Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

An Odd Addiction

Posted by Jerry on July 1, 2008

In general, we humans no longer perform back-breaking work in farms, for example; nor do we run on our two feet–with a spear in hand–chasing prey. As a species, we have removed ourselves far away from the direct tasks of survival. We have moved into the phase of flourishment–or survival qua man; i.e., living as appropriate not to “man the animal” but “man the rational animal.”

Actually, it is more accurate to say that the best and brightest among us have ushered the phase of survival qua man for the rest of us humans. Human civilization progresses in the wake of these men of brilliance.

Today, a few taps on the keyboard, a few meetings in plush boardrooms, and a little ride to a high-rise office building ensures our “survival”–it deposits a fat check in our bank accounts. Of course, the leading motive behind all activity today is a sophisticated body of knowledge acquired by our minds. The point is, although reason was always our basic tool of survival, in today’s information age, reason has come to the fore as our most directly used tool of survival.

Reason–like all tools–has to be sharpened, developed, nurtured, and honed over time with repeated use, learning, and development.

When primitive man had to use his physical prowess to chase and kill his prey, he had to ensure that his body was fit for the purpose. Today, we don’t need to use our bodies in such physically demanding roles anymore. Our meat does not come warm, bloody, and fresh after a kill, but cold, frozen, and wrapped after days in transit. Today, we hardly think of our meals as necessary nourishment that sustains our body but as delectable pleasures to please our whimsical palate for the day.

Thus, although we have adapted our minds quickly enough to respond and act effectively in this new age, our bodies–slaves to the sluggish mechanisms of evolution–continue to remain in the state in which our hunting-nomadic ancestors were.

Therefore, I would assume that some level of physical activity–either through sports, dance, or light fitness workouts–are important routines to incorporate into our modern lives. I find it strange that someone would call physical activity “addictive.” This was exactly my reaction when–over the past weekend–someone told me that going to the gym is an “addiction.”

My mind thought: that’s like saying eating is an addiction. And indeed, while gluttony is unrelated to my thoughts, eating is an activity we indulge in very often every day! And never do we think that we are addicted to eating! Likewise, while steroid-induced body-building is unrelated to my thoughts, ensuring that you incorporate a certain level of physical activity on a daily basis is fairly essential to a healthy body in our modern lifestyle. To call this addictive is tantamount to saying that walking is addictive.

There is a rational approach to everything. And then, in corollary, there is an irrational approach that one can adopt towards anything. Like food, fitness and health can be approached either rationally–in which case, you can project how your activity aligns with your goal for a healthy life in the context of the reality you are surrounded in; or irrationally–in which case, you either ignore all needs for physical activity, become indiscriminate about your eating habits, or go overboard in body-building well beyond the reasonable needs of a healthy body.

Thus, to say the least, it is odd to disparagingly call a daily routine of physical fitness an addiction. Quite the opposite, it is a volitional and properly rational act done in the full pursuit of survival qua man. And this is not just my philosophical musings on the subject; I am confident that even medical doctors share the same opinion.

5 Responses to “An Odd Addiction”

  1. I agree. And, as you touched upon, there is an inherent negative connotation to the very concept of addiction. Addictions do not spring from places of balance and health, both of which are, or at least should be, the point of daily exercise.

    Then again, once *can* become addicted to healthy pursuits. Anything can be taken too far. For example, some people get “addicted” to certain forms of meditation, to the degree that they begin wasting away, detaching from life as opposed to living with more clarity and awareness, which is the purpose of meditation.

    So, it’s not just a matter of “what” a person is supposedly addicted to, but the crossing of a line into destructive behavior.

    It is certainly incorrect to think of moderate daily exercise as destructive.

  2. rambodoc said

    I have clear reasons to believe that a weight loss program that could potentially change one’s entire life (including its duration, quality and direction) is a clear demonstration of Objectivist philosophy. The impact of existential truths, the result of wishful thinking versus that of rational exercise of will and conscious choice are some of the ways…
    I hope to write on this soon.
    Exercise also makes me mentally alert. That is why I am surprised to see not one, but three, errors in your (normally near-perfect) post:
    1. To call this addictive is paramount to saying that walking is addictive.
    ‘Tantamount’, not ‘paramount’.
    2&3. Typos: ‘sterOIds’, ‘palate’ has only one T, not two….🙂
    Must be the travails of living in India’s Maximum City, with its time constraints.

  3. Ergo said

    Rambodoc, thank you for spotting those errors!🙂 As you may have noticed, this post was published at 2:51 A.M. So I can use that as an excuse.🙂

  4. Franco said

    I would call it linguistic sloppiness. Some would consider anything that has been incorporated into routine/habit an “addiction” if it turns out to be enjoyable too.

  5. Ergo said

    Franco, I think there is certainly more to it. There is a certain negative connotation attached to fitness and diet habits, and I suspect it has to do with unwarranted (or not) attributions of vanity, superficiality, narcissism–ultimately, even to anti-intellectuality and materialism.

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