My doctoral work involves WWII, including the actions of the Nazis and those they commanded. One of the more astonishing facts I stumbled upon recently was the Nazi strategy of keeping the young German Nazis involved in and occupied with sports.
They wanted to keep them active and running around...focused on winning not on thinking. Some group of resistants snuck away from the sports and started reading...banned books, probably. Anyway, it was through this development of the mind, that the absurdity and deranged nature of the whole regime became apparent.
I had a much more minor, but similar awakening this fall and winter. I sprained my ankle doing the Lindy Hop (great WWII dance, actually). Because of this sprain, I could no longer spend my free time running, dancing, leaping, rollerblading or even swimming.
Instead I read theory. I read 30-40 books about my field. I sat still, I distilled, and I considered more fully and more carefully this world in which I found myself.
This was not my conscious choice, I often bemoaned my crippled state..hobbling to and from the library gazing at my swollen foot. But something important did happen for me during those first 3 months of recovery. I created a base to my thinking that I will continue to draw upon for the rest of my career.
Of course now that I am healed, I'm up again and training for the Cherry Blossom race, swimming and planning my next dance class. But I'm considering now, more fully, the consequence of moving versus thinking.
Those who train for triathlons or marathons know the impact of training on their lives, if not their minds. In fact, Swimmers magazine just ran an article about triathlon divorces, referring to the number of divorces prompted by one partner spending the majority of their time in motion...running, cycling or swimming away from their partner.
This question of the impact of over-sporting on our relationships and our minds is especially salient in the Washington, DC where I live. Fitness abounds. Races are held every weekend during the spring. The combination of the enormous military presence along with the disciplined rule followers working in law and government has led to a kind of fitness bonanza.
It's a very fit city. I think fitness is fantastic. It's something I do love about DC; I also wonder if it has a way of numbing us. We question the system less...instead of considering the deep structural problems, contradictions and inequalities in our system, we go for a run.
We just burn off our aggression without considering whether there are some problems we need to consider in deeply theoretical ways.
For the betterment of our world, I suggest that once in a while, instead of heading to the gym, consider taking a bath and reading Foucault, Arendt, Wilbur, or someone else who blows your hair back...running is not the only way to feel the wind in your hair. Ideas are mighty powerful.
Sarah Federman, PhD
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My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
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