Nina Power

The body and the mind are two different ways of looking at the same thing. It is possible to focus on one, not always at the expense of the other, but often. You can get too cerebral, imagining the body to be a kind of support-system that carries on behind our backs, as it were. Or you can get too embodied, a black hole of reflection, being seen, being exercised, becoming at one with the gym machine or other repetitive practice. Yet it is rare that any practice does not also induce or include certain kinds of thoughts, just as poor health also causes, or reflects, certain outlooks. If you relate to your body in the modality of ‘doom’, your thoughts will also be like this.  

My generation heard in Radiohead’s 1997 line ‘fitter, happier, more productive’ something to be avoided. Like Trainspotting’s ‘choose life’, Radiohead’s line was a sardonic, ironic exercise in health-promotion. If you got fit for the machine or for the system, you were a kind of robot, an idiot normie. But what was the alternative? Addiction, being unhealthy? Why was this a form of resistance? It wasn’t.  It was always stupid to think it was.

Left-wing people worry that exercise makes you ‘right-wing’, as if becoming fitter, less addicted, less overweight and so on, is secretly some kind of attempt to become the master-race. But, insofar as you have control over yourself, it is better that you look after yourself. You suffer less, others suffer less. It is a kind thing to do, to get fitter, not a selfish thing. During the 2020 plague, if you are healthy, it is kinder to look after yourself so that others may not suffer, so that you are better able to get out of the way, or to help those who are unwell. Health is a collective concern.

I was an addict for a long time. It took a major intervention to divert me from this destructive course, and I cried on and off afterwards for a year, in waves of extraordinary melancholy as I came to terms with the loss of an external source of euphoria that had ‘somehow’ become destructive, turned on me, as it always had, from the very beginning. The thing I loved fuelled certain thoughts. And now it no longer does. I feel wiser. The loss remains. But I am alive. I know I am alive. Before it was unclear, as there was no continuity of state, no underlying being. I lived bluntly, excessively, painfully. It wasn’t good to indulge my illness or to accept it: it was better that there was tough love to get me out of it. This too is a kindness.

Human beings are like little machines: it’s how we get anything done. If we attach the machine to a destructive drive, we can repeat negative actions until we break. If we acquire good habits, and repeat them, we break down less often. We are not only machines, though, and we are not only machines for the system, for capital. It is better that we are healthy for ourselves, for others, and for the cosmos, which has nothing to do with the system.

Our minds, again not different from our bodies, suffer if we are around people who are not interested in us, or we are not interested in them. A mind you can understand to its very limits - your own, that of a rare friend - is more precious than anything. Here there is life. It is important to think for yourself, to think things through, even if you end up opposed to others. This too, is a kind of health. One is destroyed if your mind is not able to exercise itself, or you are too afraid to think in case you hurt concepts that have become embedded through custom or politeness. Thought is painful. Overcoming addiction is painful. Accepting responsibility for the other by accepting responsibility for yourself is painful. But there is good pain and bad, positive loops and negative. It takes a lifetime to work out which is which: but then you are - as you almost were not, as many do not get to be - alive to know the difference.