Work for the body; food for the mind

October 6, 2007 at 3:36 pm (History, Mind/body, Poetry)

Musings on aerobics:

It is fatal to look at someone who is out of sync – you too will get out of sync along with him or her! It’s best to have an unobstructed view of the instructor. If that’s not possible, fix your gaze on another “regular” – someone who you know has the moves down. There’s a strange and interesting affect that I get if I’m doing the latter: I feel as though I am moving around in someone else’s body!

abba.jpg bocelli.jpg The music: sometimes the most banal ditties take on a new life as you move to the beat: This even includes ABBA songs!! Instructors often save the really interesting stuff for the final cool down and stretching. Sometimes the music is very New Age, with crashing surf in the background. But the other day, Geroge played an Andrea Bocelli CD that nearly had me in tears. How, I wondered, as Bocelli belted out aria after aria, can someone be unmoved by this glorious music? And speaking of the cool down…

Usually the instructor lowers the lighting or turns the lights off altogether at the end of our session. As the stretching component begins, we are lying on our backs, and so, of necessity, staring straight up. Gradually the details of the ceiling are revealed. I have been thinking lately of the singular miracle of the human eye, in particular, the way the pupils enlarge and contract. It occurred to me yesterday, while stretching my quadriceps, that we don’t take nearly enough advantage of our eyes’ remarkable capacity to adjust swiftly to differing levels of light. (Don’t ask me what I mean by that last statement because.. I’m not sure!)

Meanwhile, while coming and going from the various gyms I patronize, I have been listening to a set of lectures entitled Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition. These lectures are produced by the The Teaching Company; the CD’s are accompanied by an excellent course guide containing outlines of the lectures and bibliographies.

Professor Elizabeth Vandiver begins the series by laying the foundation of the civilizations of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean. She goes on to discuss the epic of Gilgamesh and certain books of the Old Testament, specifically Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Job. (The section on Job was particularly profound and thought-provoking.) From there, we go on to the great Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. That’s as far as I’ve gotten at this writing.

These lectures are mesmerizing! I had made a resolution that when I retired, I would go back to reading the classics. By “classics,” I had meant the great novels and stories of the 19th century; now, I am thinking of really going back – way back! Lucky the students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where Prof. Vandiver teaches. Her incredibly deep knowledge of classical literature is matched by her passion for it. There is nothing as galvanizing as being taught by someone who genuinely loves his or her subject. vandiver.jpg Professor – you rock!


  1. All hail the ancients! (And we moderns, as we try to keep our bodies from falling apart!) « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] books) I continue to enjoy the experience of traveling to and from aerobics while listening to Professor Elizabeth Vandiver of The Teaching Company as she lectures on the literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Such great […]

  2. Intimations of Mortality: “Toga Party,” a short story by John Barth « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] about Trimalchio’s Feast a few days ago while listening to The Teaching Company’s Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition. It is a description of a dinner party thrown by a newly freed slave Trimalchio, an occasion that […]

  3. California: Land of Contradictions « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Turns out, it is from The Odyssey, a copy of which has been on my coffee table for the last week. (The Teaching Company lectures on CD are responsible for my renewed interest in classical literature.) In Book Nine, in […]

  4. The Great Gatsby Revisited, Part One « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Petronius, an author who lived in Rome during the age of Nero. (This work was briefly discussed by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver on the Teaching Company course on Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition.) The Satyricon […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: