“The Picture of Health”

2007-mr-olympia-382-jay-cutlerSuch a nice phrase, really a compliment we bestow on those who seem to us to be emblematic of perfect health. But is our picture clear, or as foggy as snow on an old black and white tv?

Most of us are aware that many of the people who look the picture of health are no better off than the average couch potato. Remember, we are talking about health here: life span, disease and all that–not unsightly cellulite. If you want to include cosmetics because it is safer to look healthy and sexy in a highly competitive society like ours, that’s ok, too. But I’m drifting along on another river.

Then there are those who look healthy and vibed out and know they are healthy because so many around them compliment them. Sort of the ‘drugged out starlet with the personal trainer’ syndrome. As is immediately apparent, especially when she overdoses and no one visits her in the hospital, we have a locus of control problem here. This is health by consensus, and consensus of idiots to boot.

All this is just the tip of the glacier. If we really wanted to think about our health and the optimization of our life we probably wouldn’t imagine ourselves pumped up with steroids OR puffed out like the Pillsbury dough boy. We would probably envision ourselves not so much as a picture of health but as a feeling from the inside: a feeling of potential, of freedom. The outside may be the picture but the inside is the darkroom. Without it there’s little chance anything will develop.

The truth is that more and more people would sell their birthrights for the Confederate coinage of looking healthy, of seeming to be the picture of health. We have a pill-taking, treadmill-running, doctor-worshipping culture which, at bottom, has almost no internal compass to guide it. We see overweight teen girls with bellies bursting their pants, strutting as though they were movie queens and–worse–perfectly healthy functional beings who are morbidly convinced that “something is wrong” with them.

Health for each of us is, ultimately, not something we impose on ourselves but something we discover about ourselves and, almost as importantly, about how wrong people can be, even those who love us. Sit. Listen. Feel. Act. The very responsiveness and adaptability we want to achieve happens also to be the method we will use to reach our destination.