I asked three different group texts of guys if they had gotten into this stuff at all. Almost every single one of them had. Each had tips, tricks, different methodologies, ideas.
The way my brain works, though, I can’t help but analyze this a little. I am grateful for this greater awareness of healthy practices, but the prevalence of these techniques in the U.S. (or similar practices, like ketogenic diets, etc.) is worth noting, right?
Like, to simply “cope” with how we have set up the normal rhythm of life, almost all of the mid-30s men I texted are resorting to these extreme practices? Is that where we are?
Like, we live in a world that is so unhealthy, so “inhuman” in some ways, in terms of how our food is prepared, to how technology has impacted us, to how we have constructed our communities, to the pace of our schedules, where we have to do these extreme things like dunk ourselves in cold tubs, just to feel…human? So that our bodies can handle daily life?
The Surgeon General recently formally announced an epidemic of loneliness. I had never heard of the idea of adrenal fatigue until a few years ago. Mental illness is going parabolic. Something has become so fundamentally broken, our societal rhythms so “pell-mell,” that they are making us sick, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
I think my contention is that as we continue down the path of a “post-Christian” society, where we alienated ourselves from God long ago in terms of how we construct our world, what is becoming more apparent and “new” today is how we are now increasingly reaching a point where we are alienating ourselves from our own human nature. It seems that to live the normal course of human existence today is to naturally and fundamentally divorce oneself from one’s personhood, from one’s heart, the “place where I am,” and we are each bearing out the effects of this in our bodies, which just simply can’t keep up with this much isolation, rush, hurry, anxiety.
Lockdowns were a fascinating test-case – isolating, no doubt, and challenging, especially for essential workers, impoverished communities, and parents of school-aged children, but many people responded by finding more time for relationships, by losing weight, by picking up hobbies. Now that the world is “back on,” are we able to learn lessons from this?
I think there are dramatic implications for the Church’s work of evangelization, here. For a long time, we could presume the path of humanity in order to reach folks. Shared experiences created certain opportunities. Today, through technologicalism, individualism, and secularism, many live so alienated from their own experience, and from reflection on their nature and what leads to authentic human flourishing, that, if grace builds on nature, it seems part of the Church’s task is actually to propose basic modalities of living that create greater opportunities for grace to operate.
This is probably the hope that I see in some of these crazy health practices. That what begins as an attempt to cope eventually opens up to and arrives at grace, at God.
I remember being so positively struck by some of Europe’s contrary rhythms (compared to the U.S.) when I studied abroad in college. The stability of multiple generations of families living in towns/cities, a relationship to work that included an afternoon espresso with a good friend you grew up with, food that was grown in such a way to provide nourishment and not nuked for maximum efficiency and profit, walkable cities with architecture not constructed for cold function, but for quality, to last, and to be beautiful while it did – something in all of this seemed more oriented to the human heart.
I think the project of re-creating a world that is oriented to God includes these projects within it; to help co-create the conditions for human flourishing. And, I think, the Church, in her attempts to reach people today, may have to precede proposing faith in God, with attempts to first propose humanity, as a real thing, and life, as a gift, to be received, to be opened up to, not to be taken for oneself through reckless worry, and hurry.
Services Marketplace – Listings, Bookings & Reviews