Thoughts on Chapter 11 of The Artist's Way. Part eleven of twelve on creativity.
I hadn't planned on lining this up with Thanksgiving weekend, but on reviewing Chapter 11 of The Artist's Way, I was reminded of the fact that Cameron took on the subject of exercise specifically, and the body more generally.
Artists and intellectuals seem to almost make it a point of pride that they don't give a shit about their bodies. We drink a lot, eat out constantly, and then get all high-horsey about popular culture's worship of sports celebrities and skinniness and six-pack abs. Though I quit, smoking (both cigarettes and marijuana) is still a big thing for lots of my artsy friends. And here we live, in the sickeningly privileged U.S.A., where we apparently still think it's okay to binge on tons of meat, dairy, white flour, processed sugar, and beer to celebrate...uh, "Thanks."
Artists and intellectuals never seem to mind aligning their own values with popular culture when it would make them feel deprived to do otherwise. Overeat when that's fun and convenient, and then mock the women and moms going for jogs around Green Lake in their Lululemon gear.* 'Cause nothing would suck more than using all those excess calories.
On the one hand, I get it. I have made very intentional commitments to myself in terms of what practices and causes I feel it is worth investing myself in. I put money towards them, I spend time and energy on the things I'm passionate about, I oppose the evils I can in those specific areas, and then I, like 99% of the people I know, get on with my life and effectively put blinders on to the stuff that falls outside of the scope I've chosen for myself. But I chose that scope for a reason: I can only be effective in so many spheres of life. I only have so much me to go around. I cannot work a job, hang out with friends, have a boyfriend, read a ton, participate in the dialogues I care about online and in life, participate in food/animal rights protests, political action, and fundraising, write poems, write blog posts, sing in a choir, be a vestry member at my church, go to the freaking church, schedule introvert-escape time with my cat and Monty Python, AND exercise regularly and eat well and occasionally sleep, and do any of it particularly well. Even writing that out is sort of terrifying, because as of right now I am trying to do all of those things.
So maybe artists and intellectuals would claim they are trying to pick their foci. They want to ensure they can do things, and do them well, and many of us didn't participate in sports when we were younger, so maybe getting outside and going for a run, or deciding to eat something more vegetable-based than meat-based, just feels foreign and like a lot of extra time and effort. And don't get me wrong: it is a lot of extra effort. If anyone ever cheerily says something like "it's just so easy to eat really healthy and you can totally just squeeze in a little brisk walk here and there and that's plenty!", they're lying. For dinner tonight, I'd like a burger, please. The kale and sweet potato will take infinitely longer to prepare. Also, when my writing time gets squeezed, the idea of going to a yoga class or swimming sounds counterproductive. I've got limited time, so I should spend it doing the most important stuff, right?
Which brings me to the title of the blog post. Did you know your brain is a part of your body? Of course you did. I won't insult your intellect by suggesting otherwise. I will, however, risk insulting your attitude. Most humans behave as though they were in fact two different things. We could say soul and body, or spirit and body, but these days, people mostly talk about their "self" in what I think is a similar way to how we used to talk about souls. It's gotten a little pop-psychologized, but I think the gist (in this context) is the same: I think and behave as though I, the person I talk about in my professional and social and emotional lives, am a different entity from my body. Only I'm not. I'm totally fucking not. I don't know nearly enough about neuro-philosophy and -psychology to go into detail on this, but suffice to say your body is precisely the you you are always talking about. Your body is precisely the you that makes art, and raises babies, and tries to love your partner(s), and listens to music and gets all choked up about it. That is you. That is your body. If there is a spiritual element, which I believe there is, it's so deep and so essential I don't think we can hardly talk about it. We might be able to sing or pray about it, and religious ceremonies can be great for connecting to it. But if it's there at all, I'm pretty sure it's not the part of you that nearly cries over every sweet photo of a puppy on the internet. (Okay, okay. That specific issue might be more about me.)
My point is, when you take care of your body, you are taking care of the very same thing that generates art and thought and insight and stories and plays and loving, well-reasoned responses to your horrible children/partner/family. Taking care of your body is not a time-suck that keeps you away from your creativity; your job might be, and certainly some relationships can be, and without doubt the entire nightmare that is the modern nation-state-capitalism-entertainment-industry-death-knell is one gigantic time-suck. Unfortunately, that mess isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and whenever it does, it will probably take us all with it. So in the meantime, you can either a) abuse the body that makes all that joyous art and thought, or b) get rid of it as quickly as possible, in as slow and painful of a way as possible.
Ham with a side of sedentary, anyone?
* The interwebs in particular like to complain about hot moms and their jogger/strollers and Lululemon, though I've heard it in real-time as well.
I know. It's just so obnoxious to see women (WOMEN!!) getting exercise, and they take up tons of room when they have those annoying "kid" things, and they get together in these groups and "chat" with each other about their feelings and their lives AND THEN THEY GO TO STARBUCKS AND CAN'T THEY TELL HOW OBNOXIOUS THEIR SKINNY LATTES ARE??!!
But seriously, I'm sick of it. Next time you feel like criticizing an upper-class woman with a nice ass, know that you are just jealous.