This, then, is perhaps the most powerful rebuttal to those who sneer at pavement-pounders and gym junkies. (The writer Mark Greif compares gyms, with their acreage of mirrors and glistening bodies, to “well-ordered masturbatoriums”.) To strive, to struggle, to sweat, is to be a human being in the fullest sense of the word; it’s to move through the world with discipline, purpose and delight. “The erudite body is a good body to have,” observes the philosopher Colin McGinn. Yet as Sweat energetically proves, an erudite book is the next best thing.
I have dual citizenship. I reside in both the land of the Meathead and the land of the Egghead. But as with God and Caesar, Kipling’s East and West, and pizza and pineapple, some worlds are destined by nature to remain apart. It’s a truism that intellectuals always assume that the un-theorized life is not worth acknowledging, let alone living. For them, people, places, and activities only acquire dignity and meaning once they’ve been placed into a conceptual scheme. And so we find here that physical activity needs an intellectual apologia to make it palatable to other intellectuals. But Meatheads have not been waiting for an Egghead savior to come along and provide a theoretical justification for their existence. The gym is its own powerful rebuttal. Some things are too stupid to deserve a cerebral response.