To Be Heracles

25 Mar 2012

The Economist:

Exercise works its magic, at least in part, by promoting autophagy. This process, whose name is derived from the Greek for “self-eating”, is a mechanism by which surplus, worn-out or malformed proteins and other cellular components are broken up for scrap and recycled.

It is nice to have an explanation for why my body enjoys exercise other than the dubious claim of experiencing a “runner’s high”.

While exercising, I lose the ability to coherently connect my thoughts together. Every time I prepare for any sort of fitness routine, I have the romantic notion of using the upcoming “wasted time” productively. In fact, as my non-running workouts take place in the living room, I spend most of the “wasted time” looking at my bookshelves and imagining better ways in which they could be organized. That thought process never gets much further than the basic premise, because I find myself incapable of piecing ideas together; all that I can manage is the understanding that books sometimes belong on shelves.

Archetypes exist because they speak to a truth that we are capable of recognizing. Brains and brawn are disconnected forms, because we understand how difficult it is to maintain both within the same body; it is not an impossible task, merely Herculean. The labors of today are nothing like the slaying of the Nemean lion or fetching Hesperides’ apples, but contemporary sins require new atonements to match them. If we seek the favor of ancient Greek gods, we must be prepared for the difficulties that will prove our worth.