Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Heat is On, Busyness is the New Godliness, and a Heartfelt if Slightly Tortured Thor Metaphor

Last night the July heat reached its odious peak and Mr. Typist and I gave up on life,  sacked out on the couch, and watched two Thor movies back to back with every fan in the apartment going, shades drawn, and the lights off. Our cat lay stock-still on his back with his tongue hanging out, his corpulent belly strategically splayed under the fan to ensure maximum air-over-tummy action.  I’m never comfortable sitting still and doing nothing, so surrendering to the heat and my body’s resulting fatigue was frustrating. I felt unproductive, lazy and guilty for just sitting on the couch in a heat-stunned daze, too tired to even bother getting up for ice cubes.  But the cat knows the score. The cat understands that when it’s hot and humid, the correct course of action is to lie in the coolest spot you can find and limit your movements to the occasional yawn or slow-motion half-wave of your paw. It’s called preserving energy, something that I’ve never been very adept at. I tend to expend my mental and physical energy recklessly, and yet always expect there to be an endless supply in the tank. So as guilty as it made me feel, it was nice to simply surrender to the season and do what a body should do in extreme heat—just be still.

 I was able to give in because it was the weekend and there were few demands on my time, but the heatwave is going to continue into the workweek, and I can’t just take a siesta at will and flop out under a fan; I have to be functional. I have to move, I have to Answer all the E-mails and Solve All the Problems and make my way down to the blistering, overcrowded city streets to jam myself onto a crammed bus and breathe in the odor of all the other hapless worker’s stress sweat and demoralization.  It doesn’t matter that this runs counter to the wisdom of my body or that it’s out of accord with my biological nature. Work must get done.

I’ve heard tell of a time when people lived more in synch with their environments; in a less mechanized, ruthless and production-driven society. I’ve never experienced that, but that doesn't stop me from missing it. When it’s hot, I want to sit still in the shade with a cool drink. In the dead of winter, I want to eat rich hearty food, dream deep, and sleep late. When I’m sick, I want to rest, not “push through it”. When I’m sad, I want time to cry, even if I happened to have walked through the doors of my workplace when  sadness hits. This is hardly an original observation, but modern society doesn’t lend itself to what our bodies or spirits want. It doesn’t give a damn about what’s most organic to our nature; and because we constantly have to operate counter our biology, it’s making us sick physically and spiritually. Busyness is the new godliness. We can’t even maintain friendships or build a sense of community in our neighborhoods because we can’t slow down long enough to have an authentic conversation with anyone. Even our physical exercise has been completely severed from the type of movement that’s most natural and healthy for a human body, and is now all about “peak efficiency” and ignoring our body’s pain signals so we can mold them into an arbitrary, inorganic shape that the culture crams down our faces as “desirable.”  

I’m not in a position to move to a farm and start living off the land, and, honestly, I  don’t know if I would rather be up against the ruthlessness of nature, or up against the ruthlessness of the giant, soul-sucking capitalist machine. But I do know I want more moments of surrendering to my body and spirit. In the movies, Thor’s hammer isn’t just a weapon, it’s an inseparable part of his being that always knows where he is and how to find its way back to him. No matter what the machine demands, my authentic self is always there, awaiting my attention, if I only let go and yield to its needs.

--Kristen McHenry


John Socrates said...

What a fabulous post. I really enjoyed it and couldn't stop myself from wanting to share it with my networks. Hope they're smart enough to read and enjoy it as I have!

Kristen McHenry said...

Thanks, John! I'm glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate you sharing with your networks! Thanks for taking the time to read it.