After a nice lunch of vegetarian chili and cider, and after it all digested enough, a visiting friend (who is also a professional philosopher) and I turned to the issue of the day and that was pumping iron. He wants to build up some upper body strength and his doctor recommended using weights. When I was a teenager I used them, and bought them with my Bar Mitzvah money, and turned myself into a regular incredible hulk. Well maybe not but I did my share of pumping iron and still have a vague recollection of how to use them. My philosophical friend is funny and although he disavows the primacy of rules and morals anymore, in his life and philosophy, he did seem to want to know what the exact rules were for lifting weights. Those rules are probably listed somewhere but I don’t know them. The rules I have made up for lifting weights, and for anything else, are not to strain too much and don’t forget to breathe. Going slow can also be nice as is not going at all. Stillness that is.
With my instruction (and my style is loose indeed) I tried to show my friend how to breathe with his diaphragm, our principal breathing muscle. How when we breathe deeply and diaphragmatically the abdomen swells like a balloon. We have all seen those bellies on the laughing Buddha statutes and now we know why he is laughing. This is freedom, and this is breathing, as it was meant to be. But what about that bulging belly. Unbecoming, sloppy, out of shape, like a baby. No, for my friend, this cannot be although I did notice that he seemed to have some difficulty employing his diaphragm when he tried to breathe deeply. I wouldn’t be surprised that living in your head means not breathing with your belly. Like the laughing Buddha, with his bulging belly, the danger is we could all be reduced to happy simpletons.