Sunday, August 17, 2008

Body and Mind

Sport is antithetical to art and culture? Please.

Funny, then, that some very cultured people, including Norm Geras, Francis Sedgemore, and The Wife, are rebutting the claim, and that the latter should bring forth the Latin maxim -- also inscribed on my own Road ID tag for whatever it's worth -- mens sana in corpore sano (healthy mind in a healthy body), given to us by that paragon of brute backwardness from Roman times, the poet Juvenal.

Of course the idea that human flourishing involves developing both the body and the mind was already old by the time Juvenal got to it, having been celebrated by the Greeks as the ideals of paideia and arete.

Sport is the disciplined perfection of physical exertion -- it is what running, jumping, lifting, and throwing look like when the cultivated human mind is brought to bear on them. It bears the same relationship to natural human physicality as poetry stands to natural human vocalization. Beyond merely beautiful (which it is), sport is the quintessence of culture, not in any tension with it.

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