Why Do We Lose Interest In Physical Mastery?

And we the people are so vulnerable. Our bodies are shot with mortality. Our legs are fear and our arms are time. These chill humors seep through our capillaries, weighting each cell with an icy dab of nonbeing, and that dab grows and swells and sucks the cell dry. That is why physical courage is important–-it fills, as it were, the holes–-and why it is so invigorating. The least brave act, chance taken and passage won, makes you feel loud as a child.

But it gets harder. The courage of children and beasts is a function of innocence. We let our bodies go the way of our fears…Why do we lose interest in physical mastery? If I feel like turning cartwheels–-and I do–-why don’t I learn to turn cartwheels, instead of regretting that I never learned as a child? We could all be aerialists like squirrels, divers like seals; we could be purely patient, perfectly fleet, walking on our hands even, if our living or stature required it. We can’t even sit straight, or support our weary heads.

— Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pg. 91.

Advertisements