The article Routine versus Ritual has always been the mission statement of Bodytribe, the introduction towards our particular brand of fitness comedy.
But what led me to those realizations? Here is the first draft preface, or in modern terms, the `prequel,’ to how Bodytribe started…
It always begins on a mountain or under a tree, so far be it for me to be the exception. There is a mountain ridge amongst the Sierra range that is modest in size and user friendly. It is an intermediate hike to the crest which provides a nifty view of Serene Lakes on one side and Lake Norden on the other, not to mention the numerous other mountains, valleys and acres of trees that can be seen for miles in all directions. This ridge probably has a name, but I knew it simply as a mountain that rose up between a ring of cross country ski trails that circled its base during the winter. If, for the sake of organization, you’d like a name for it, let’s call it Sherry.
I was about 10 kilometers from the resort’s lodge, deep in the woods and at the far end of Sherry one day when I decided that, since it was there, I may as well climb it (her?). It was spring and the snow was solid ice in the morning, and slush by late afternoon. In the ice stage, it was easy to ski off trail, if you had a good familiarity with the `skating’ style of cross country skiing. So up the mountain I went, skating the snow/ice, eventually reaching the top of the ridge.
Once the climb was made, the rolling peaks of Sherry’s top were a pleasure to ski (oh my… let’s rethink this naming-of-the-mountain thing), and the view had few equals, at points a 360 panorama of one of the finest, most piquant mountain ranges in the world. I rested on a giant rock, not knowing that it would be the location for an epiphany that would lock me there for several hours.
Sherry had many things to teach me.
To Nature, Humans are not beautiful creatures. We’re fond of ourselves and sometimes each other, but the rest of the planet, the non-human majority, doesn’t view us as such. Naked, we’re not built to tolerate most climates. We offer no real place on any food chain. We’re not essential to any original ecology (in fact we tend to destroy any environment we inhabit). And we, when compared to other species, aren’t really that great to look at.
Why are we still around? For reasons beyond our understanding, we possess a cognitive gift more developed (arguably) than anything else on the planet. The theories explaining our `how’ have been argued since we first realized we could communicate beyond grunts. More exciting is figuring out the `why.’
Sitting on that rock overlooking vast sections of natural pulchritude had me a thinkun’. Admitting our inherent ugliness and lack of importance to an otherwise thriving and autonomous planet was a tough step. We all want to feel needed, but having the bosom of the Earth Mother staring at me from all angles imparted a strong message that if we didn’t exist on the planet, her survival would actually be easier.
We, probably sensing our worthlessness in some corner of our unconsciousness, have made dangerous decisions about how to assert ourselves. We’ve decided as a species to CLAIM worth through domination, the classic sign of the insecure bully. The irony is lost on us that our punk-ass attempts at domination eventually show us how dependent we are on the planet, but at that point our seemingly infinite capacity for logic and rationalization have degenerated into greed, and we’re too power-drunk to admit to our natural, birth given ugliness.
The Hollywood scenario would look like this: the battered, bloodied hero, while spitting out a broken tooth and trying to get up off the ground, starts to laugh. The villain, feeling inches from victory, stops the pummeling for a minute to ask where the humor is in the present situation, just as he gets squashed by a train that the hero saw approaching the whole time.
Right now we can hear the planet giggling under our clenched fists.
Even the lifetime ago (when I was still in my 20’s) when I was on top of this ridge, nature was laughing at us, and had been for some time. My solitary perch upon her chest gave me some unexpected insight as to what might really be our purpose as a species. I was surrounded by beauty and purpose, as everything within visual distance had a place in the glory I was witnessing. In other words, where I was wouldn’t be what it was without everything I could see at that point, from the diminutive, almost invisible spiders that wanted me to get off their rock to the massive range of peaks on the other side of the valley. The only one not serving a purpose would be this pale, stinky ape sitting on the rock with giant sticks on his feet and obnoxious colored boots.
Here’s a brain twister: if a tree lived in a forest and no one was around to see it, would it really exist?
Oxygen is a little sparse at 8,000 feet, making the spam and lime jello globe called my brain a little more privy to wackiness. But I believe Sherry was telling me that too many of our philosophical pursuits are as selfish as our quests for planet domination. In other words, yes, that tree exists, whether it falls and we don’t here it or it stands for several hundred years hanging out with peers and no human eye ever beholds it.
What good are we then? If we don’t have an instant place in the order of nature, then let’s look at the tools we were given, this ability to create thought, and see how it might be better used.
First, let’s define beauty as it relates to our scenario here. Beyond human aesthetic perception, let’s define it also as an integral part in nature, explaining then how, to the planet, we’re ugly and a dung beetle is, in its own way, hot. Beauty, to this big blue ball, is the utilitarian synergy of living things. And with a little squinting, we can probably see that too.
But guess what we can do? Better, in fact that probably any other creature on earth? We can create beauty, in both the aesthetic perception sense, through art and ideas, and in our relation-to-the-planet definition. We’ve been given this ability, this quest, and the cognitive understanding to realize it.
How cool is that? Again, it really doesn’t matter too much as to how we got it. Whatever deity or beaker-and-slide-ruler you want to worship doesn’t change the fact that our real mission is how we use this gift.
It is the difference between just existing and truly Being. We’re surrounded by a constant parade of existence, lots of energy, hype and stimuli achieving nothing at all, creating so much unnecessary work giving us the false impression that we’re busy.
When we are honestly using our gift, though, steeped in the process of truly Being, then we are beautiful to the planet. If we can achieve this as a species, harmony ensues. Alas, a boy can dream.
If it isn’t obvious yet what role the physical health of our individual bodies plays in all this, there’s your meditation for the week.