As big Paul stood there with his lat's flared three feet on either side, and as the beads of sweat dripped off every inch of his perfectly sculpted, toned body, people stood, staring in awe and admiration at the perfect physical specimen before them. When he opened his mouth it was as if the heavens spoke, for he was speaking the language of bodybuilding's seers and holy sages; his was the language of the enlightened guru's.
As Paul would give his customary dissertations, proclamations or lectures on bodybuilding, and as the words of wisdom rolled off his tongue like food destined to feed and sustain the hungry masses, those eager to get huge would listen with unbroken stares, in a trance-like state, absorbing, almost osmotically, the information coming forth from this master.
His disciples flocked from all directions of the city to converge upon this gym, and hear their master speak. They would come to this place - this temple, this holy mount. Truly, it was King Paul's palace. He was the guru. He was the master. He was King of his domain. He was bodybuilding personified. He also loved the attention. T'was the reason he began his journey to live the bodybuilding lifestyle. But was he healthy?
In times past health has been defined as the absence of disease. But what is disease? Notice from the definition provided that the phrase is simply "the absence of disease." The TYPE of disease is not specified. An analysis of this definition proves most telling.
With any disease process, the physical is not all that exists. There are two elements to any disease process: the
mental and the
physical. And, for every physical manifestation there is a mental equivalent. After all, consider the two words that the word disease is made up of:
Categories Of Disease
The term "DIS" is a prefix that is derived from the old French term des and means "no longer." It is a term that is used to describe a tense.
The term "EASE" is a suffix that is also derived from the old French term aise and means "to be at rest." It describes a state of being.
So, with that understanding we can see that the term disease means that someone is no longer in a state of ease. This state of no longer being at ease can be brought about by the mind or the body, and therefore disease can be mental, physical, or both. As bodybuilders who eat correctly and get plenty of exercise, we may believe that we are healthy in every sense of the word. But are we TRULY healthy? Some of us, as will be shown, may not be.
Bodybuilding truly is an amazing lifestyle to live. From the time that many of us looked at our first bodybuilding magazine or saw our first Arnold movie, we became inspired. That inspiration lasted and became something more: commitment and love. Each of us fell in love with the iron game at an early age and are still at it today. But what have we given up to get here? Because everything requires sacrifices, what have we GIVEN in order to GET, from the iron sport?
One indicator of health is how physically fit someone is, and their ratio of adipose to muscle tissue. Quite another, and equally important, indicator is how happy someone is, and how well they are able to maintain loving, close relationships with those around them.
In our post-modern Western Society the prevalent philosophy is what I call "the way of get." This view puts the focus on the individual, as opposed to others (Schoeneman, 1994). By contrast, Asia and other places are collectivist in nature. This is not to suggest that other parts of the world do not share the Western attitude of individualism, but research shows there is a profound difference in how people in the West identify their self-concept and how people in other parts of the world do the same.
The technical terms for these two concepts of self-identity are: Independent and Interdependent. As the names suggest, with the independent outlook, one "looks out for #1" and identifies oneself as being separate from the group. In the interdependent model, the opposite is true. "Being responsible" does not mean rejecting others, but taking ones responsibilities WITHIN THE GROUP seriously and DOING them, so as to further along group goals.
By examining anthropological data we know and understand that groups are necessary for survival. Our ancestors REQUIRED the assistance of others for survival. Division of labor is but one example of group work to ensure the survival of all members.
Despite people in our post-modern Western society advocating capitalism and its virtues and damning communism and its faults, a look at capitalism is revealing.
In the capitalistic model of economics, labor is specialized. One person acquires the raw goods, sells them to someone else who manufactures a product, who then sells that product to a distributor, who then sells that product to a vendor, who then sells the product to the consumer. At times the "middle men" are not required, so the transaction occurs from manufacturer to consumer. In either case each person requires the other.
It should be obvious that the manufacturer requires and needs someone who will provide the raw materials, and then requires someone to buy the product that he or she is making. The whole nature of the economy is symbiotic.
I am not advocating communism, and I am the first to reject and condemn it. However, I do believe that a helpful outlook would be to view capitalism [the so-called individualistic model of economics] as an interdependent system comprised of individuals striving for one goal: affluence. When everyone wins, everyone wins. How does this have any relation to bodybuilding? In every way.
You can see from your life and
relationships that you require others to sustain your existence. After all, SOMEONE had to have given birth to you and fed you when you were helpless. However, despite the evidence before our eyes, we all must contend daily with one element of our natures that, if allowed to run wild, can be the destruction of our lives: The Ego.
Does Your Ego Tell You That You Are An Individual?
The ego is the part of you that loudly proclaims, "I am separate from everyone else." Your ego is that part of you that divides, classifies and judges. If so-and-so does not belong to "us" then they belong to "them," ego reasons.
While this function and ability can be extremely useful under certain circumstances [i.e. in war] it can be detrimental in others. Think about your personal relationships. In the book Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy (1993) remarks that "... most of your joy in life comes from your happy relationships with other people, and most of your problems in life come from unhappy relationships with them." (p.259). This is a truism.
