Libby, her friend and I went to the swimming pool yesterday afternoon. A dip in the sea would have been preferable but it would probably given Libby hypothermia, I've seen more fat on a pencil. After an hour of the odd length, daft racing games and Libby grabbing me just at the wrong moment causing me to ingest more water than I was happy with, I decided to get out and do half an hours reading before the girls vacated the pool hungry and tired with expectations of dinner.
As I sat reading, hot chocolate in hand (the tea is always like dishwater from the vending machine), I also watched with a growing interest the people coming and going. Clad in gym wear, water bottles in hand they'd scamper from their cars to the shelter of the leisure centre, trying to avoid the insistent down pour of rain. Some looking very fit, confident and comfortable in their tight fitting Lycra, others looking not so fit, awkward and uncomfortable, most of them, I reckon, wishing they were somewhere else. It was like watching a conveyor-belt of androids turning up for their daily programming.
I started to wonder what reasons these people had for putting themselves through these rituals in such a fake, condescending, unhealthy health/leisure centre. I understand there are reasons and we all enjoy doing the things we do, I'm not knocking just wondering. I've been to the gym in the past, it was a brief and unpleasant experience and I really didn't see the point, for me anyway. When living in such a beautiful environment why spend your leisure time confined to the smelly, sweaty walls of a gym? There is no space or freedom for the mind to wander as it often does when the body is moving freely during exercise. The constant bombardment of images and sound from giant TV screens never give you a chance to have your own thoughts and feelings, they do that for you. Like caged animals we pump and grind away our frustrations whilst transfixed by images of the airbrushed rich and famous informing us that this is what we should be like, this is real....and yet the mirror covered walls remind us of a different reality, one that we need to change and shape so that we can 'fit in', a constant reinforcement of our insecurities. This makes good business sense I suppose, they wouldn't want people becoming too healthy and confident, they'd become less dependent and pliable and then may realise that they could actually do it on their own! God forbid!
Anyway, whilst all this cynicism was churning around in my head I read this passage in the book I was reading....it was a bit of a wow moment actually......talk about great timing!
"Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors, home, car, gym, office, shops, disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it."
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
I can't help but feel that even with such good intentions in mind, the androids are missing out on something they search for and I'm sure that they are more likely to find it beyond the TV screened, mirrored, sweaty, ego coddled walls of the gym...........??????