May

25

From the Issue: Should You Move?

Written by

If you didn’t get a chance to pick up a copy of the May issue of The Blue & White on campus, you can still peruse the highlights on Bwog. In “At Two Swords’ Length” two writers take opposing sides of a truly contentious collegiate issue and duke it out with their sheer wits. This month senior editor Conor Skelding and literary editor Amalia Scott face off on whether or not they should strain themselves whilst facing off.

Mmmmm ... flexible.

Illustration by Maddy Kloss

Affirmative

I go to Butler to study, sometimes. Other times I go to sip Oren’s and do pleasure reading, just to piss people off. I go to Butler and I see wrecks of human beings. You’ve seen them: Red Bull-chugging, toe-tapping, pill-popping, shuddering little messes. I’m talking about the folks setting Facebook statuses to, “OMG in butler 8 hrs today… got nothing done,” or, “In suchhh bad shape… this soash paper is making me fattt.”

Here’s an idea, my little masochist: Move. Get your ass to the gym. I swear I’ve seen you there before; weren’t you wearing jeans and using the Cybex curl machine?

Spending all this time studying or complaining about studying won’t get you anywhere. Think about the whole Core, friend. Though today’s swim test and physical education requirement are mostly sad, awkward artifacts of days long gone, they are here for a reason. Rumor has it the swim test was created so that Columbians would be able to flee across the Hudson in case of an Indian raid, so you are not meant to excel strictly scholastically—no, physical competence is part of your Columbia education, too.

Even Columbia’s favorite ancient scholars would tell you so. Juvenal wrote that we should strive for a mens sana in corpore sano. Instead of an hour on Hulu, take an hour to jog in Riverside Park. It will purge your bile and hysteria, and it will cure your procrastination, too. Try roughhousing on the lawns, racing to the end of college walk, or genuinely having fun. Ironic frisbee on the quad is just the beginning!

But, “No,” these scholars whine, “I lead a life of the mind.” I say: have a visceral experience! Breathe hard, feel a pain in your side, break a sweat. When you get back to your dorm, take a shower. You’ll be physically and even spiritually purified. And for the first time in God knows how long, you’ll have a deep and restful night of sleep. Put your body to work to avoid the feverish tossing that racked Raskolnikov.

And I cannot fail to mention Beach Season! It’s imminent. While maybe some people have “won the genetic lottery,” you probably did not; you need to work to tone up. With Beach Season coming in, the shirts will be coming off. When you’re sipping on a drink with someone desirable, they’re not going to be impressed by the “Comp Sci p-set I pulled an all-nighter to finish” line. They’ll be impressed by your rippling abdomen.

Think of the ancient Greeks, who, oiled and young, would wrestle and toss the discus. They exercised and considered physical activity as valuable as intellectual activity. Just as they strove in the gymnasium, so they strove in the Academies to gain skill in philosophy rhetoric.

Even science wants you to move! As Humanity evolved, respiratory systems and muscles developed for a reason. Our species will not adapt to our new sedentary lifestyles and overabundant food supplies unless we loaf about for millions of years. For now, these habits have led to unnatural levels of insanity, obesity, and yellow bile.

As a last resort, think about your family. They don’t want you to go insane or lose your lean physique (assuming you ever had one). Michelle Obama, the flagship mother of the country, wants you to move, and suggests starting at an early age. You’re still young (really!), even if it is a Sunday and you’re sad and hungover. Walk outside, breathe in a deep lung-full of cold morning air, stretch your legs and run! Run and shout, “I am human! I am embodied!”

—Conor Skelding

Negative

Mmmmm ... couch.

Illustration by Maddy Kloss

Let me give you an insider’s perspective. We all remember this January’s winter storms, when Columbia’s charmingly provincial stone walkways were under the siege of urban New York’s treacherous black ice, correct? While caught up in the Ivy League anxiety of sprinting to Butler with every spare second, I fell on the ice and found myself a broken woman. Laid up in bed later that day, I mused upon the eight weeks of limited mobility I had to look forward to. In those eight weeks of bedridden recovery, not only did I not move, but I realized that Red Bulling your way through Butler is not really moving either. As I regained strength, I also gained a stoic resolve that taught me the wonders of inertia.

Pondering the over-ratedness of moving (and of freaking out in Butler), I did not spend my inert hours on Hulu. I thought of Nietzsche’s attack on your ascetic ideals of physical “purity.” Nietzsche suggests the rest cure of Silas Wier Mitchell. When you’re feeling hysterical or looking pale and anemic (and Columbians, I’m looking at you), what should you do? You should hearken back to the good old nineteenth century and spend your days and nights recumbent in bed, like I did! Never mind that this cure drove Charlotte Perkins Gillman insane and afforded us her cheery story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I, for one, will vouch: I too was once pale and anemic, and how am I now? Still a little pale, but chock-full of rosy blood cells and iron. And I feel better every day.

But when in less dire straits (the ice has long since thawed from the campus walkways, and not all of you can expect the excellent luck of breaking a bone anyway), you’re still likely to land yourself in an ultimately more fruitful state of affairs when sitting and discerning, say, the meaning of life, instead of squandering your time in the gym. Gym time might build muscle, but what kind of mental legwork will you get done there? Distraction, that’s all. Preoccupied with your fellow gym-goers’ rippling biceps and dauntingly surreal, machine-like finesse, you’ll probably just get yourself into a diffident mental rut. If you’re worried about attracting all the “babes,” you should migrate from the gym to a quiet room and put on a Bach sarabande for your potential special someone. Because triple meter is sexy. You may not hear a lot of sarabandes today, but they were sixteenth-century Spain’s routine mode of seduction. And of course, if your (stoic) inclination is to dance to that sarabande, then get up and swing your patootie. Just don’t overdo it, because nothing is less sexy than losing your cool.

