I lift weights. That’s not facetious, I mean I go a gym and I lift up precisely weighted and shaped lumps of metal called dumbbells. As a result I am very strong, for my weight class (under-80 kg; under 176 lbs). I am not strong in any absolute terms, or even on the human scale of strength. I was sat in the gym recently exhausted and I had a strange thought: I don’t know why I do this. All I was ever going to achieve, at my absolute best, was the right to keep up whatever I have achieved indefinitely. I cannot hope to squat 180 kg (396 lbs—it is satisfying writing what I can lift in pounds…) when I am 60, nor bench press 110 kg (242 lbs). I don’t imagine my abs will survive learning to drive (as I now cycle everywhere) or the time constraints of if I ever enter the real world.
Fitness, which is what I am working towards, is transient. So is the superficial side of it. As I age my muscle tone will go down, my joins will wear and everything I have earned in terms of fitness and looking pretty damned good will slip away.
This thought made me think I should take up a really hobby. The ones that interest me are surfing, mountain biking, basketball, rugby and SCUBA diving. But then I realised that these are even more transient that my weight lifting. After you’ve finished weight lifting the strength you have earned and the muscles you have grown stay with you. You keep that for a long time. All the other activities I mentioned, you finished them and go home and when you do the activities are as good as gone, for now.
I evaluated that claim, and I remembered that SCUBA diving was an immensely relaxing activity. That relaxation stayed with me for days. It was also a humbling experience to swim with sharks and watch a cuttlefish. That is a memory I still treasure today. The buzz from mountain biking (and from boxing) lasts for hours. Even though I am bad at mountain biking, it was exciting to do and I was exciting about having tried it for the rest of the day.
As I thought, the importance of transience became, well, transient. It didn’t matter. Being fit now wasn’t about still being fit in 30 years’ time. It is about enjoying the fitness and looking good now; it is about enjoying the challenges I set myself, now. And the same is true of the other activities (all of which I hope to slowly take up) are fun in the moment. Anyone who dismisses the value of something because it is transient has ignored the value of the moment; of the now.
An eclipse or a shooting star is beautiful precisely because it is fleeting. It is a moment, an experience, and then it is gone. Transience is beautiful. Permanence, that’s stagnant and terrifying.