Post 122

The Gym? Ah yes, I've Heard of Such a Thing

Nowadays, I am seeing these supermarket-sized workout gym places popping up. I guess these businesses must be lucrative, because that’s a lot of otherwise-useful real estate being put to dumb use.

My issue with the gym is that I don’t think the people inside it are actually having fun.

I may be wrong.

Maybe they do like it.

What I THINK they like about going to the gym is leaving the gym. The reason they like leaving the gym is because they don’t like the gym, but they like resting after being at the gym and they like talking about going to the gym and they like pretending to like the gym.

What I say is that a person can rest without going to the gym in the first place. Why not skip out the icky part and just go straight for the part you like? I hear so much about how life is short. Well then, how about – if you like resting – you just rest?

The Catholic Church is very much a fan of resting. Every Sunday, is what the Church says.

The Church says, “Hey man, take a break – it’s Sunday! Shut down the store, get away from the office, put aside the boring list of chores. Relax. Sit on the couch. That’s why you bought it, remember?”

The Church says, “Or go outside, find somewhere in the shade, put your feet up! Or go for a stroll or throw a few buns and cheese (along with lemonade or iced tea or beer and whatever) into a bag and go for one of those spur-of-the-moment picnics-that-sound-really-great-and-carefree-until-you realize-that-you-didn’t-bring-a-blanket-and-you-don’t-know-quite-where-to-sit.”

(Okay, I’ll admit, the Church doesn’t use those EXACT words – this isn’t a direct quotation from paragraph number 803 of the Catechism or whatever – but it’s that kind of idea.

And I’m not saying you should get entirely plastered with your beer or your watermelon spiked and bulging with vodka, but I’m with Chesterton in saying that a drink or two once in a while isn’t taboo – unless you have a history, showing that it is, for you.)

So yup, that’s Catholicism. Like Judaism before it, this “harsh” and “tough” religion states, as a RULE, that people need a weekly break. They need, once a week, to be able to step out of their normal daily grind, to be able to get off the ‘treadmill’ as they say, and look up at the sky. And, for the sake of synchronicity (always good for community) the Church chose Sunday, to commemorate Jesus’s victory, called ‘resurrection.’ (Rising from the dead is quite uncommon – and was, even back then.)

Pretty good, eh?

Sounds like something a good mother would recommend.

And if you meet some Catholic who acts like Sundays are for doing bible-ish things from morning until night, then I think you’ve found kind of a fraud, sad to say. No, you don’t need to spend Sunday in some kind of Sunday ‘school’ after church. You don’t have to wear your Sunday best for the rest of the day (though you can if you want – you do look mighty smart in that shirt). A Roman Catholic Mass is quite consistently about 60 minutes long. True, there’s prep time and travel time, but it’s not more than you’d spend getting to and from that thing you call “the gym.”

And as a matter of fact, Mass is quite the mix of sitting and standing, when you get right down to it.

For newcomers, it’s pretty much like attending some new fitness class, as you look all around and try to get it right. “Whoa, Mildred, I think everyone is standing now! Heave and up, one two three, hold it there, hold it there, can you feel the stretch? And now, Sit (whew! I sure felt that one)!” “Jacqueline! I think they’re gonna do The Kneel! How do you get this thing out anyway? Yikes! (CLUNK) Never mind, I think I found it. Oops, have I placed it on your foot?”

(And the advanced class has extra moves, that are rather optional. Kind of little nuances, for those Tai-Chi ‘exercise’ types. You can add, for instance, the part where you dip your fingers into the holy water upon entering and make the sign of the cross on yourself. But that’s a style thing. Not everyone does that, just like not everyone stops at the water fountain upon entering or leaving the gym. Mind you, holy water is a good and wonderful thing, and it’s not a bad idea to keep some on hand for your own home. LoyalOne bought a little font and has it attached to the wall in her room. She uses it frequently through the day.)

