Apr 21 · 8 min read
Perfect body? I can relate. Kindly, not from personal experience, but from tongue-hanging-out appreciation. To wit, I will watch the Avengers origin movie Thor for no other reason than to watch that man walk shirtless into an open room. Whew.
After some 46 years of bodybuilding, my body isn’t so bad either. Underneath the wrinkling, sightly sagging skin which is part of the price I pay for having been obese and for hanging around this long, I’m in ridiculously good shape. Not for 67, for any age.
And I’m aging.
Damn right. What did I expect, that somehow I would be spared the inevitable degradation? Beneath the wrinkles, my muscles are as strong as ever. Research attests to that.
The good news:
And the rest of the news: I am going to continue to wrinkle. Nothing stops that. Not surgery, not lotions or potions or Preparation H on the face. I will diminish. Deteriorate. Die. Like we all do. My Mother wants me back when it’s my time. With any luck, if I’m responsible, that will be a long time out.
I never had, never would have, never will have the “perfect body” by falsely- manufactured, ridiculous standards created by folks with an agenda. Which is, of course to cause us such extreme anxiety so that we buy shit we don’t need to do what we can’t do and never could do: have the Perfect Body That Will Never Age. To wit: Gerascophobia. Today’s new monster. Fear of aging, but Writ VERY Large.
The search for The Perfect Body is the 21st Century’s Holy Grail. In other words, something that so many seek but nobody finds because it simply doesn’t exist. Period.
Wanna see “perfect bodies? Best Exhibit #1 I’ve ever seen is Howard Schatz’s Athlete studies of the breathtaking diversity among the elite.
This is a marvelous case for appreciating diversity with the very best athletic bodies on Earth:
If you peruse these, some will appeal. Some won’t. Some will surprise. The whole point IS the variety. There is no single one standard for athletes. There is no single one standard for beauty or handsomeness. Nor can there be. To pitch an advert with a “perfect white face” in a country of color is an insult. But that’s just me.
However, that sure does sell stupid shit. Asian women bleach their skin. Westerners buy tanner. Men and women get silicone implants for just about anything to look like something else. Most of the conglomerates are owned by the same folks; they just change the message to manipulate different cultures to change how they look, feel guilty about what they are to sell more shit.
Oh I could go on forever. I’m not saying that there is no value in trying to be more attractive. When in Rome. All creatures want to mate with the best. It’s the nature of Nature.
However, for humans, the body isn’t the point. It’s what we do with it.
However, if I may. The body, is just that: THE body. An it. It’s not us. We inhabit it, it gives us agency in the world such as we are able, and it serves us as well as it can, despite what we do to it in the name of seeking perfection that doesn’t exist anyway. At least in the sense that there is One Perfect Standard.
We can passionately identify with our bodies-and kindly, I’ve done it- so much so that any change that we perceive as negative can drag us to the depths. Aging. Weight gain. Disease. Disability. Grey hair. Grey pubes. Nose rugs. (all right, who put the camera in my house?)
All those Olympians are also going to wrinkle, sag, grey or die. ALL of them. Plenty before them, beautiful, extraordinary Olympians all shriveled up and died. All perfectly fabulous bodies, once. As well as as all the beautiful actors, actresses, and anyone else, as well as allus not-so-gorgeous people. All of us.
Brigitte Bardot, once one of the most gorgeous women in the world, is now 86. Popular media excoriates her for being old. For daring to disappoint us for not staying young and perfect forever. How dare she get old.
Are you fucking KIDDING me? Getting publicly castigated for something that none of us can stop, or change, or help? This is how far we have descended. How little we understand. How cheaply we handle the single most precious gift we’ve been given: the chance to show up in mortal form. To have life.
There is another way to see this, however, if you’ll bear with me please.
My body is aging.
My body weight goes up and down.
My body has on occasion had a disease or severe injury.
My body has some disabilities.
Because I am not my body.
My body is an it. I was gifted this body out of the womb. It has a job to do: give me enough time for me to do whatever it was I came here to do. Not everyone lives a long life. Some only make an appearance for a few seconds. Others, a few hours, others, 107 years.