The sad reality is that most of our problems in life DO arise when we interact with other people. And an even sadder reality is that many of us have difficulty interacting with others simply because we DON'T KNOW HOW!
Truly, most of our problems have a face and hair on top. Consider, for a moment, the nature of the current bodybuilding movement.
By its nature it is contentious. If one phrase could be used to describe it, that phrase would be "it's a dog-eat-dog world." It is every man for himself; each man trying to out-do the other; it's about walking on corpses to get to the top.
Man has an innate tendency toward aggression, competition and dominance. In the Bible creation story written over 4,000 years ago we find God instructing Adam "... Replenish the earth, and SUBDUE it: and have DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the flow of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." (Genesis 1:28). In other creation stories we find similar sentiments. It is little surprise, then, that humanity has CONTINUALLY fought wars over every imaginable matter.
In Western society where the infrastructure exists to avoid war on the North American continent, we find increased rates of cancer, depression and heart disease. Consider this passage from the book Psychiatry and the Bible by Carroll A. Wise (1956):
The ability to be angry is deeply rooted in human nature. A small infant can become angry to the point of rage. For the infant, as for all of us, anger is a response made to an experience of frustration which makes us fearful and insecure ... its aim is either to destroy the offender, or get away from him..there are many human situations where anger only creates greater danger ... When a child becomes afraid of his own anger, he has to bury it, and hide it deeply inside himself. Anger thus held festers and becomes a poison. It then begins to emerge in disguised ways, such as unruly behavior OR PHYSICAL SICKNESS. (pp. 94-95)
To overcome this process many years of dedicated, disciplined work are required. Bodybuilding can also be a therapeutic part of this overcoming process. For it can greatly reduce stress, improve health, and improve the quality and length of ones life. However, the opposite can also be true. Because of the ego and its adoration of praise and the need to discriminate, classify and judge, it is easy to become "hot headed" or "egotistical."
When THIS happens it can become easy to look down upon others for not being physically perfect or motivated enough to get to the gym to fix, what we perceive to be, as "problems." This attitude can carry over to our relationships. Not only can an egotistical attitude manifest a situation like the one just described, but an even worse one can appear: selfishness that hurts others.
It is one thing to harbor selfish attitudes, but quite another to apply them in reality. In articles past I have made no attempt to hide the fact that I believe selfishness is a good thing under specific circumstances. Being selfish at the appropriate time can prevent people from being victimized. So, like the ego, selfishness DOES have beneficial applications under certain, and appropriate, circumstances.
Problems arise, however, when everything become about "ME." I don't need to explain to those of you with significant others what devastating affects can be brought forth from a selfish attitude fueled by a carnivorous ego, bent on getting for the self only.
The Purpose Of Bodybuilding
In the example presented at the beginning of this article you saw how one man was the epitome of physical perfection. He believed himself to be King. After all, he reasoned, he was the best. No one cold hold a candle to him. But there was trouble in paradise: He was so perfect that he was alone.
His example is a perfect illustration about how bodybuilding should not be undertaken to convince yourself or others about how "good" you are, nor should it be undertaken to boost your ego. Bodybuilding should be a lifestyle that you live every day because you are trying to become a better, more MATURE, person. Bodybuilding should be a lifestyle you live so that you can enjoy enhanced mental and physical health, and that because of this your relationships with others will improve.
When bodybuilding feeds your ego, and when this results in detriment being brought to your life and relationships because you become arrogant and self-centered, inspiration has turned into one thing: OBSESSION. Obsessions are NOT healthy.
A favorite poem of mine that reminds me daily that the relationships in my life are more important than my ego, is the following:
Summary / Conclusion
Health is not exclusive to the physical domain or bodybuilding endeavors. It also applies to your mind and heart. To be a healthy person, then, it is necessary that you examine WHY do you do what you do, and consider how it can IMPROVE your life and relationships with others, and how it will IMPACT your health and relationships.
Jim Morrison remarked "no one gets out of here alive." An even wiser man remarked that you "can't take it with you when you're gone." So if you can't take anything with you when you are gone, the only thing you can do with this life is give it away. GIVING, instead of TAKING. The "way of give" instead of the "way of get."
Being a TOTALLY healthy and whole person involves improving physical health and establishing loving, healthy, relationships with people that are important in your life. It means not sacrificing those relationships for egotistical endeavors.
Being a healthy bodybuilder, simply, means that in all areas of your life you seek to improve, and that bodybuilding is how you seek to improve your physical body and mind in order so that your mind and body can be used to love and help others. Don't make mistakes by letting your ego take over. Be a healthy bodybuilder.
1. Donne, J. (1572-1631). Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. (Meditation XVII).
2. Schoeneman, T.J. (1994). Individualism. In V.S. Reamachandran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. (p.43)
3. Tracy, B. (1993). Maximum Achievement. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Inc.
4. Wise, C.A. (1956). Psychiatry and the Bible. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers. (pp. 94-95)
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