What Are We?
When I watch amazing athletes, like Alex Honnold, I am awed, amazed, and alarmed. All at once, I am confronted by a traffic jam of conflicting thoughts:
Is he insane?
What was he thinking?
What a terrifying place!
He shouldn't be able to do that!
It defies gravity!
He is only human!
I couldn't possibly do that!
I absolutely could do that!
Never! No way!
I want to do that!
While it's true that Alex has rare talent, combined with a singularity of focus that make him extraordinary, what is most inspiring about him is how he has turned play into fierce. In a way, Alex never left the playground. His play just become harder, more serious, and more powerful.
Remember the playground - swinging, jumping, dancing, spinning, swirling, and sliding.
I think the most terrible, destructive, negative impact on our health is our mass exodus away from the playground. There is plenty of evidence for this. Foremost is what we are learning about the human brain.
Massive regions of our brain are dedicated to movement, spacial mapping, and feeling sensation through taste, sound, sight, and touch. Dr. Eric Cobb summarizes this plainly: "The reason we have a brain is for problem solving through movement."
So what do we do with these magnificent brains and bodies which are made for explosive, powerful athleticism? We sit them at desks, in cubicles, and attach them to monitors, keyboards, and telephones. We immobilize them. Is so doing, we forget how powerful we are, and we become less powerful.
Henry Ford's statement is apropos: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." This isn't just positivism. It bears a deeper truth. Too many of us are buried beneath piles of hopelessness, despair, and anxiety. It seems we are trapped in an inescapable maze. Did we forget why we have a brain?
Ironically, in spite the vast growth of science, and our expanse of knowledge across multiple generations, we seem more frail. It seems there has been a subtle, downward shift in our collective consciousness, and we need a course correction.
How can we rediscover what we are? Is there a way to feel mighty, unbound, unbreakable again? While free soloing El Capitan may not be for you, one thing is certain. We need to return to the playground, to explore, invent, and play with movement.
It is important to understand that the bodies we have are not the "Tesla version". Our bodies have not changed much in 200,000 years: we're still driving the "Model A." The explosive power and skills we needed to survive 200,000 years ago remain with us today. These bodies are made to run through forests, swing on trees, dance, sing, and survive. We are mighty beings.
For me, if the Tesla version is better at sitting at a desk, immobilized by monitors, wires, and cables, I don't want it. It's too weak, and I wouldn't trust it.
I want the body I have. I want to keep it strong, and help it remember why I have it. I will play on purpose, to train this fortress, so it won't let me down when I need it. Let's play.