Who are we to argue with Forces we don’t understand? How is it for us to judge the relative value of a life lived for an hour versus a life lived for eight decades? Who are we to try to determine the impact of any given life of any kind for any reason for any time?
For my part, it’s not mine to judge, but learn to accept. Part of that acceptance is recognizing that my body isn’t my sole value to the world. I can’t speak for anyone else.
My role on this Earth has nothing to do with having a perfect body in and of itself. First of all, as it is right now it is indeed perfect: for me. For where I am in life. For what my role is. It is perfect for what I need to be doing right now. I might suggest that so is yours.
And as we’ve already clarified, there is no such thing as a perfect body standard that applies to everyone. So honestly, what on earth is all the fuss about?
Billions are made on weight loss, fitness, anti-aging, gym memberships. On our terrible identification and addiction to the vehicle whose job it is to give us a way to grow, work, evolve, become. People waste their entire lives focusing on just one aspect of their development at the expense of everything else. I’ve done it myself. I know what it feels like to be so utterly consumed with body issues that nothing else even exists.
The overemphasis on the physical is a huge distraction. It also has little interest to people who are far more intrigued by intellectual pursuit, or who are more entranced with emotional exploration. Nobody’s wrong. We’re just different. But I would point out that each of those pursuits, carried through to the exclusion of the others, perhaps missed the mark a bit. Perhaps a whole lot.
And then there’s that whole spiritual realm, which entails the potential for consciousness. It implies being fully in the moment. It’s arguable that we as a species are anything but conscious, depending on how you define the word.
The way I understand it, the potential role of all the human potential spheres is to offer us the opportunity to evolve and develop in full. You and I have met folks who are intellectual brilliants and utter assholes. We’ve met emotional savants who can’t string a sentence together. We’ve met magnificent physical specimens with the maturity of a boiled beet.
There is no right or wrong here, albeit each judges themselves superior to the others. The intellectual may detest the muscle head for lacking brain power, the emotional may detest the intellectual for having no heart whatsoever, the physical champion laughs at the pencil neck with a pocket protector.
All of them may laugh at the monk, the priestess, the shaman, the mystic.
Yet the potential, the capacity to develop each of these in each of us is with in us, to one degree or another.
As I age, and I must as do we all, I am doing my best to develop those spheres which, in the past, were ignored because of our society’s undue focus on the physical. That uber focus has only gotten more intense as I get older, in that the more people make billions on our physical selves the more we’re manipulated to obsess about it. Hence, Gerascophobia. There’s far too much profit to be made off forcing us to focus on aging and the body at the expense of nearly everything else.
I see the effect on my fellow Medium peeps who worry terribly about the one single thing that we cannot stop: age. That takes away precious, important time from those things we can absolutely, positively directly affect: our hearts, minds, souls, our spirits.
I absolutely need to exercise, feed and take care of my body as though I were an Olympian, because I want to make it a long long time. That time allows me to develop my heart, my mind, my soul, my spirit.
Those can be and potentially are ageless.
Those things can be and potentially are the great treasures that we offer the world.
The body does a great job of allowing us to feel, see, explore, procreate, learn, grow, challenge ourselves. All that and more. But not if we treat it irresponsibly. Because then its issues distract us from the rest of life.
AND it’s a use-once-and throw-away paper towel, in terms of our evolution. The way I see it, the reason why I am in such great shape today is in part because I am doing my best to develop all those spheres. The body serves as I serve my body as my vessel, my beloved and devoted vehicle, but not the only gift of meaning I have to offer.
My body is aging, but I am ageless.
My body is wrinkled, but my soul is eternal.
My body will eventually break down and return to my Mother.
But I will go on.
What gifts I choose to take with me are what my body brought me here to discover. My body today, with thanks to my beloved Medium friend Margaret Kruger, is the love letter being sent to me for all the care I have given her for all the long years we have existed together. She deserves my love, not my disgust, my anger. For what is inside her is perfect, priceless and sacred.