Thursday, November 15, 2012

Symphony of Iron

           Music has the innate ability to create emotional reactions within the human soul and heart. The beauty of a symphony, the adrenaline rush of a rock song, the contemplative prism of Gregorian Chant, can awaken feelings unlike much else. Our Creator has blessed us with the natural appreciation of such beauty and the ability to create music seems most curiously part of who we are. During the Liturgy of the Mass music is meant to bring us closer to God and contemplating His sacred mysteries. Art and architecture are also excellent means of which humankind 'sub-creates' (borrowing from J.R.R. Tolkien) a vision of God Himself through human means. We see the ever-famous ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, Regensburg Cathedral in Germany or statues like Michelangelo's David and know, to our very core, that this piece or that pillar leads to the transcendent.

           While the discussion of which type of music, art and architecture better draws our soul to the Divine will be an everlasting conversation until death do us part, what is rarely spoken of is what else in this world draws us towards the Divine in such a way. What other acts of 'sub-creation' can we take part in to order ourselves and those we come in contact with to appreciate the good, true and beautiful? Though many might scoff at such a lofty idea the answer for the 'New Asceticist' would quite obviously be THE IRON. Being as we are literally temples of the Holy Spirit, we embody all of the good and beautiful one finds within music, art and architecture and The Iron is the place in which we chip off our defects, correct and tighten any loose chords, and build an intrument worthy of Christ Himself. The Iron and the work it entails exudes motion for the sake of betterment and growth.

           Just as a violinist tunes his violin for the optimum sound quality, we musclemen strive to tune our bodies for the mission of Christ. The divine quality held within the arts, i.e. grace, longing, and beauty are magnified in the gym for those Ironheads who appreciate dedication to physical willpower. The angelic tones of metal on metal and the occasional grunts from exertion remind the participants that this is a place of hard work and manliness, two virtues of God Himself. Our eyes gleam of longing and hope, longing to succeed and to please Christ in our lifting and hope that we will one day fulfill our own mission we are preparing our bodies for. The architectural design of our human bodies allows for possible improvement, could this be a desire from our Creator? To improve for the sake of God Himself? The weight room is full of possibilities. When training for a higher purpose and a mission those possibilities are fully realized. Just as Muhammad Ali used to 'sing that sweet chin music' in the ring, we play a symphony for our Lord when we train to serve Him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Humility

           To the untrained eye, weight lifters, bodybuilders and martial artists contrive a muscle-bound, gleaming view into a psyche leaning toward the barbaric. Glorifying large muscles and the ability to move heavy objects may seem odd and absurd to most. Concluding that egoism and pride are the only possible outcome and driving force, the outside culture looks through the glass of the gym and purely sees the contrived images of men trying to become gods. What is not seen is that deep yearning for growth, not just muscularly, but internally as well. The magazines and mainstream fitness culture does not reveal the depth of character that occurs in the weight room. True dying to self, of which happens often when hitting the weights, consistently grabs man by his throat and reminds him of his humanity and his call to respect the virtue of humility.

        Humility is a tough cookie to swallow at times. Our pride and ego gets in the way and we truly believe that we can fix our problems. Whether it be through politics, talking (yet never saying anything) or striving for financial success we try our hardest to become an object of admiration. The only true test of proper humility is in carrying a cross. The difficulties we face in life may seem impossible, or worse, mortal, yet each and every time we approach one we come out of the struggle with more zeal, passion and life changing grace. This is where the weight room can become a place of trial. Where we realize that we are not superman and that we do, in fact, contain weakness which can only be overcome by recognizing and working on them. There is a confidence in the humility that grows when you lower the weight and realize you just may not finish the rep. You are putting your life, pride and body on the line every time you work out. Humility can only be improved upon through practice. While we are given opportunities every single day to tell ourselves that we are not God, the Iron solidifies that exact principle.
       Through the example of Christ our King, we should take seriously the call to become like innocent children. To become the least in order to become great. If true greatness is in your retinue of fitness goals then realizing the constant battle for humility can be exponentially expounded through focusing on what is happening to you spiritually when you lift. If you go into the gym with the attitude of an ego-maniac, the weights will sure enough smack you around and put you in your proper place. I have seen men, specifically at the large gyms, who walk around as if their sweat is worth more than gold, yet their workouts are lazy and they are more interested in people watching. True growth cannot occur if you are in your own way. Notice and come to terms with where you are at physically, which requires a humbling of your ego, and the sky will be the limit in terms of growth. Even in set-backs, the epitome of physical humility, the humble keep moving, they pick up where they left off and keep striving for that respectful modesty of which the Iron demands.  

"The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good." St. Anthony of the Desert