It really just can’t be denied: stoicism is beautiful. Just look at the etymological root of stoic: Stoa. In Greek, that means porch. Don’t you like to sit on porches? And if you New Yorkers are too street-savvy for porches, don’t pretend you haven’t passed many a sweet hour on your summer stoop.

But come the rainy day that you have to get off your stoop and get to class, I promise you: there is no better feeling than that moment when you realize, caught in the rain and late for class, that you are not compelled to run. Walking slowly, showing your strength of character, looking around at your fellow pedestrians who, panicky on adrenaline and pumping their exaggeratedly muscular thighs to the shelter of their oppressively scheduled classes, you will undoubtedly feel like the better person.

—Amalia Scott

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18 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    "just move" ignores visible and invisible disabilities. think about why moving is lauded as being supremely moral and who gets left out of the equation (and why, oh wait, it's because society doesn't value disabled bodies) the next time you're compelled to tells someone to go run or take the stairs.

    • Anonymous

      youre retarded

      • Anonymous  

        lol of course someone would comment with that.

        honestly i have no fucking faith in any single one of you to be good fucking people.

        • Anonymous

          gawd i hope you're talking about the idiot that just tried to insult the very intelligent (and probably incredibly compassionate and awesome) person the anonymous cyber bully tried to put down. columbia...seriously...get with it. we are so tired of privileged ass mother fuckers trying to reign on people who actually give a fuck about humanity. how the fuck do we quell these soon to be corporate zombies? sigh. i am so ashamed i attend this school....mostly because of people whose comments are "you're retarded" and even more so for the tool bags that give it a thumbs up.

          yo. person who brought up ableism. props to you. don't let any inconsiderate piece of rotting shit discouraging for giving the voiceless a voice. ONWARDS.

    • Anonymous

      Way to take someone's well intentioned advice out of context.

      He wasn't moralizing physical fitness, and even if he was I am sure that there are comparable exercises that disabled people can perform that work for them.

    • Anonymous  

      except the 4 of you that upvoted this post, you're not awful.

      continue on and please don't let the ableist fucks get you down.

  2. CC '11

    Conor:

    -Great advice. I have always been a firm advocate of gym workouts and not camping in Butler to one of my friends. 95% of the people in Butler go there to feel better about themselves and are trying create an image of a "studious scholar." This would be true if they didn't go there, bitch all over facebook about it and stay there long so they can tell their friends they were there longer. Go back, get some sleep and also go workout. There is not better stress reliever than physical activity = endorphins. Not only will they feel better, but they will also be helping their body instead of throwing in horrible drinks. Working out also gives you plenty of energy. Lastly, if you need to go to Butler in order to work, then you have bigger problems. Stay at home, get comfortable, click out of facebook and get work done.

    Amalia:

    -I agree with the need for sleep, but not the part about wasting time at the gym: see above. Sleep is the most important thing and many people don't realize sleeping 2 hours a night and running on red bull is not natural and horrendous. It is equally as important to keep your body from deteriorating as it is your mind. If your body is being treated properly with exercise then you will be in a better mental state. It is also important to leave one's room and get a new atmosphere such as the gym. It's a good physical break and a social break if you see someone there. You had special circumstances because of a broken bone, but working out is not limited there. I am biased because I did athletics at Columbia, but even when I hurt my leg I still worked out as I could.

  3. My perspective

    In my experience, the primary reason I feel totally swamped during finals is that I don't pace myself during the rest of the semester. I let a lot of work slip to the end, and so if I'm studying for a test, well, there's lots of reading I didn't do and concepts I didn't quite understand. If I'm writing a paper, often it becomes a much longer process because, again, some/a lot of reading wasn't done. This is not to make an excuse - on the contrary, I think that if people maintained consistent study habits during the year and didn't fall behind, they would realize that they can maintain a healthy sleep/work/exercise balance during finals, and maybe even have time for social activities, like seeing a movie the night before the big exam.

    I realize there are possible objections to this. In full disclosure, I was a political science guy, and I know the experiences of other majors can be very different. I'd definitely be interested in the "hard sciences" perspective (to put a general phrase on it), since perhaps even pacing yourself throughout the year in, say, orgo or mechanical engineering won't afford you a better balance when finals come around. I get that.

    Still, I think it holds true for many people that if you do your work during the year, and don't fall behind, you realize that you are pretty on top of your stuff and the studying comes so easily that you will be able to keep yourself sane and balanced at the end of every semester.

  4. above 3 comments

    examples of too much time to kill over sumer

  5. Anonymous

    I hate the American obsession with the "workout" (and no, I'm no America-hater). I'm sure there are some athletes out there who may genuinely enjoy the gym, but for most of us receding into the darkness of Dodge to high-step toward nowhere or plugging in our iPods and running around the neighborhood aimlessly is just no fun. And what's the point if it's not fun? I say clear your schedule, clear your head, get out in the fresh air, and take a nice long walk. You'll get just as much exercise, but you'll also be able to explore the city and really think on things and respond to the world around you; bringing a friend to bounce ideas off of makes it even better.

    • CC'13

      yes! i hate dodge, it's s0 dank, and i'm not much of a runner. i'm not one of those naturally skinny assholes either...take walks, go on the swings! we're book-ended by 2 beautiful parks, use them!

  6. CC '13

    euphemism, not euphamism

  7. Anonymous

    I had a reportedly 87 year old lit hum professor (last name starts with a "y") who claimed to run five miles nearly every day. He would often make fun of other faculty his age in far worst shape, physically and mentally. Just another case in point. But don't believe me, believe medical science

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