There’s also the move called the “Genuflect” which is a fancy word for going down on one knee, for a moment. This is kind of a freestyle move too, and you’ll see Catholics kind of throwing them in here and there, depending on their preference. I like to genuflect before sitting down at my pew, before receiving Communion, in front of the tabernacle, and when crossing in front of the altar. When I do it, I face the tabernacle or the altar, as the case may be. Sometimes I do it reverently, thinking all the right things, but sometimes I am somewhat distracted as I do it, and I’m thinking mainly about, for example, sitting down or getting into that pew. At the very least, the Genuflect serves as a warning to the people who are already there at that spot — something like this: “Hey folks, I’m Going to Sit Down Somewhere About Here; You’ve Now Been Forewarned.”

Joking aside, it’s a good move.

Let’s see. There ARE other moves.

There’s a bow during the creed, and if it’s supposed to be a deep bow (not sure if it is), then that’s from the waist; in any case, I know that a bow here is NOT a bonus move but part of the real drill. The problem is, the instructions about that bow came in recently from the top and nobody seems to know when to do it or how it goes.

I think it would be funny to get some fitness instructor to come and teach a class to the Catholics with all the moves. “Okay class! And so to do The Deep Bow, you move your upper body so that it is actually or almost PARALLEL to the floor! Way to GO!!!! Oh! I’m so IMPRESSED with you, class! Way to GO!!! Now HOLD it, HOLD it – wait for the words ‘and became man’ – Oh! Very GOOD! Now relax. One two three. The Deep Bow.

I suppose this is what you call irreverence – comparing the Mass with a workout class. It’s a workout class ’cause it has all those moves. Plus Jesus.

I’m sure I’ve said that all wrong.

Some lady out there is going to be entirely scandalized. Or maybe not. I probably lost her at WTF, along with the others.

Oh well.

Now I’ve got you instead, and you’re more fun anyway. (Remember that Jerry MacGuire movie? Instead of “You had me at ‘hello’” my blog is kind of, “You lost me at WTF.” Who would have thought that more inspiration meant more, ahem, ‘colourful’ language? Can’t say I saw it coming myself. But that’s part of the ride. And believe you me, I could dig up some Chesterton if I needed Justification. But who has time for that? I’m looking at where I am now, not back or to the sides.)

The furthest I look back, right now, is to the beginning of the post that I’m working on.

Right now, I’m working on (not working out at) “the gym.”

I don’t think that FUN is the reason for being at the gym. The fun is in leaving the gym. That’s why so many people are happy when they leave gym or when they leave Mass, for that matter. It’s something they got through. (True, Mass has the Eucharist, and I don’t mean to insult Our Lord, but if we speak honestly, I know that so much of the feeling is just normal human Relief – as in, I’ve done what I was supposed to do.)

But what I like here is that Catholicism doesn’t pretend that going to Mass is always a blast. That’s why they don’t say, “Come to Mass: you’ll have a hoot!” That’s why they don’t say, “Come! Be entertained! New show every week! New program, new stuff!”


Going to Mass this Sunday looks nearly identical to going to Mass last Sunday.

But at least we don’t fake it or lie to you about it. We don’t act like you’re going to be all pumped at every part of every aspect. You’ll have some kind of ratio. Some kind of attention-span ratio. You’re human. That’s partly why the Church has decorations in it. If your mind and eyes wander, you’ll have something proper, to pull you back. It’s more than catechism, it’s about capturing you, with all your God-given senses. God knows what we’re made of. He made us like this.

Some Masses, the music will amaze you and other times you’ll want to heckle the cantor or throttle the ball-capped organist, who seems to have recently purchased a book of tunes called Gothic-Dark-and-Demonic, to play while everyone leaves the Basilica after Mass. Sometimes you wonder if the Director of Music is even Catholic. (Is he? He seems more intent on turning this building into a audience-please-be-silent concert hall than a community of let-me-sing-too-worshippers.)

Some Masses, the homily will inspire you and other times you’ll want to strangle that young priest.

(Or at least nicely question him: “Father, what the hell were you talking about? Since when does a Hollywood flick deserve Honourable Mention from the pulpit? The Gospel, a psalm and two other readings and you still can’t think of anything better to say? I didn’t come here for a movie review! And Father, why on earth did you say that a person should be careful not to be ‘Too Devoted’ to Christ’s Mass?!?! Are you feeling okay or a little bit Buddhist today?”)

