Monday, January 20, 2014

Just Give Me More Art

Recently, a man was paralyzed during a Crossfit weightlifting competition. Without getting into the details or trying to start another online argument over the merits of Crossfit (really, really not the point of this post), the long-story-short version of events is that an athlete failed a lift, dropped the heavily-weighted bar, and collapsed backwards, only to have the bar rebound off of an obstruction and into his back, fracturing his spine. As you might imagine, the online fitness world is all a buzz with all of the "should he/shouldn't he" and "what should have been done differently" stuff.

My chiropractor (of all people) said something to me during our discussion of this unfortunate accident that has stuck with me since: "Just give me more art."

Let me back up.

Our conversation was concerned not only with the accident itself, but with some of the dynamics that surrounded it. Namely, that our culture seems consumed with the advancement of physical fitness and athleticism to the point that the word 'fitness' hardly seems appropriate anymore. Now, before I get too much farther down this road, understand a few things: first, I share my life, my name, & my home with a personal trainer who is currently guiding me through a nutrition & workout plan that has as its goal my getting into the best shape of my life by the time I go back out on tour. Second, I understand (as we all should) that the country in which I live has reached epidemic proportions (pun intended) in regards to its population's obesity: more than 50% are classified as obese (not just overweight - obese), a truly shameful statistic given our culture's modern standards of living. I believe in the importance of health & nutrition. Please don't think otherwise.


The culture surrounding health & fitness today has, in many cases, grown extreme to the point of being toxic. Normal, everyday people (like myself) are being provoked to see themselves as athletes & warriors, challenged to give 150% during every single second of workouts in the name of physical empowerment & beauty, with no room allowed for excuses, apologies, or even explanations. What has resulted is an unreasonable expectation for the fitness level of everyday people based on ever more extreme and dangerous standards of athletic performance.

Thus, the accident.

But, the disproportionate dynamics of the fitness culture is not what I've written this post to be about. The issue at hand, as my chiropractor pointed out, is that while we are constantly barraged with messages about how to better our lives through physical improvement (some appropriate - most not), we, as a culture, hardly ever place the same emphasis on emotional, psychological, or spiritual nourishment - the arenas with which art happens to concern itself.

In short, we are told to be warriors, but not poets. We train to be athletes, but not scholars. We strive to be Spartans, but not Renaissance Men. We spend hours every week watching sporting events, but can hardly be bothered to read a book or take in an art museum (I read this week that visitors to the Louvre in Paris spend, on average, 15 seconds viewing Da Vinci's Mona Lisa). We give 150% to improve our bodies while sparing precious little to improve our minds, hearts, and spirits.

This lack of balance is characteristic of humanity: we like to swing the pendulum really far to one side or the other of any given issue. Many of us do it with almost every aspects of our lives, too. For some reason, we seem uncomfortable in the middle with an appropriate amount of this and that. I have never myself been able to figure out why. Perhaps its simply easier to abide in an extreme rather than take into account how one might benefit from a bit of both sides.

Nonetheless, I believe our souls are suffering from a tangible lack in the things that uphold, sustain, enlighten, and elevate the non-physical elements of who we are. Don't get me wrong: there is plenty of music out there in the world today. Plenty of books, plenty of films, plenty of any kind of art that you can imagine. But the questions to ask ourselves are, "Why does so much of it suck?" and "Why are we spending such a pitiful amount of time really absorbing, appreciating, and understanding it?"

I believe the market reflects the attitude of the culture: popular art is shallow and weak because it is with what we have allowed ourselves to become content. We no longer insist on art being great before we dump our money into it, and I submit that any casual glance at the iTunes Top 10 might serve to validate my point. (Consider this the second aspect of my discussion here today: we're more enamored with whether or not musical artists have six-pack abs and a good fashion sense than whether or not they can actually sing or write artistically viable & lyrically coherent music.)

"Just give me more art."

So, what might happen if we all slowed down and began to more deeply consider the ethereal, the aesthetic, the artistic, and the poetic? What if we began to sink some more time into what our minds were focused on and insisted on participating in things that elevated our spirits? What if we prioritized fitness both of the physical and spiritual sort? What if there were balance - a taking care of our bodies as well as our minds, hearts, and souls?

Balance: no longer just for the gymnastically-inclined.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Animated Social Gadget - Blogger And Wordpress Tips