Sunday, August 11, 2013

At Mohonk: Thinking About Fitness and the Inexhaustibility of Human Desire

This summer, I've been determined to get fit. Given my excess weight, I see my battle as a life-or-death struggle to stay healthy for my husband and our sons. In addition to swimming 30 minutes a day, I've been strength training with the help of a personal trainer and spending an hour a day on the treadmill, trying my best to increase the pace and incline of  the treadmill. This morning, on a hike in New Paltz, New York, I was reminded, once again, that whatever endeavor we humans undertake, nothing but the Infinite will satisfy us. 

My husband and I spent three days at Mohonk Mountain House, a sprawling 19th century Victorian resort that sits beside a crystalline lake in the Hudson Valley. We were there to celebrate two decades of marriage. This morning while Greg golfed, I decided, after my visit to the treadmill and the pool, to hike to a place called Skytop Tower.

While the hiking guided listed this walk as "moderate," for me it was not. I paused several times on my way from the resort to the summit. Sitting in one of the gazebos that line the hiking path, I reflected that no matter how much I jacked up the incline on the treadmill, I still have a long way to go. As I sat to catch my breath, it was humbling, to watch folks well more than a decade older, ambling by.

When I reached the summit, I saw the tower, which was built to commemorate Albert K. Smiley, the 19th century Quaker who built the resort with his twin brother. (And no, I didn't climb the 100 steps to the top of the tower.) I was captivated by the wind, which rushed about the top of the mountain, pushing down the grasses and the wildflowers. I soaked in the views and took a few photos before beginning my descent. 

I am thankful to Paul Zalonski, a fellow CL traveler, for writing these words. They sum up so well the journey we are on. 

The more we take our own selves and our actions seriously, the more we perceive the mysteriousness and also the urgency of these questions, the fact that we cannot really avoid them’, they are necessarily at the root of everything we do.  This is because it is the nature of the human being to expect something, to look for fulfillment in everything he does.  And where is the limit to this desire to be fulfilled?  There is no limit. It is unlimited.  Every achievement, every possession opens up on a further possibility, a depth that remains to be explored, a sense of incompleteness, a yearning for more.  We are like hikers in the mountains (an analogy Giussani is fond of): we see a peak and we climb to the top.  When we arrive there, we have a new view, and in the distance we see a higher peak promising a still greater vista. 
Paul A. Zalonski