Minding the Meat Case

I have often accused myself of treating my body like a case made of meat for the purpose of carrying my brain around.

(I am a gnostic at heart. I know this is wrong, so I seek to discipline my living and thinking to overcome this. But it's there in the background.)

At such occasions as I have tended to the condition of my body, more often than not it has been in the name of making it a more efficient vehicle for navigating the academic landscape.

Junior year of college, my physical fitness goal was to be able to climb the three flights of stairs in Blanchard Hall two steps at a time without getting winded. This was because the philosophy department office, where I was spending a considerable part of my time as a teaching assistant, was on the fourth floor. (The student newspaper office, where I was spending the rest of my time, was on the third floor of the now-defunct student center. That building didn't even have an elevator.) Moreover, the philosophy seminar room was on floor four and a half, and as I routinely didn't finish my weekly one-pagers until the literal last minute, I frequently found myself dashing into the seminar room 3 to 5 minutes after class was scheduled to start. It seemed like it would be more dignified to slip into class late if I wasn't also panting.

Then there was the first year of divinity school, when I had two classes back-to-back on opposite sides of the university. I had ten minutes to cover one mile, uphill, with traffic. Recalling the ninth-grade fitness standards (which I had met, because we were being GRADED on this, and heck if I'm gonna let P.E. mar my grade point average), I figured I should be able to jog the mile in 12 minutes, and biking should cut it down to 6 to 8 minutes, easy. So I was disgusted with myself that I kept stumbling into class number two five or more minutes late, panting, with a stitch in my side.

I realized that the dash might become a little less painful if it wasn't the ONLY time all week that I was exerting myself aerobically, so I began a regimen of brisk walking several days a week to that end.

I think I was just barely starting to see some results when I discovered that one of my classmates in class number one had a car and was willing to give me a weekly lift up the hill. Then the exercise program went out the window.

It was another year or two before I discovered that exercise could actually make one feel good, not just less bad. This particularly applied to the 45-minute round-trip scamper from my front door up to the top of East Rock and back.

I miss East Rock.


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