Yes there has been a long tradition of men showing off their physique for the pleasure of others and for their own ego. Self image has always been a motivator for the strong or those with leadership ambitions. The assumption is that if you look perfect in body you have somehow reached perfection as a person. This beauty of body and mind was a strongly held belief in ancient Greece as well as many cultures.
This is not my resolution for the new year but there is a saying about a healthy body making a healthy mind. This may be so, but as in everything human there are limitations to any generalisation. The ideal body, however is a concept subject to individual taste, sexual desire, cultural history, the weather and many things that impact just about every thought we have.Commercially we are told that what is known as beefcake is the ideal. It sells the most but is far from exclusively the only image admired. To some who want to do only things for the majority, it is the easiest way. It is after all the image of the strong, the protector, the warrior and the gene pool that will survive.
Nevertheless aesthetically muscles are subject to many variations like a heavy wrestler or a sleek runner; both strong and both useful in different circumstances. There is however an alternative image of the Androgynous boy that is increasingly popular. Post coming soon.
Some Memories and Prejudices of a Failed Sports Life.
I too learned to box when a child. I hated it, but I believe it was an effort of my mother's to toughen me up. With a neighbour and at the Police Boys Club were where this indignity happened. It did not work and my aversion to either inflicting or receiving pain has remained with me for a lifetime. Today I abhor the sight of a fight with fists as much as with knives or guns etc. be if in the streets or in the ring. Why punch someone in the face? It is cruel, harmful and vicious.
Leaping into the air does show grace balance and the thrill of those few seconds of flight does spark the imagination of both the the athlete and the spectator. It harms no one, it is a vision to see and requires a skill. Jumping on a trampoline was fun for a few seconds until I realised my balance was not great. I did however know a world champion once as a dera friend. The other jumping failures were ;omg, high amd wooden horse jumping. It was so embarassing to make attempts in front of fellow human beings who engoyed or excelled in such activities. As usual I just did not seethe point.
The ancient soldiers learned to dance to improve their coordination, balance and strength. Leaping across battlements, swinging into action an balancing with sword in hand on a cliff edge must have required talents. Perhaps the use of such a form to make a better killing machine has connotations that I dislike, but anything that involves grace, movement and control can not be criticised because of the end to which it may be used. An axe can chop wood for the hearth which is good but can also crack a skull which is bad, but it is not the axe which is at fault.
Conscience must guide everything. It guided me to try everything possible to avoid having to join the army when I was conscripted in the 60's. I managed to postpone it for many years until it was dropped. I believe I would have gone to gaol rather than be forced to go and kill Vietnamese youths. As for balance I have fallen over on a dance floor, but with great pain I found I could stand on point. I have no idea what use it was or why I even tried, but I could do it.
We can throw a spear or throw a ball and both require that we throw them accurately. Once again it is skill, practice, coordination, balance and intent that makes it an action to be admired or not. The context is all.Some images are from the great Bertil Nilsson Photography
Playing with Balls
I myself see little point in chasing a ball around a field, a pitch or court, but that is my own bias that I expect no one to accept or condemn me for it. For me it is an example of competition as are many sports and I do not have a competitive nature. My horror memories revolve around a time a teacher tried to make me captain of a football team. I think we played Rugby Union. I recall him yelling at me. 'You are the captain. Tell them what to do.' Defiant as always I stood mid field with my arms folded across my chest and yelled back. 'I WILL NOT!' Not so my cousins one of whom played for Queensland many years back and another who is currently one of the most famous footballers in Australia. I have no idea which code they play for.
I see no necessity to be better than another in any form of physical activity. Perhaps I do like the idea that a thought can be better than another, but a physical activity is irrelevant to me. Winning is not important unless it is an argument of reality and substance. I do not even get that thrill most receive from gambling. Winning is not a goal. I recall in my school-days I was compelled to participate in sports. On one occasion I was winning a foot race. I looked around and to my horror I was in front, so I stopped dead in my tracks. I did not want to win.
Nude Rowing for Charity
I have no rowing experience but I have sat by by the stream at Oxford where I believe rowing and if not at least punting takes place. I have rowed a boat and a canoe but never for competition. Much of this is like my photography and writing. I did it for pleasure, but once people suggested I make it for publication or turn it into a job, I lose interest. Private achievements are enough to satisfy my ego.
Even the game of Cricket is improved by nudity.
My Father and Grandfather both coached Cricket so I must have been a disappointment. So many of my Fathers family played sport and some internationally and nationally. My cricket memories involve trying to throw a ball while fielding once and it landing 15 feet behind me. Very inauspicious. Cricket today is ridiculously competitive, aggressive and commercial. It holds absolutely no interest to me. I can see and even admire the social ideal of a country or village cricket match accompanied by well dressed and elegant onlookers, umbrellas, a picnic and polite applause for a well taken wicket. A friendly match without abuse, sledging, illegal manoeuvres, bribery and a constant barrage of product placements and excessive use of inappropriate adjectives.