A couple of guys were chatting as they waited for their sons’ turns at Supercut. I was waiting, too, and tuned them out until I heard one say enthusiastically, “Hey, there’s a new place over on Water Street that does prostate!”
“Awesome!” crowed the other. “I’m really into prostate, but I wasn’t crazy about the facility I was using. What do they charge?”
Listening more attentively, I soon discerned that these two cheerful fellows were actually discussing something called “CrossFit,” which turns out to be some sort of intensive fitness program “that combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, powerlifting, kettlebell training, plyometrics, rowing, and medicine ball training.”
As a certified Slugabed, complete with Barley Butt, enthusiasm about CrossFit seems only marginally more rational than enthusiasm over prostate. I know the following things about staying in shape: (1) It hurts and I don’t like it; (2) There is a moral dimension to it, but one that is very, very easy to ignore; and (3) No matter what kind of clothing I’m looking for, they now make it in my size, with a touch of Lycra.
This is the part of the post where you start mentally planning your lecture about how it’s obvious that I’m hiding a deep self loathing in my uncharitable disdain for people who actually care for themselves out of respect for the gift of life and for their spouses. Let me save you some time here. You’re wrong: I’m not hiding it at all! Much like the latest expansion of the acreage on my right front quadrant, my self loathing is right out there in the open, where everyone can see it.
I totally forget what we were talking about. Oh, CrossFit. So these guys went on and on and on about the various fitness trials they had conquered, the competitions they hoped to qualify for in the future, and the training techniques they had mastered. Mind you, these guys weren’t policemen, or professional athletes, or in the military (unless maybe National Guard). They talked a little bit about their careers, but mainly they kept talking about “training.”
And I kept wondering, “Training for what?”
Please note: this post is not really about me criticizing people who like to exercise. If they want to swim through frigid water and carry sandbags around really fast, what do I care? Not every endeavor in life needs to be useful. We all dedicate a certain amount of time to just doing things we like to do; and achieving personal goals, even if they’re not useful in themselves, can certainly lead to strength of character which will come in handy when we do need to do something useful. Carry enough sandbags around for fun, and you may very well end up being the guy who saves his entire town when the actual flood comes.
So, I’m not thinking about these guys. I’m thinking about myself. I’m wondering what I’M in training for? How do I spend most of my time? What skills am I developing, and what do I hope to do with those skills? Because the word “training” implies that there is some final contest, some ultimate test where I can show my hard-won skills.
Am I training myself in logic and rhetoric? Why? So some day I can lie on my deathbed and delivery an airtight argument to the hospice nurse for why it’s not fair that I’m suffering this way?
Am I training myself to be more and more aware and responsive to my own desires?
Am I in training to be able to come up with an excuse, at a moment’s notice, for why I failed when the trial finally came?
Am I training myself to love my fellow man, in preparation to meet Love Himself? Or am I training myself to become less and less distracted by the needs of other people, so that eventually I can be alone for eternity?
We all dedicate huge gobs of time, energy, and enthusiasm toward certain types of activity. Whether we realize it or not, we’re all in training. It makes sense, from time to time, to think about what goal we’re likely to reach, if we keep on training this way.