Friday, December 14, 2007

Book Review

I just finished reading The Hard Way by Mark Jenkins. Jenkins has written for a lot of magazines, including Outside. This is a collection of his adventures as he travels the world, climbing mountains known and unknown, kayaking through Turkey, and making friends along the way. But he also speaks, in his spare but unblinking narratives, of something deeper.

There is a need in men, in some cases long-dormant, to seek out and live adventure. Jenkins does just that, but also serves to remind us that it is an essential part of who we are. He writes of his friend, John, as they are thinking about an adventure together:
I was beginning to fear for John, and lately, for myself. The integument of everyday life seemed to have begun to harden. We were both working too much. john was struggling to keep a small magazine alive; I was battling to finish a book that had lost its bearings. We'd call each other at midnight, still in our offices--appalling for a couple of tree bums who once lived out of a VW van and survived on tins of sardines. John, in particular, was in trouble. He'd spent so much time trying to build a business he was in danger of becoming one more Cubicle man, ass-wedged between a green screen and four white walls.

It's hard not to see some of myself in this. Later, he writes about a competition he has with his brothers, where they compete to do the most pull ups. As they approach middle age, the contest is just as heated as it was the day they invented it, shortly after college. Why pull ups? Jenkins writes...
You seldom see anyone in a weight room on the pullup bar. Pullups are too hard. They aren't like pushups. With pushups, half your weight is still on your feet. And they aren't anything like most of the arm exercises you can do with machines, where all your weight is on your ass. All those machines are just crutches. They're designed to make working out easier. Massive muscles mean nothing. The only real measure of strength is in contrast to your weight.

To do a pullup, you must lift the entire weight of your body off the ground. It is as if you have raised your arms in jubilation and then must bring your body up with your spirit. It is an angelic act, a strenuous act. It goes against gravity. Against the will of the earth.

Because pullups are difficult, over the years it's easy to get lazy. Easy to get heavy. Life and beer and kids conspire....

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for the men on your list...or for your yourself.


Redlefty said...

Haven't heard of it; thanks!

p.s. -- Tonight I'm starting a blog series on bible interpretation. Thought you might enjoy.

Fishmagic said...

I loved the part about pull-ups. Definitely the hardest exercise around, and the reason the Marine Corps chose it for their physical fitness test. I'll have to check this book out.