It occurrs to me, as I again endeavour to take off these last stubborn 20 pounds of excess adipose tissue, that the recent trend toward porkliness in our country is not the mystery one may be led to think.
Of course we are fatter than our parents' generation (my folks were born in the 1920s - 30s). I believe that one huge cause of our increased larditude is the fact that our population during the last 100 years steadily moved off the farm and into the suburbs. We were country folk. We are now city folk... sedentary, wan and pasty.
Our parents and grandparents did more physical work. Lots more. How many contemporary Euro-Americans do physically laborious work for a living... or even much at home? Do we not increasingly hire immigrant labor to do such jobs... even around the house?
I haven't been completely comfortable with the idea of exercise as a substitute for work, either... by exercise I mean the idea of climbing on a treadmill or other apparatus and merely putting our muscles through pointless repetitive motions in an attempt to stave off a coronary. I'm not saying exercise is bad or evil, and I'm not judging people who exercise (please, hold your outrage). What I am saying is that the modern idea of exercise seems to be another indicator of the fractured nature of our lives. Now, it seems, the condition and overall health of our bodies is divorced completely from our real life. We have to take special pains to arrange and schedule periods of "exercise"... that or eat like a rabbit, or resign ourselves to a life of blob-dome.
It just ain't... holistic, to use the New Age Hippy lingo. It is another instance of the current terrible lack of comprehensiveness in our human experiences. Sex is estranged from procreation, family is estranged form marriage, we multiply online friendships, but don't even know the names of our neighbors.
I heard this week that there is a (tiny) community of Catholics called "Plain Catholics" who lead lives similar to the Amish, from whom I think we could all learn a thing or two. I'm anxious to find out more about them. Not to turn back the clock, only to go back and see if there might be some important things we have left behind in our headlong rush to we-know-not-where. Culture is not an altogether blind process. It's something we make. All of us. There's no reason we can't make it a little more sane and balanced. Keep computers, heck yeah... and air conditioning and all that other wonderful technology... but use it to make more humane, full and joyful lives for ourselves. Technology must become our agent, and not our master.
Come to think of it, that's what Tolkien was driving at, eh?