Body proves smarter than lame brain
There's no doubt about it. My body is a heck of a lot smarter than my brain. Of course, that's not exactly a major achievement by my body. It is the equivalent of a hippopotamus bragging that it can jump higher than an elephant.
Those who know me probably aren't too surprised that my brain would fare poorly in any competition. However, it took me a while to reach the insight about my body being superior to my mind.
There are two reasons for this. First of all, my brain is often late in realizing the obvious. In this case, it was four or five decades late. Secondly, my body has never inspired confidence - in me or anyone else. I spent my first 20 years so skinny that I was not allowed to wear a scarf when I played golf. Other golfers would mistake me for the flagstick and my scarf for the flag and would aim their golf balls at me, thinking that I was marking the hole.
The good news is that, for the past few decades, I have not had to worry about being too skinny. The bad news is that now I have to fret about my one-time skin and bones physique turning into skin, bones and flab.
Looking back, I can see that my body was ahead of my brain throughout my growing-up years. Sports - or my futile attempt at playing sports - are a prime example.
To give you some idea of my athletic skills, I did not have a whole number on the back of my Moose jersey in the junior baseball league. I had a fraction - and it wasn't even a good fraction, such as 1/2 or 3/4. I think it was 5/16.
Somehow, though, my brain still thought that the rest of me could actually see some playing time. This was despite the incident when the home plate umpire came up to me as I was in the on-deck circle. The kindly ump told me, "Son, why don't you just take three swings in the on-deck circle and go back to the dugout? It will save you making a trip to home plate." (I probably would have had more success as a batter if I had kept my eyes open when I swung at the ball.)
My body wasn't any more successful in communicating to my brain that basketball was not within my talents either. The hippopotamus and elephant in the first paragraph would both probably have a vertical leap higher than mine.
Somehow, my brain persisted in thinking that I might have found my sport in basketball. This is despite my position as a reserve on the bench. The starters and second string would be at one end near the coach for quick entry into and exit from the game. I was so far down on the bench, I had to borrow binoculars to see the coach. Of course, there was an advantage to my position. I was seated near the door to the gym, so I kept busy during the game and made money collecting tickets.
My last attempt at doing something athletic came when I was in my early 30s. I took up what I called "slogging," or slow jogging. When I was finally able to make it past the first mile, my brain started to enjoy itself as I ran along abandoned railroad beds, mining roads and paths through the woods.
However, my brain was soon outvoted 2 to 1 by my knees, which functioned as a pair of ineffective shock absorbers. To this day, my knees will remind my brain that walking is about all it can expect out of them.
In fairness, I am indebted to my body for convincing my brain to give up bad habits. After a couple of years of poor decision-making and heavy smoking, my lungs finally got my brain's attention. Some people talk in their sleep. I coughed in my sleep.
My body's final showdown with my brain over smoking occurred while I was working out, doing pushups after riding an exercise bike. I stopped in the middle of a workout to have a cigarette. My body told my brain if it was going to go to the trouble getting fit, the least my brain could do was to tell me to quit smoking.
Drinking was another area in which my body helped me. It started to make me feel worse and worse after a night of lively conversation in a bar. It finally reached a point where my brain got the hint and figured out what little pleasure I got out of drinking did not compare to the pain my body went through with a hangover.
My body was not as successful in getting my brain to approve a healthier diet. It wanted my mind to supervise a diet with lots of veggies and fish, and little or no sugar. This time my brain prevailed. You could get frostbite standing too close to my grocery cart filled with containers of ice cream.
I don't like to take sides, but I am glad my brain prevailed over my body when it came to keeping sweets as the foundation of my food pyramid. It keeps my body humble. After all, I wouldn't want my body to get a big head.
(Walter Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)