“Mens sana in corpore sano” – The Latin phrase for “a strong mind in a strong body”, has been in my thoughts lately. Let’s face it, we aren’t getting any younger, and we’ve only got this one body, and this one mind, for this one life. If we don’t take care of them eventually each breaks down. My favorite Navy pilot used to say that he saw the future, and he didn’t like it. Well, I’ve seen it too, and I don’t like what it might be without focused, consistent effort. We can’t stop the inevitable, but dammit we can delay it a bit.
The care of Mens, or “the mind”, is demonstrated in a lifetime of learning. Stretching your mind in new directions with unique experiences, travel and challenging reading that informs, proper nutrition, hydration, and above all, sleep. A fatigued, dehydrated mind is a sad spectacle indeed. Keeping our minds sharp should be a primary goal, acted upon daily. It offers the side benefit of richer conversations with a broader circle, a richer and fuller life, and doing well watching Jeopardy!
Corpore sano, “a healthy body”, shouldn’t be neglected in pursuit of a career, a vibrant mind, or because we’re busy with other things. The clear answer is that a healthy body is the foundation for all that we do in our lives. And as the Latin phrase infers, there’s an obvious connection between the health of the body and the health of the mind. Fitness and consistent exercise should be a primary focus in our daily lives, and should be scheduled and selfishly guarded against all who might infringe on our pursuit of a healthy body.
Think about the last time you had the flu, your body shut down to fight it. You had chills and aches. All you wanted to do was find some measure of comfort in your bed and try to sleep it off. Or think about the morning after some particularly hearty celebration, with a strong hangover and head pounding. Walking in a fog and feeling like death. We’ve all experienced the former, and most of us have experienced the latter. That’s no way to live, friends. But these moments inform, should we take notice.
So how about flipping that around to feeling our best most of our lives? Extending our vibrant lives to fill our days, and to extend our functional lifetimes? What is functional anyway? I’m looking for a bounce in my step and sharpness in my wit well into my senior years, and that starts with a strong foundation now. Why can’t we be hiking up mountains in our 90’s? Taking long, unassisted walks along cobblestone streets in faraway, ancient cities? Why can’t we be tackling new languages and reading Yuval Noah Harari and Nassim Nicholas Taleb books as we round 100? And shouldn’t we be doing that now as stepping stones for deeper thinking then?
Speaking of Taleb, the goal is resiliency. To become as antifragile as we possibly can so we can give our bodies and minds a fighting chance in this crazy world. To bend but not break when the going gets rough, as it surely is now for so many people.
“If something is fragile, its risk of breaking makes anything you do to improve it or make it ‘efficient’ inconsequential unless you first reduce that risk of breaking.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile
The moments that test us, the toughest workouts and the most challenging concepts we wrestle with in our minds, these make us stronger, more resilient, and more vibrant. So waking up to this gift of another day, think Mens sana in corpore sano. What will we do to strengthen our minds and bodies today? Act now, without hesitation. A vibrant and fulfilling life begins with this. Our health and vigor define everything that we do in this, our one wild and precious life.