Fist Full of Grace: Muscles

For the first time in over four years, I’ve started exercising.  Once a day, since April began, I do my routine: one day it’s running and crunches, the next it’s pushups, pull-ups, free weights, and so on and so forth.  I started this so that I might get in better shape for work, so that I could haul my own gear without struggle, and the confidence payoff is tremendous. But around week 1, when I still didn’t know what I was doing, I would do the same workout everyday.  This persisted until my roommate sat me down and explained muscle building to me. He helped me divide my exercises into muscle groups, and showed me the proper form for each.  He told me about how we tear our muscles when we workout, and how it’s important to give them time to heal so that they grow back stronger.

This stayed with me for the rest of the day, and I found myself re-reading some old Neruda poems from 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair.  It dawned on me then, in that capricious moment where everything falls into place and you can smell the realizations coming in on the wind:  the heart is a muscle, the brain too.  As a society we’ve done everything we can to safeguard ourselves against heartbreak, against making mistakes.  We coddle and comfort and put safety corners on the harsh experiences of life.  Yet why should these two muscles not function under the same principles as their trapezoidal bretherin?  With each mistake, we grow wiser.  With each breakup, our hearts mature and grow stronger (caution to not let them grow colder in the process!).

People ask me for advice on how to be a better film director.  It’s simple, I say.   Go out and get your heart broken.  Sit with that pain.  That kind of soul-wrenching struggle, the kind they invented the saxophone and alcohol and rainy days for, that’s a priceless experience.  If we are to evolve as individuals, as a society, as a species, then we’re going to need to restructure our exercise routines. So go out there and make a mistake, and smile when you do.  Tuition is tens of thousands of dollars a year; the school of hard knocks is offering full-ride scholarships.  Love thoroughly and passionately, and remember to sit in the cinders awhile when it burns down.  All good art comes out of struggle, so life a life worthy of making good art.

Andrew Hutcheson


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