Saturday, February 03, 2007

The mantric wisdom of Benny

Among my numerous semi-regular routines the one I enjoy most is the gym. After a long, hard day dealing with the parsing of Greek verbs, submitting applications for heaven knows what, working in the city researching the self-inflicted ills of mankind and dwelling on my own sinfulnes it's nice to go out and pump some iron.

A little self-disclosure - I've always been pretty good at weight lifting. That is to say, I've always been disproportionately (and deceptively) strong. Well, not by nature exactly, but I took to lifting quickly. Yet I've always been one of those guys who hasn't consistently had the motivation to realize any bodybuilding potential. Particularly at seminary, it's just too much to handle. Not that I regret not having "gone for it" at some point, especially now that I've getting perceptibly older, if only by a little bit. But I have always had a slight admiration for those guys who just went all out and did some kind of competition, if only once. Perhaps when i'm again on my own schedule - and more importantly more own self-regulated diet - then I can take a solid year and really try my hardest to do a show.

Well anyhow, a guy I lift in and around at my current gym is Benny. Benny does a lifting show every year for several years running. He's about my height or even a little shorter, very broad. He's got some nice muscles..very early 40's, tan on a naturally olive complxion. Now Benny... is not a brain surgeon. Ironically I'm being specific in pointing this out because my longest lasting lifting partner is, now, a brain surgeon (nice work Oz). In spite of his lack of PhD, or even college degree, Benny does have a favorite mantra - "It ain't easy". Usually this is said very matter-of-factly at opportune times, such as when he's worked himself to exaughstion, or more commonly when I've utterly failed to get my last rep and he has to take the heavy bar off of my pulsating chest so that it doesn't produce a somewhat more concave version of my upper torso.

99.9% of the time I just kind of agree with the man and go on. Clearly if he ended up lifting 70% of what was once my weight then it was, by definition, not particularly easy.

So today I'm in the locker room with Benny after a solid day of lifting and cardio and we're getting our gear (and winter clothes) on. Benny gets a little mirror flex in while I'm putting on the jogging pants. He initiates conversation... something about having to start slimming for the show in April by the end of next week. Then he asks who I'm going for in the Super Bowl.

It's weird. I didn't have an answer. Now I love football, although I'm not the biggest pro football fan, but it doesnt matter. I mean every guy picks a Super Bowl favorite right? You pick a favorite even if it's just to harass your friend who's a die hard fan of the other team. But I hadn't so much as thought about the fact of the SB being this Sunday. I'd been so lost in my world of theology, planning for the future, mourning what I can't have, mourning what I'm not yet able to pursue, dealing with personal and inter-personal issues, trying to keep my church service at a minimum while researching and learning German, planning my language aquisitions vis-a-vis when i'll be applying for programs, thinking of missionary work, .........sigh.......

So I say that I have no particular favorite. "That's cool", Benny says while touching his flexing bicep. Then he adds "I'm going for the Bears I guess. Gonna go over to my friends, have a few beers and some pizza...I'll be workin' that off on Monday. Gotta get my butt down another fifteen pounds before I step out there and pose.... It ain't easy."

For some reason it hit me this time. All of this stuff I've been worrying about I forgot the central axiom - if you want something big, it isn't easy. It isn't going to be easy for me to learn languages, it isn't going to be easy to narrow down a proposition for PhD, it isn't going to be easy finding flexible yet viable employment, it isn't going to be easy tending to my soul in these very mobile and in many ways disenchanting years of my life. But hey, it isn't easy for Benny to lose fifteen pounds before his April show either. These things take work, dedication, and a certain fervor in order to really excel. They take prayer, fasting, and striving. They take fear and trembling.

What can ya say? It ain't easy.


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