But it gets harder. The courage of children and beasts is a function of innocence We let our bodies go the way of our fears. A teen-aged boy, king of the world, will spend weeks in front of a mirror perfecting some difficult trick with a lighter, a muscle, a tennis ball, a coin. Why do we lose interest in physical mastery? If I feel like turning cartwheels--and I do--why don't I learns to turn cartwheels, instead of regretting that I never learned as a child? We could all be aerialists like squirrels, divers like seals; we could be purely patient, perfectly fleet, walking on our hands even, if our living stature required it. We can't even sit straight, or support our weary heads.
Dillard is talking about getting old. When we're young, we worry about physical mastery. That's why, in high school, the athletes are the kings and queens of the school, for better or worse. We live in a world that prizes extraordinary feats of the body. That's why we get so excited about events like the World Cup, Super Bowl, and the Olympics. However, when we get old, our priorities shift. By ten o'clock, most adults with jobs and family are ready for bed.
When I was a young guy, I was pretty normal. All I thought about was girls and sex. I wasn't much of an athlete. I ran on the cross country team for one year in high school. I wasn't great. Didn't break any records. Didn't place in any race. I don't even know what I did with the JV letter I earned. But I was determined to be the best I could be. It just so happens that the best I could be was mediocre.
As I've gotten older, I have continued to run. I've gotten slower and thicker. Given the choice between sex or a nap, I would have a difficult time making a decision. As Dillard says, my living stature does not require me to be able to outrun things. I do not live in a place populated by packs of wolves, killer bears, or dinosaurs. Therefore, speed is not a requirement in my life.
This afternoon, I ran one mile and then played in a swimming pool with my son for a couple of hours. By the time I got dressed after swimming, I was b-e-a-t. Beat. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. Right now, at 9:50 p.m., at the end of America's Got Talent, I am beyond beat. And it's only Tuesday. I'm in for a long week.
So, I am not Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. No world records will by broken by this wannabe saint. I am old, getting older. I still run. Swim. Every once in a great while, I may go for a bike ride. I don't dance, unless I have had several drinks. In short, I am a normal middle-aged man.
Perhaps I should try to master something physical. Something that tests my agility or speed or strength. Something amazing.
Saint Marty will have to sleep on it. It's after ten o'clock, after all.