Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

You got to move

June 8, 2013

I’ll have to keep on getting up and going, even when my get up and go has got up and went.

That’s because my two docs aren’t podiatrists (though their practice is of course grounded in the feet). Nor are they physiologists, or internists, or general practitioners.

No, they’re mainly emotional and spiritual counselors. They know that I go not to get anywhere but to move, to seek the nectar in the journey. “The great affair is to move,” as Robert Louis Stevenson (another great British rambler) also knew.

Motion and movement do have a tremendous physiological impact, of course, releasing all the right feel-good brain and body chemicals. But that’s not the headline.

The headline is: moving, unlike staying put, generates experience. Scenery, both exterior and overt and mental. Circumstance. Provocation. Opportunity.

So if I couldn’t walk I’d pedal, if I couldn’t pedal I’d Segway (they still make those, right?) or in some other non-combustively-automotive way roll.

That looks boring, I know, but so does most everything from the outside.

I can sorta see an alt-universe version of myself in those fearless guys you see in intersections in their motorized wheelchairs, if it ever came to that. But I wouldn’t be wasting my time going to the mall, I’d be in Warner or Centennial Park.

Worst case scenario would be some sort of merely virtual locomotion. Maybe Google Glass, programmed to deliver the illusion of moving. (But they keep crossing things– face recognition, porn– off the app list.)

It wouldn’t be the same, obviously. But I’ll take an Experience Machine over nothing, Professor Nozick, if those are my choices. There’s more reality in pretending to go, than in really staying put. If you ask me.

Thankfully, I can still really go.

“Never sit your life out”

June 26, 2012

Bruce Chatwin (1940-1989), so much more than a travel writer, was a cosmopolitan walker. He said:

“Change is the only thing worth living for. Never sit your life out at a desk. Ulcers and heart condition follow.”

He’s found his Boswell (or another one) in Rory Stewart, who’s written the introduction to a new edition of Songlines.

Most of human history was conducted through contacts, made at walking pace…the pilgrimages to Compostela in Spain…to the source of the Ganges, and wandering dervishes, sadhus, and friars, who approached God on foot. The Buddha meditated by walking, and Wordsworth composed sonnets while striding beside the Lakes. Bruce Chatwin concluded from all these things that we would think and live better, and be closer to our purpose as humans, if we moved continually on foot across the surface of the earth.

What Chatwin knew intuitively has been repeatedly confirmed. One recent study concluded that self-propelled motion in the open air, not in a gym or on a treadmill, “had a 50 percent greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym… walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities through green space lowered stress.” Another links outdoor exercise to greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression… just five minutes of exercise in a green space can improve mood and self-esteem.

And all of these outcomes correlate with greater philosophical insight and steadier daily productivity. Well, that’s the working hypothesis of the study I’ve embarked on this summer. Results await confirmation.

in recovery

June 17, 2010

Official sunrise today was 5:30, I didn’t quite make it. But the sun’s still below the tree-line horizon so I’m not late by near-summer solstice standards. It’s about 70 degrees, dry and pleasant, not at all the steambath it’ll be, again, this afternoon.

As old Henry said, it’s hard not to pity those who’ve relinquished their subscription tickets to morning in this world. Most of them don’t know what they’re missing. I know I’m only missing a little extra sleep, which is nothing to the dawn. I’ll sleep you know when.

But enough idle chat about the weather. I’m really wondering this morning what it is about childhood that is compelling enough to warrant another book or course or post. What is it in this topic that compels my own compounding interest?

Short answer: there are qualities of  early youthfulness, observable in actual children, occasionally even retrievable from  the dungeons of personal memory, that make life worth living.  The adult world often seems  conspiratorially, cynically, heartlessly arranged to squash those qualities. We need them back.

That’s my working thesis.

Those qualities, off the top of my caffeinating head as Sol tops the trees, include:  adventurousness, curiosity, playfulness, spontaneity, trust… What else?

Then there are other qualities, mostly missing from childhood (and from the childish adulthood of so many of us) of which we’re much too careless. We all need those too, and if we don’t begin to get them in childhood we may never. Skepticism, commitment to reality, recognition that fantasy and fun are not always sufficient unto the day, sobriety, total honesty… in many instances these must be taught and learned, and re-learned, and re-inforced.

I’m interested in what we can learn from childhood, and in what we owe to children. I wonder: in what ways must we grow up? In what ways must we stay forever young?

I’m concerned that we do kids a personal disservice, and do humanity an irrecoverable injury, when we ignore and withhold these lessons.  My faith and hope , if I may co-opt those terms, is that writing about this is a step in the direction of recovery and maturity. We’ll see.