As 2017 departs, KineSophy is about to move into its sixth year of existence. And as we enter 2018, it’s time for my annual reflection on the state of the KineSophy project. With the groundwork of KineSophy laid in years past, 2017 continued my push to explore other perspectives in health, fitness, sports, society and philosophy. Seven different contributors shared their voices on KineSophy this year. I also profiled two individual athletes for their contributions to fitness and philosophy. And with the help and inspiration of multiple other writers, I launched the KineSophy Mindfulness Series. Here’s an overview of KineSophy in 2017.
In January, nutritionist and organic farmer Diana Rodgers offered a perfect companion piece to my previous Complete Guide to Sustainable Protein. During our interview, she explained how modern factory farming of plants and animals consumes a tremendous amount of fossil fuels and destroys ecosystems. In contrast, local, organic produce and grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and animal products are beneficial for both the consumer and the environment.
In March, free skier and trail runner Darryl Ball echoed my previous sentiments about running technique and the overlap between physical health and mental and emotional well-being. According to Ball, “Running provides a sensation of freedom through natural movement.” The next month, filmmaker R.J. Lozada expounded on the connection between running and mental freedom. In our April interview, Lozada explained the story behind his short film Laps, which documents the running club at California’s San Quentin State Prison. Lozada spoke about the psychological and emotional benefits the prisoner’s gained from their regular runs. In his words, running “made them feel like they were attaining a goal that would ultimately reshape (or in some cases, reaffirm) their world view.”
In a second April interview, Juliet Starrett of Standup Kids described her mission to combat sedentary lifestyles by getting every public school child at a standing desk in the next ten years. She asserted that students who use standing desks are more attentive and focused and have better cognition and executive function. Dr. Mark Benden followed up on Starret’s standing desk crusade in September. He echoed her claims about the benefits of standing at school and work. He also clarified an apparent discrepancy in some research on movement and calorie expenditure.
Finally, in a two-part interview in June, Derek Brown reaffirmed the power of sports—even aggressive sports like boxing—to teach self-esteem and self-control. Brown is a former Chicago gang member and current director of Chicago’s North Lawndale Boxing League. In our talk, he described how his boxing lessons help keep at-risk kids in school and away from gangs.
I also continued my 2016 aim of depicting how people follow the ethics of KineSophy in real life. In February and May, I profiled the ongoing saga of Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa. Lilesa won the silver medal in the marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As he crossed the finish line in second place, he raised his arms over his head in an X. The world soon discovered this gesture was a protest against the Ethiopian government’s persecution of Lilesa’s Oromo ethnic group. Knowing he couldn’t return to Ethiopia, Lilesa emigrated to the United States in September 2016. His family joined Lilesa in February 2017, but his future and that of his country remain uncertain.
In July, I added another individual to the KineSophy Hall of Fame: basketball legend and social activist Bill Russell. Russell revolutionized the game of basketball and remains its most successful team player. In the span of fifteen years, he won two NCAA national championships, an Olympic gold medal and eleven NBA titles. Russell was also a key figure in the American Civil Rights movement. After Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963, Russell ran an integrated basketball camp in that city. In 2010, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his achievements as an athlete and an activist.
I also worked to test the ideas of KineSophy against the ideas and opinions of the world at large. In January, I responded to a column by Mark Grief, who wrote, “Health, exercise, food, sex have become central preoccupations of our time. We preserve the living corpse in an optimal state, not so we may do something with it, but for the feeling of optimisation.” In that piece, I also addressed the common assumption that mere existence is something to be valued and prolonged. I concluded that our primary goal should not be to prolong life but to live a life worth prolonging.
Three months later, I criticized the so-called fetching stick and dog owners who use it to minimize the effort of playing with their pets. I see this toy as a manifestation of a larger issue in society. Consequently, I argued for changing our thinking about work and play, stasis and movement, and efficiency and relaxation.
2017 concluded with the beginning of The KineSophy Mindfulness Series. In October, I explained how my ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro awakened me to the benefits of mindfulness. I described the challenges of the climb and what they taught me about mindfulness. I also explained how the strategies that help us overcome physical challenges also apply to other areas of life. In November, novelist and sports psychology doctoral candidate Tyler S. Harris explored the history and science of mindfulness and discussed the application of mindfulness to athletic performance. He concluded that while we cannot control what enters our minds, we can let negative thoughts pass without dwelling on them. The Mindfulness Series will continue into 2018.
From 2017 to 2018
Last year, I compared KineSophy to a building. I spent three years laying the foundation of that building and the past two extending the structure upward and outward. I expect more of the same as we move into a new year. Of course, in this context, more of the same means more diversity. KineSophy will continue to integrate new voices and perspectives, profile new individuals and engage with new ideas. But it will continue to do so with the same goal I had since day one: to explore the myriad and often latent connections between health, fitness, sports, society and philosophy. I look forward to what the new year has in store.