Real fitness is not superficial. The health industry has got something of a bad name. There are a lot of negative Hollywood ideas associated with getting healthy, because much of it is based around a very base sexuality. Most of it is about looking a certain way, rather than feeling a certain way.
True health is psychological health. You can be ripped to shit, but that means nothing. I know plenty of people who look good according to society's conceptions of attractiveness, but who have emotional problems that manifest themselves in alcohol misuse and drug addiction. It is possible to have a “good body” and smoke, suffer panic attacks and live a life of suffocating depression.
Looking good means nothing. Like most things in this society, it can be faked for a while, but the truth will catch up with us. I think men are starting to find this out more and more. Issues like prostate cancer, alcoholism and, yes, mental health, are becoming increasingly difficult realities for us to cope with. Nothing in our society has prepared us for the fall out.
What I call patriarchy I will define as this – an obsessive materialism, an over-identification with external images and objects as signs of success and fulfillment. People, cars, gadgets and money, are the benchmarks of our self-love. Put this way, we can see the dangerous reality that women are more and more entrenched in this pathology as well.
True health is about internal balance. That internal balance will manifest itself in exterior ways. If you clarify the neurosis in your mind, you will look healthier. But the focus should be on your emotional and psychological temperament.
The reason I say this is because I have tried and failed so many times to become the person I want to be, to be the person I KNOW I AM. It is only now that I am starting to come to terms with the depth of the neurosis that underpins these failures. If we do not break down some of the psychic baggage that dominates our subconscious, any project for becoming healthy risks entrenching the problem rather than purifying it. The mind and body are not only linked, they are the same thing, so if your mind is unhealthy, your body will, and does, suffer. It is only when we start to manifest extreme symptoms of ill-health that we start to call it disease, but the reality is, we are born into a state of disease.
We fake health, by defining health as simply looking a certain way. As a result society is stuck fire-fighting diseases and ill-health and it is always too late. Perhaps we should define health as FEELING a certain way rather than looking a certain way.
Now, this is where the distinction between men and women becomes acute, and it is a big reason why this blog is here. Women DO have the advantage over men on this one. Despite the increasing patriarchal culture around modern femininity, the idea of health being about how you feel rather than how you look is not going to be such a foreign notion to a woman. I'm not saying there aren't superficial ideas of female beauty and health. Of course there are, but women ARE more in tune with their feelings as a sign of health than men.
Firstly, let me qualify this. Women are far more likely to consult doctors and respond to worries about ill-health than men. I'm not just contributing to a myth here. It's the facts. However, secondly, let me state that I don't think men are necessarily out of touch with their internal guidance systems. I don't think men are BY NATURE ignorant of their emotional balance.
What we are up against, as with most things surrounding gender, is socialised behaviours, expectations about what it is to be a man that are imposed on men before they are even born. (As a side note on this, just because it is socialised does not mean it is not physical. As I have said before on this blog, our culture is biological. Our ideas are genetic. Our coordinates for self-identity are handed down to us at a cellular level. This is all the more reason to focus on the physical aspect of your mental health, and the mental aspect of your physical health. The two are one and the same).
The issue of health is deep one. It is anything but superficial. The more I look into it, the more I see just what we are up against. We are grappling with thousands of years of cultural programming and as a result, centuries of biological conditioning. If we are to change our ideas about health, we must change our ideas about what it means to be a human being.
This comes off as grandiose, I know. But the problem is philosophical. It goes right to heart of what we consider to a human being to be.
We will never get rid of the negativities of the past. Not completely. It only makes it worse to resent and resist the cultural inheritance we grapple with. How we evolve is through innovating new kinds of behaviours and ideas about what it means to be healthy, what it means to be happy and ultimately what it means to be alive.
It is a paradox. We ARE imprisoned by our culture, but we are also free to innovate new cultures. We can never start afresh completely, but we can always start NOW, from where we are. And maybe this existential realisation is itself, a part of what it means to be healthy.