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Staying alive or ceasing to live?

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San Jacinto Peak

Joseph Pearce - published on 08/23/23

Enjoy your fitness while you can, I told my friend.

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, has just sent me a photograph of himself and friends on the summit of San Jacinto peak in California, an elevation of 10,834 feet. He accompanied the photograph with a quote from John Muir that “the view from San Jacinto is the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on earth.” 

Even allowing for hyperbole and ignoring his presumed omniscience, Muir would seem to have a point. The view from the summit looks spectacular even when viewed from the flattening perspective of a photograph.

I congratulated my friend, who is almost as old as I am, on this significant physical accomplishment. But I couldn’t help sounding an ominous note.

I told him that I had to abandon heavy lifting at the gym at the age of 59 when my joints began to rebel. Specifically, I knew that my rotator-cuff would need surgery if I did not stop pushing myself to the limit on the bench press. Listening to the demands of my aging body, I obeyed of prudential necessity. I changed my work-out routine radically, using machines instead of free weights and opting for more reps with lighter weights. I felt a new lease of life until, two months ago, my wrist collapsed on me. I’ve been unable to do any lifting ever since and know that I will need to wear wrist-supports from now on when I finally do return to the gym. This latest wear-and-tear related injury brought to an end 36 uninterrupted years of regular exercise. It’s a good reminder that we are only as strong as our weakest link! And it’s a good reminder of how lucky I’ve been to have been blessed with health for so long.

Enjoy your fitness while you can, I told my friend.

He responded, no doubt whimsically, that a woman named Hulda Crooks had scaled Mount Whitney no fewer than 23 times between the ages of 65 and 91. 

“Wishful thinking,” I quipped. “The exception doesn’t disprove the rule!”

Noting that Hulda Crooks was a vegetarian, I asked whether this wasn’t a high price to pay for a few miserly miserable years. “Before you know it, you’ll be advocating abstinence from fermented grapes and grains,” I continued. “One doesn’t stay alive by ceasing to live!”

~

This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

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The Human Being Fully Alive
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