end makes it clear that you need to live it. If we live our whole lives trying desperately to avoid the thought of death, thinking we might, through this, somehow avoid death itself, then we wasted our life, and lived without a destiny. And thus we did exactly what Sartre said all existing things would do:
“Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.” -Nausea
Securing Your Destiny:
This is not the only way to live. Accepting death as that ultimate possibility; which will make itself an actuality in your life whether you like it or not, means you can have a destiny, it means you can live towards something, since you know you’re already living towards death.
A Thought Experiment:
Two men die on the same day, and meet in the afterlife.
The two men think of something to say to one another. One man thinks to himself, “He looks terrible. I’ll ask him how old he was when… you know…” Meanwhile the other thinks, “I’ll ask him what he left behind.”