Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why am I Getting in Shape? T.A.

That's right, Thomas Aquinas. I've meant to write this post since I started blogging and just never seemed to get to it. I started reading Aquinas just before Easter though, and he inspired me to get up on that exercise horse again - and stay with it for over three months now. What did Thomas remind me of? Hylomorphism.

Aquinas borrowed Aristotle's description of human nature, a composite of body and spirit. It's not that we are souls in bodies; we are souls and bodies. (Why else will Jesus reunite our souls and bodies when He comes again? The souls in Heaven, even though united to God, are still "incomplete" - still not the finished product God has planned!) And hylomorphism is a tremendously biblical idea, running throughout the Hebrew Scripture, or Old Testament.

When we concentrate on our "spiritual lives," deepening our prayer and overcoming sins, it can be really easy to forget that we are our body. God expects us to take care of our whole person, not just half. And Aquinas is right there with modern medicine, speaking of the mind and body's influence on each other; health or illness in one impacts the other. It's one of those things that we realize, but we like to push to the side: it hurts to work out, and I want another plate of pizza. But our bodies show forth our spirits; and my spirit - big on gluttony and laziness and low on the virtues of temperance and fortitude - has been causing a bloated body. And that bloated body doesn't want to be outside playing in the yard with the kids, or doing much of anything really.

So I started walking two miles on my lunch hour, and then a couple of weeks back, cutting out seconds at mealtime, and now weight lifting (high intensity training will get results and only take 20 min. out of my week). Most importantly though, I pray. I've had so many false starts in my life that I'm keenly aware of my need for God's help to make virtue grow in my soul. I feel a little closer to Jesus the carpenter too, to the Jesus who walked back and forth over Palestine.

During this journey, quite by "accident," I came across a book by Dr. Kevin Vost, just written in 2007, which addresses aerobic exercise, weight lifting, and diet, showing the correlation between the thought of Thomas Aquinas and modern sports physiology! Now don't you more conservative folks out there be shocked by the cover - I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


  1. BTW Shane, I could tell a great difference in you when you returned to work. Your hard work is paying off. I'm proud of you. Keep it up.

  2. Hello Shane. I'm glad you've found Fit for Eternal Life of help. And you've apparently already got some visible results to show for it. You wouldn't believe how long they tweaked that crazy cover. (And now everybody asks me, "Hey, is that your arm on the cover?" To which I reply, "No, I didn't want to shock and intimidate beginners.") If you'd like to check out more Thomistic musings on things physical, spiritual, and intellectual, check out sometime. And by the way, I love that Putting on the Ritz still from Young Frankenstien (or was it -stein?), that you've posted. Yours in strength and fortitude, Kevin.

  3. It never crossed my mind that an author I spoke of would find my blog; that's just unreal. Dr. Vost, if you ever make it back here, thanks for the kind words and for your site address. Very impressed by your Young Frankenstein quote as well - your love of the finer things shines through.