Colm O’Shea:

This, you might say, is the most basic, most primal rationale to stay sharp and conditioned. Soft people get crushed in an emergency. Socrates adds another layer, a plea to intellectual ambition: If you want to be good at thinking, you’d do well to condition your body. But it’s his final admonition, quoted above, about seeing “what manner of man you may become” if you challenge yourself physically, that captures my imagination most, because it applies to almost everyone today.

No matter our age, sex or station in life, what might any of us become if we set our own contests with the physical world on our own terms and pursued them rigorously? Following from that, what would our greater civic body look and feel like if most citizens were on such a curious quest as Socrates implores Epigenes to embrace?

At first, I read this article and thought, “Yes, let’s make exercise even more political, because goodness knows we don’t have enough politics in everyday life!” But then I decided to be more charitable and read it in the intended spirit. Sure, it’s still hopelessly idealistic, but here we are, looking forward to an election year featuring the Battle of the Doddering Dotards, two corrupt and withered husks of humanity who should do us all a favor and…well, you know. Physical and mental fitness, as opposed to the glorification of weakness and illness? I guess there’s no harm in daydreaming for a minute.