A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

24 September 2004

Of Running and Religion

Hi. How have you been? Keeping it together?

I am. Barely, but I am. I had been feeling a bit low lately about jobs (or the lack thereof) and whatnot. I went to an EAC meeting for the first time in a while, which was both interesting and freaky. Is it really constructive for me to be attending these things (and remember that the membership cost, at $160 or so, is a good deal more than my current annual salary i.e. $0) if 2/3 of the meeting stands up and gives out that they're new-ish professionals seeking work? Seems like going to an World Food Program station to get a good meal.

So instead of buying a membership I bought a television. A rather nice one, actually. In fact, for someone like myself who's been cable-less for a year or so and confined to a 13-inch tv/vcr combo this is big-screen technology. This will come in handy when I lie on the couch all day, a move I plan to make fairly soon.

I've sort of kept up with the exercising: Due to a recent back strain I've stopped running, temporarily, but I've now clocked about 21 miles in the last three weeks. I look a bit less fat, and I feel better as well. But I haven't lost any weight. My doctor (well, the doctor I happened to see at the clinic this time) told me I have to consult a nutritionist.

There was also the vague melancholy caused by the fact that I've realised lately that I haven't spoken to certain of my old schoolmates for months. I met with one last week and said: "Wow. I sure wish I'd kept up with (this girl--let's call her Fred)".

Fred is a true success story. Single-motherhood, a good union job gone wrong, various lifestyle difficulties. Now she's a freelance writer--look for her cover story on running in a prominent Canadian women's fitness mag this week. No, of course I'm not telling you which one. Fred's identity is being kept closely guarded, right?

So today I was somewhat gratified to see her gazelle-ing around the track as I walked (briskly, but not, I hope "power-walking-ly") along.

After she'd run six laps, I waved hello and she came over. Fred is a terrific person. I admire her wholehearted devotion to herself and her lifestyle, as well as to her passion. During a discussion on the latest Persian Incursion, she burst into tears at the mere thought of "innocent victims". She argues with waving hands and a depth of belief and passion that are truly fierce. Fred can turn a dispassionate argument into a holy war.

And I'd like to say I admire that--but my admiration is tempered with something one might even refer to as mild scorn. I find her dedication a bit chilling. It's the same way I feel about meeting a truly devout proselytizing religionist. There's a little bit of me that stands back and watches the rest--I'm not a good candidate for a lynch mob.

Why the connexion? Simple: increasingly the important part of North America is becoming (thank Christ) a post-christian society. We acknowledge (I hope) our historical debt to Christian ethicists and jurists who made possible the freedom we experience today, but we cast it off when it limits us.

Fred is a devout lifestyle religionist. When I explain why I'm busy wearing out a pair of $60 shoes turning circles on a high school track she says: "I never eat anything with a label or a face," enumerating the things she doesn't eat on her fingers (of which she surprisingly has sufficient to the purpose) "and I don't eat flour or dairy."

I am reluctant to point out that the life steakless is not worth living. Myself, I hold as my motto "Moderation in all things--but don't overdo it."

This woman, perhaps 110 pounds and nearly as six-feet-tall as I am, dares to comment that her family tends to flab, pinching a fold of domed belly as she speaks.
"Think of your body as a lump of stone." she urges "That shape in there is you. Take a knife and carve it out! It's your birthright!"

I am momentarily angry with her. Is it now? Is it the birthright of starving Darfur-ans (see also) that they maintain that wonderful 22-18-24 physique? Is it the "birthright" of a man whose forebears keel over from heart attacks at seventy to live to be 100? Is it the birthright of someone I love, who has a thyroid problem, to be a triathelete?

But hey, I think to myself after a moment, it works for her. It powers her, inspires her, and fills her needs--just like religion. Although as I understand it she hates "religion" (but embraces a loosely-defined set of new-agey elements--"without all the flaky crap").

This is the post-religion spirituality. Instead of pouring our money and our time into our churches, which are at least community-based, we increasingly instead spend them on us. And while I mourn the loss of community, this is one of my atheist weeks and I have to say I can't wait to see religion dead--all of it.

Including the gospel of "health".

I mean, I'm mumble-mumble years old. Is it worth me giving up a good steak (mmmmmm), chicken cordon bleu, cheese (mmmm--mmmmmmmm!) and of all things beer, in order to be a doddering senile dotard for twenty extra years? Let's face it; by medical science alone my life expectancy is probably about eighty years if I keep relatively trim and leave off smoking. Do I want to hang about once I'm messing my pants daily and the sole surviving brain cell I have is crying softly 'cos it's all alone?

Oh--in other news: Lately I've been increasingly gravitating to atheism. More on this soon. But right now I have dinner scheduled with a friend of the SO's. It is likely there will be refined flour, alcohol, and as she puts it "pounds of meat".

I'm looking forward to it. It's not that I'm not interested in living longer--but I'd rather have something to look forward to while I'm doing it.


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