08 September 2014

We come into life in a body. We have to take care of our body whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care, we are out of life. Simple. Our bodies are liabilities to us. They demand payment of food, excercise, shower, sex, warmth. If we don’t pay our due in time they enforce-collect it. They control of our mind and drive us crazy until they get their payment.

Their demands aren’t the same to every person. Athletes’ body demands much more exercise than the body of a couch potato. But then, athlete’s body can handle more stress and load than the body of the couch potato. As a result, the athlete has higher freedom, they can afford running to a given destination to save time, they can afford carrying a heavy load for longer without breaking a sweat, they can reach more remote locations and they can climb out of a hole. Depending on the situation, the greater body performance might be the difference between low and high price, between catching and missing an important train, between life and death.

Everything else being equal, a better maintained body should theoretically last longer. If I had to bet between two twins, with identical genes, but different behavior who would have longer life, I’d bet on the one that smokes and drinks less, the one that eats more vegetables, but less food overall, the one that regularly exercises and stretches.

I might lose my bet. The “healthier” twin might get into an accident and die, or they might just get unlucky and get cancer, or a virus. There are many different things that affect our lifespan and how we treat our bodies is just one small part of it. I care to live longer but I don’t want to obsess over each detail about how my body works. If I do it, then I might reach longer living existence, but I wouldn’t really enjoy my time better, or achieve more.

Our body is a liability, but it isn’t what makes us what we are. While I enjoy pushing my body’s endurance limits by doing long runs and bike rides, I want to measure myself not by the size of my biceps or by how long I have pedaled in a single day, but by mental challenges I’ve overcome and by things I’ve created. In such psychological challenges the body plays a supporting role. It is necessary to have my body in a condition that doesn’t distract me from my mental challenge, but it plays very little role in achieving the challenge. Its main role is that it gets out of the way. The support from the body might come not only in lack of complaint and distraction. The body can take some long term damage in order to support short term boost for the brain.

Caffeine. It is a drug. It provides mental boost. It is legal. It comes in tasty package. Cappucino, latte, green or black tea can bring me to life when I feel like a zombie. Caffeine probably also has some long term damaging effect. But I doubt it is anywhere as bad as alcohol. I haven’t done the research. But I’ve decided that at least for a while it will be a vice I indulge in. Because I’ve voluntarily lived without it for a while, about a month, and I felt lower mental power. I wasn’t as good at thinking, focusing and doing work without it. I was OK but wasn’t at my best. If caffeine shortens my life expectation a little bit, but allows me to have much better life meanwhile, then why, I’ll keep doing it. This is my cost benefit analysis.

At the end of the day, it is rocket science. Literally. My body is the fuel that propels me forward. If I use it wisely it will last a long time. But if I don’t burn ([1]) it when I need to, I would never reach escape velocity.

[1] - no BurningMan pun intended. I haven’t been there but it sounds fun. I want to do it some day but it is not the point of the essay.

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