Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Soul of the Lifter

To truly be a lifter, lifting must get into your bones, it must live in the marrow of your being, and it must enter into the depths of your soul.

I think it's safe to say that Doyle Kennedy was a real lifter.

Lifting is an art—and it's this way with any artist.  One can paint without being an artist, but that doesn't make the man a painter.  One can write without being an artist, but that doesn't make the man a writer.  One can practice religion without being an artist, but that doesn't make one a religious.  And so it is with lifting.  One can always lift without being an artist—many do that very thing—but those who do so will never truly be lifters.

At one time, I practiced bodybuilding.  I enjoyed it to no ends—I still do when it's good.  I enjoyed the love, perhaps even the art, of "chasing the pump."  At the time, I would have even called myself a bodybuilder.  But then, it happened.  I discovered lifting, real lifting, and I realized what I had been all along, and just never truly knew it.  I was a lifter.  I am a lifter.

Last month, I was writing about some of the health issues that have kept me away from lifting for far too long.  After I wrote a couple of entries, it got even worse: I had to have my gallbladder removed a couple of days after the last entry here.  Finally, two days ago, I was able to resume normal training.  It didn't even take a single set—hell it didn't even take a single rep of a single set.  I gripped the bar, felt the knurl upon callouses that are still there—diminished but there—and in that single instant the lifter in me returned.  Not that it had every really truly gone anywhere.  Possibly it had laid dormant, but never truly gone.  For, when it lives in your soul, it can never be extinguished.  You can avoid it, you can pretend it's not there, or that somehow it never truly existed in the first place, but the soul of a man never lies.

A few weeks ago, I was giving a presentation at a conference that in some ways consisted of the role of Eastern Orthodox spirituality within the larger Christian spiritual framework.  After my talk, a participant asked me when I "converted" to the Orthodox faith.  I don't know if she really understood my answer, but I told her that I didn't convert to the Orthodox Church.  I walked into a Temple one Sunday morning for the Divine Liturgy—inhaled the thick incense, witnessed the gold and blue of the ever-present iconography, listened to the Russian chants from a language I had never heard, yet, somehow, had never not known—and knew that I was Orthodox.  That moment only made me aware of what my soul had always yearned and hungered for—its home.

When I lace on my belt, when I chalk my hand for a big pull, when I squeeze my shoulders into the bench for a heavy set of max bench presses, it is the same thing.  My soul knows its home.  I have the soul of a lifter because I was never not one.