Some Masses will be really enjoyable and some will be abysmally dull. That’s normal. Expect that. (And if you do find someone who is entirely enraptured, especially during the consecration, take that as one of those signs of a vocation to the religious life).

So anyway, for all these reasons, the Catholic Church, in her great wisdom, calls attending Mass on Sundays “an OBLIGATION.”



In other words, something you do because it’s a DUTY.

Duty is not always fun.

So the Church doesn’t mislead you, you see?

I love honesty.

The Church doesn’t say you’re going to love every minute. The Church doesn’t say it’s the funnest thing ever.


The Church calls it “an obligation.”

It’s what you do because you’re supposed to do it.

I like that about the Church. I like the way the Church is like a mother – that kind of realistic mix of firm and firm. Like this, see:

Firm: It’s Sunday. Go to Mass.

And Firm: It’s Sunday. Relax.


I like.

But, back to the gym, I don’t think people like, as much as they say. They like leaving, and, as I said, they like talking.

They like talking about “going to the gym.” They like mentioning they “came from the gym.” They happen to say “when they were at the gym THIS MORNING (at 5 A.M. Don’t You Know, ON THE WAY TO WORK! BEAT THAT).”


Blah blah blah.

Who cares.

You wasted your time at the gym.

That’s your mistake, not mine.

Don’t bore me with the story.

I’ve heard it.


From everybody.

You went to the gym.


Because the truth is, I can talk about the gym too, and I can do it without the bother of even going. All the advantages, with none of the disadvantages!


As a matter of fact, I really impressed a couple of large young (handsome-in-2012-and-2013) university-level football players with my story. They thought it was funny and I was just getting started.

I started like this:

“One time I went to the gym.”

They thought it was hilarious.

I started laughing too, because I realized that WOULD sound really odd to these boys, who almost practically live at the gym, getting larger and larger.

But this was the rest of my story. I told them how it ended, so I might as well tell you.

I guess technically it wasn’t a gym. It was the high-school weight room. There were heavy things in there, that theoretically, needed lifting. I’m not sure why they needed to be lifted. The weights seemed perfectly happy lying there. But apparently, they needed to be lifted. And I, apparently, was the one who was going to do it. (Look out world.)

So there was this one set-up, where you are supposed to lie, face down, on a platform. The weight is behind your calves or something like that. You bend your knees and this raises some weights. Someone came up with such a device. So I tried this ‘exercise.’

There’s me.



I didn’t like it.

I said, “Hey! Unload it! Reduce the weights! It’s too much!”

He said,

“But – but, there aren’t any weights!”

“It’s just the cushion!”


The cushion.



That was me

At the gym.

(Heavy cushion.)

Next story.

One time, I attended an exercise class.

Ooh boy.

All those moves.

So tricky.

But I persisted (I knew the instructor).

After a few weeks – I remember the moment – I found something growing in my one leg. The thigh. I was, truth be told, rather frightened. I thought it was some kind of gigantic tumour and I thought now I was dying.

However, being the quick-thinking sort, I reached for my other leg, and I found there was a matching one there.

Aha! (I said to myself.)

I know what this is.

I have heard of such things.

I think this is called

a “muscle.”

Not fatal.

Not fatal at all.

And as a matter of fact,

I am still here.

A survivor. I live to tell the tale.

But I’m not going back. Won’t get me back in a fitness class or a gymity-gym. Until someone can convince me I’ve got an ‘obligation,’ you won’t see me there. I’ve already put in the time and I’ve already got my story.

Besides, I found out something quite shocking. Did you know that blogging can be exercise? I was quite surprised. Why are my arms like this, now? I wondered. Wow. I was surprised. I reasoned that all those hours typing – holding my hands like this, just so, working those armity muscles – must be.

Who woulda thought.

Blogging as exercise.


But soon, I changed my mind. Nah, I said to myself. I don’t think it’s exactly like that. I think it’s something else, some biblical thing. I don’t know the verse or even the section, but there’s lots of good stuff in there about the right arm, the right hand and so on. Must be one of the side perks of blogging for God.

Honestly, I think it’s something like that.

Something strange, like the way the sun looked all swirly and colourful the other day. Some kind of sign.

Arm wrestle, anyone?