Relatively uninhibited philosophizings on self and kosmos whenever the mood strikes...
Friday, February 24, 2006
I used to have a picture on my wall of a famous bodybuilder namedSergio Oliva. Beneath it, I wrote the caption: “In commitment, we dash the hopes of a thousand potential selves.” I don’t remember where the quote came from, but it often comes to mind when I see bodybuilders, Olympic athletes, and others who devote enormous amounts of time and effort to various pursuits, especially if they fail to achieve the success they desire.
Last night, I watched a program on TLC about a bodybuilder named Gregg Valentino who used massive amounts of steroids to develop his arms to freakish extremes well beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. Compared to him, Arnold Scharzenneger had arms like toothpicks even at his biggest. It seems that Valentino and many bodybuilders may suffer from a psychological disorder that is virtually the exact opposite of anorexia. Even when they are bulging with rippling muscles, they look in the mirror and see themselves as pitifully small and weak looking, and they redouble their efforts (and their steroid consumption) to build bigger and better muscles. Valentino took this to the point of almost dying from massive infection from steroid injections and other serious health problems, and he developed a physique so monstrously malproportioned and ugly that not even a mother could love it.
I sometimes wonder if there aren’t a lot of Greg Valentinos walking around out there. Maybe they aren’t bodybuilders. Maybe they’re freakishly overdeveloped in their chess playing skill, their ability to do tricks with a yo-yo, or their skill at meditating themselves into trances amazingly impervious to pain or to the outside world. Maybe most of these individuals are involved in pursuits that don’t endanger their physical health the way Valentino did his. Maybe some of them will even reap fame and big paychecks from their accomplishments. But one wonders what their unbelievable level of commitment to one narrow pursuit has cost them in terms of overall development of themselves as human beings and, ultimately, in happiness.