Monday, June 15, 2009

Fiction: It's Good For You

“Excuse me, sir. Grab that big heavy bar, will ya?”
“Okay. Got it. What do you want me to do with it?”
“Lift it up over your head. A little further… a little further. That’s it, push it. Great. You can put it down now.”
“Would you mind doing that again, nine more times?”
“What for?”
"It’s good for you. And you, ma’am, grab your ears and try to touch your knees to your chin. Excellent. Do it a hundred times. Over there, you! Yeah you. Run around in a circle until you want to die.”
There was a time when filling our bellies and keeping the rain out of our slack, sleeping mouths was a full time job. Life was exercise. There were no flabby hunter-gatherers and pioneers didn’t need Pilates. But as our conveniences got cleverer, we went soft and weak. It’s not an indictment, it’s only the truth. And who would go back to the days of crossing the room to turn up your stereo?

Everyone knows there’s value in power-walking over a wide rubberband that’s looping on rollers, and we don’t question the ridiculous practice of grunting under disks of metal lifted to nowhere in three sets of ten reps each. In our modern lives, there just isn’t demand enough on the muscles and tendons to keep them strong and healthy. Survival, for the most part, doesn’t test our capabilities anymore. So we invented Jack Lalanne.

Life also isn’t big enough, or long enough, for most of us to ever know how we’d react to an alien invasion, or what we’d want if we grew up as best friend to someone socially off-limits. The range of our experience, even among the most traveled and tormented, can’t cover all we could do, given the time. Our personal dose of drama often isn’t sufficient for the vast capacity of the human mind for empathy, outrage, heroism, and debauchery. So we invented fiction.

Just think about that the next time you feel guilty for wasting time between the covers of a novel. The benefits of mental and emotional calisthenics play out every day. Pure fantasy can lay the paving stones for journeys we have yet to take. And if it’s well-written, forewarned is most reliably forearmed.

But if you’ve been sitting there too long, just raise the book over your head. And one and two and - don’t lock those elbows - three and four…