Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vain Irony

                     I have been a bodybuilder for well over 11 years now. In my time of falling more deeply in love with the whole aspect of muscle growth, the pain, the diet, even writing a book about it, I have come to realize that there is a major sector within our Catholic Faith who still only view this as vanity and nothing less. Viewing the fitness culture from the outside I can rightly agree with said arguments, but knowing what I know and have discovered about the heart and beauty of what the lifestyle offers I must heartily disagree with anyone who claims that vanity is the only outcome. One odd irony is that if I were to ask most individuals if it is vanity for a professional (or high school for that matter) athlete to consistently work on their physiques and to properly order their diets most would answer: Of course not. Yet when a layperson (an athlete not in competition) works hard to bring their physique to its pinnacle it is viewed as either daft or a waste of time. Why is that? Is it because competing athletes have a more tangible purpose for their focus? Or is it because we live in such a competitive culture that we see the end goal of winning worth it all?

                    St. Ignatius of Loyola considered his fellow Jesuits as athletes for Christ. Striving for perfection in themselves in order to effectively spread the Word of God. As human beings we have one purpose in this world: to know, love and serve God. Is it vanity to want to serve him with a well-oiled machine? From the statements of many who believe the fitness and bodybuilding culture are purely vain trappings, it can be deduced that there is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the fitness culture. By using the judgments attached to 'muscelheads' one could even go so far as to say that reading a book would be vanity. Both reading and lifting are actions for the betterment of the individual, yet muscle growth is not seen in that light.  In recognizing our physical weaknesses we also recognize our spiritual weaknesses. As long as the focus of the exercising individual is on the Light of Christ and not the limelight of admirers, bodybuilding can give that which the world hates, i.e. self-knowledge and self-control. Two virtues which surely do not bring about vanity but just the opposite, humility. Hard work and dedication to having a body fit for our purpose consistently creates an atmosphere of humility unlike much else.

                    I recently read an article about the link between young men quitting the vice of smoking through the therapeutic nature of exercise. The boys who exercised surpassed all the other groups in improvement. The virtuous nature of lifting weights helped these young men move past their vice. So, is it still vain when the regular use of physical activity can help us grow past our struggles? I think not. Though vanity might be a struggle for many in the mainstream of bodybuilding, this stamp should not be connected with the sport or the culture, but the individuals representing it. What is in crucial need today is men and women of The Church stepping up and becoming that representing individual. This way when those who doubt the virtuous aspect of the fitness culture no longer see the egomaniac but instead the face of Christ Himself. What the fitness culture offers is vast new territories for The Church to evangelize. So, the incorrect notion that it is a lost cause of vanity should be repealed with divine, reckless abandon.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jared,

    No matter how much you spin it, body building is vanity. A beefed up body have no other purpose than the glorification of the body.

    Let's face it, those who body build do not do it for any spiritual reason (even though they may say they do) but as idolatry of the body. Plain and simple they want to look good.
    If your work is physical and require some muscles, then yes maybe tone up a little bit so that you will not injure yourself when you lift and pull.

    But the amount of beefing up that body builders do go way beyond the requirements of health.
    Waaay beyond. So why do they do it? Simply to look good. So yes there is vanity there and not just ordinary vanity but idolatry - idolatry of the body.

    The worst part about your blog is that you try to justify this idolatry of the body by spinning it.
    You purposely misinterpret St Ignatius intent to suit your own distorted purposes.
    St Ignatius said that we must not desire health nor sickness but hold both in balance because either serve Christ.

    The focus of the Christian should always be on Christ. When we become overly focused on something (and body building requires this kind of focus) we are in fact dethroning Christ.

    To get to the point of having bulked up muscles, you need to concentrate and work on it. A focus that is hardly holy. It becomes an obsession. You may not want to admit it to yourself (which is precisely why you write this blog to justify it ) but you are in fact enslaved to it.

    Let me put it this way, try going without your supplements and your work-outs for the 40 days of Lent and you will see just how addicted you are to it.

    If you want to beef up, fine. But don't spin it to make it look as if it is a good thing. That is nothing more than rationalization of sin - of vanity and self-idolatry.

    Putting a rosary next to a set of weights will not make the practice any more holy than praying before going to have a plastic surgery so that you will look wood.

    Make no mistake - it is idolatry. You may lie to yourself and try to convince yourself that it is good but that is all that you will be doing. Lying to yourself just so you can continue beefing up.

    But please, stop posting this rationalizations so at least you are not taking others down the wrong path with you.