5 min read

Selfless Momentum

From eating to treating
This piece is a contribution to the STSC Symposium, a monthly set-theme collaboration between STSC writers. The topic for this upcoming issue is Procrastination.
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

When I don’t feel an immediate sense of purpose, I overeat. And whenever I make such a choice, I’m being extremely selfish.

Nothing worthwhile emerges from a vessel whose craw has been impetuously stuffed.

It was incredibly easy to prevent this addiction in college—in fact, I had no idea that I could even have such a problem. Being a track athlete meant I was straining toward peak condition at all times: 11% body fat, trending down. It wasn’t just that six runs and four weight sessions a week in the midday sun pushed me to my absolute limits, sometimes made me do things downstream of my post-race attendance at the nearest trash can. College track means business, and it is an utter privilege to have a job, a seat, a starting lane there in the oval office. In season, I had a race every weekend. Hell, at the best 400/800-meter university in America, I was a walk-on. I had to perform or walk right back off the team.

College track wasn’t all business for me, no “rise and grind, shit or shine” all the time, even if the sport’s culture of turning grit to gold made certain it could be found in spades. Life on a track team means much more than mindless compulsory hustle. I trained and toed the line with world-class athletes, record holders and national champs, half-mile masters of faster who were in their element turning up the heat, but everyone had a sense of humor, some a little more so. We had ourselves a lot of fun, jokes and pranks and tomfoolery in abundance, and through thick and thin, our ability to size each other up in ribbing gave us mutual confidence in our commitment to a cause. We trusted each other to bring the best out of each other and show up to show out. We also knew such participation was optional. No one—not our teammates, not the coach who specialized in each event, not the straw-hatted head honcho himself as he made the motivational rounds before each practice—forced us to wake up and seize the day. That was a frequent suggestion, nothing more.

The voluntary aspect of college track kept me on the straight and narrow and conditioned the habits that keep me fit today. I chose to walk onto the team after six months’ angst-driven burnout (sometimes you set too many personal bests before a yearlong drought) and made the cut. Doing so helped me frame the multi-year experience for what it was—an opportunity. A golden opportunity, and a divine one at that. I could realize a dream week in and week out. Having signed myself up to the task, I looked upon each Saturday’s racing prospects to fill me with purpose. What was the point of all the sprints I rehearsed if onstage I didn’t execute? The alternative was freedom from schedules, a complete lack of accountability, and fuck-all in the realm of what makes life great: the chance to disclose works of art into being.

I tried and failed to find the right words at the time, but the end goal of my nutrition and conditioning was to perform at my best, to give it my all, and as I’ve written before, that is an act of God. It is divine purpose in the revelation of Beauty before the crowd. An athlete’s best efforts glorify the King of kings and Lord of lords, regardless of place or time, just as a writer does well in giving himself over to his muse, listening and transcribing as sacred duty to create, metrics be damned. The act of sublime revelation, of uplift, whether the lifting of limbs or of fountain pen in turn lifts the spirits who bear witness, is an opportunity for which you ought to sign up and never let pass. It’s optional, yes, but without participation in life’s mysteries, what is there to love and fill one’s vessel, its mysteries-sized hole?

In my case, post-track, binge-eating is the vacuous sin: snacking for its own sake. I still maintain a healthy body and have cultivated a better selection of food than ever before, but sometimes I consume too many of said eats—too many servings of each—and youthful metabolism gains a guilty thanks so I don’t gain a few pounds. Picture Abaddon, sloth, or Beelzebub, gluttony, the fallen lords of pestilence (pestilentia, “an unwholesome atmosphere”) and of locusts and flies. One is Abhaddon, “destruction”, the other a Prince of Hell. Aimless avarice, to take up a seat without soul, is the removal of wonder and exposition of the abyss beneath, the hungry place where Abaddon sleeps in his hole. This locust locus is the plague at the heart of our existence, entropy’s gravity well that came into being after the Fall. It is sated by thoughtless consumption, the clogging of you the creative conduit, and averted by the opposite, the free association of one’s throat with Truth. Herein lies a metaphysical-physical choice, the path breaking right and left. Both options require your soul of you, but the one gives nothing back. (Eat food, of course, but your nutrition is spiritual too. Leave room for both.)

Accountability keeps you on the purposeful path, and I find it helpful nowadays to replicate the years I signed up for college track and planned in advance. Writing deadlines with an online friend or for collaborations, to offer one example, but even more to the point is why I sign up for the 5Ks I do now. Running aimlessly, logging junk mileage without a training plan, is easy to combine with snacking and get nowhere, nothing but procrastination for the result. If I’ve paid so many bucks for a race bib though, I know damn well I ought to get my money’s worth, and God His! Race registration is a fractal of my relationship with God, of voluntary covenant. It’s an opportunity to bring glory by showing up and showing out. That’s enough to stifle my snacking and elicit proper training from its shadow, like a writing deadline spurs me to daily polish up and take the muse on a date about town. He and She, God and the muse Shekhinah (shekhinah, “dwelling”, the glory and feminine aspect of God that is with us in proximity, including but not limited to when an artist is at play), want a relationship with you, not a check-in or a booty call. Creation, your best, is a relationship of unflagging wonder fueled by its own infinite engine, but the car needs starting, and then it needs your foot on the gas, a commitment to your chosen speed. Jesus is at the wheel, Shekhinah’s fingers interlaced with yours, but you are indeed in the driver’s seat, gunning for the horizon that forever beckons your name and voluntary A-game. It rings the world with arms open wide, and at the same time it’s intimate enough to receive you, bless your selfless momentum, and join you along for the ride.

Hope that tracks.