“Civilization” comes from surplus. I believe that is a reasonable summary of one of the premises of grade school social science as I learned it in the dark ages. At that point, I think there were tinges of cultural superiority with overtones of colonialism, but I was about nine and my consciousness had hardly emerged, much less been raised. It remains true that when we have to struggle for pure survival, we are perhaps less likely to develop elaborate architecture, write sonnets, or create action movies.
We have all read or heard or seen articles about how the end of the world is coming because of (choose any of the following or invent your own) greed, environmental destruction, new math, population growth, reality television, violent video games, cell phones, and the proliferation of kale. We live somewhere in the tension between the fact that the world will, eventually, have to end and the fact that it hasn’t ended yet. Some version of this hamster-wheel of thought invades all of us from time to time as we dash from work to grocery store to dry cleaners to soccer practice. We are surrounded by things to do, varieties of stimuli, thoughts, feelings, events.
We get stuck in our heads.
One of the most precious gifts of exercise, from my point of view, is focus. All the whirl of too much to do, too many thoughts, too many challenges can spin away with the bike tires. I, and maybe all of us, can benefit from the emphasis on breath that aerobic exercise brings and the concentration on muscle coordination that enables heavy lifting.
Fight existential angst: go out and play.