Good Day Good People,
This is why humans need to move : in search of perfection and beauty
Over two thousands of years ago – hundreds of years before Christ – the Gods spoke to us through an oracle, at a place called Delphi.
‘Know thy self’ and ‘Nothing in excess’ : these words were inscribed on the columns to the entrance of the temple of Delphi, Greece.
There was a rumor, once, that the Oracle made a third utterance; ‘No man is wiser than Socrates’.
The problem with this however is that history tells us that Socrates was so devoted to his job that one could call it ‘excessive’. Furthermore, this statement still allows for about half the population to potentially be wiser than Socrates.
Ancient misogyny aside, what does ‘know thy self’ mean? ‘Nothing in excess’ appears straight forward, but there seems to be more some confusion when it comes to knowing your self. What is the self anyway? Am ‘I’ my mind, or my body? This is the first stage of ‘know thy self’-contemplation.
So, it appears that the self has a mental and a physical aspect, and possibly even a spiritual one. That leaves 3 different avenues for exploration into ‘know thy self’-contemplation:
- know thy mind
- know thy body
- know thy heart/soul
The realm of the intellectual and the priest has forever been part of history. Just think of all the schools, universities and museums throughout the world. All the cathedrals, monasteries and mosques of imposing beauty. I bet however, you have thought little about the history of physical culture.
Before there even was ‘culture’, there was physical labor.
Physical labor, death and suffering (and more pleasant things I am sure) were evolutionary constants. This means that our bodies have become dependent on some physical stimulus, without which our bodies will literally wither away from under use. What this implies about the importance of death and suffering is outside the scope of this blog.
The Human body will become desensitized with under use. Neural connections will either die or will be reused for other more ‘important’ processes. This will over time eliminate any physical skill you do not habitually practice. The tricky part is that unless you are doing every movement all the time, how will you ever know if you even have a problem?
Diagnosis is impossible without an assessment.
And how do you diagnose your movement if not through movement?
You must use movement to assess movement, to learn movement and to correct movement.
The answer to: “how do I know my (physical) self”? will ultimately involve some sort of movement.
In fact, I would argue that movement is mandatory not just for knowing your self, but for life in general.
Move more often – safely – and you will live more fully.
The better quality of life you lead the more you will want to move, and the more/better you move the greater the quality of life you will experience. really it is a win – win situation.
Movement related pain is common place, too much so. If you relate movement related pain with the Buddhist idea of Samsara or suffering, removing movement related pain from your life should actually be a major concern of your daily life. The only path to Nirvana then, is through the removal of ‘suffering’ – whether it be movement related or not.
To get better into the mindset of an individual from ancient Greece, one must understand the connection they believed in between inward beauty and outward beauty.
At a very primal level the ancient Greeks believed that those who are upstanding, moral citizens will also be literally upstanding in posture, as well as strong and ‘beautiful’ in form.
The term for the leading citizens of ancient Athens (kalos kagathos) which translates into ‘beautiful’ and ‘good’. Now you best believe that these doubly beautiful, doubly good ‘men’ spent all their time in the gymnasium.
Little is it know that the ancient gymnasium was also a social area were there was an odd mix of education, training and love… The gymnasium was actually Socrates favorite place to strike up a conversation and engage a young beautiful boy into mentally stimulating philosophical conversation – while he waits for his turn with the boxing instructor (see Plato’s Lysis). That is to say, the Gym also use to be a hub for learning and philosophy.
Now this gives me an insight into how we will be training in the future – maybe we should be trying to exercise our minds at the same time as our bodies, so that they learn to work in coordination with each other.
And perhaps, just perhaps, if we work hard at making our physical selves beautiful as well as our intellectual/mental selves, we will also make our spiritual selves/souls beautiful in the process.
Is this what the ancient Greeks meant?
What do you think?
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