Saturday, January 2, 2016

In Defense of the "Ists

It has become increasingly fashionable to append the letters "ist" to a word and create a pejorative, a word which is neutral on its face, but negative in its context. It's a little game people play as an alternative to arguing their points with - perhaps I'm a dreamer - facts.

Corporatist is an example. It derives from corporation, a benign word that names a particular business form. The apparent intent is to deride people who organize their affairs under these provisions of state law. Apparently, they are Mr. Magoo's Ebeneezer Scrooge (pre-ghosts.anyway) singing "Ringle, ringle ringle" as they celebrate the accumulation of gold coins. It deftly ignores the likelihood that the individuals so organized have discovered a social need, and are intent on addressing it (while making enough money to sustain the business and earning for themselves a sufficient return as to reward the risk they took and the hours they invested).

You are reading these words because Toshiba, a Tokyo-based corporation organized in 1938, built an affordable laptop with computing power superior to that of the Apollo command module. Staples, a company organized because a man in Boston could not buy typewriter ribbon on a national holiday, began business in 1986 and now has stores in, among other places, Littleton, CO. Xcel Energy is a holding company that owns the stock of energy corporations who produce electricity by the gigawatt and have excited sufficient electrons to power my computer.Well, you get the idea.

The New Year has passed, and with it the tradition of making resolutions. Many are aspirational rather than practical, but that is not for me to decide. I intend mine (sell a lot of books) with a gusto unrelated to the lack of control I have over the reading habits of others.

Some people, understandably, look in the mirror and discover a physique with which they are unhappy. Their solution is to purchase a health club membership, some fashionable clothing and venture forth tentatively into the hitherto foreign world of "The Gym."

One need not look very hard for them. They are confused by the machines, unsure how the exercises are conducted and, when muscles unused to these kinds of endeavors protest, they reappear fewer and fewer times until gym rats see them no more.

We can have unfettered access to our favorite machines, again. The "Resolutionists" we complained bitterly about in January have fled, abandoning the field to hardcore elitists. The poor souls are home, soaking their aching joints and pledging to resolve something else come December.

Why do we rejoice? Because we are selfish. We have discovered, through discipline and determination, the benefits - no, the joys - of fitness. We sleep better, feel better. Our self-image gleams in our mind's eye, with a physical prowess on which we build. It is paltry, perhaps, compared to the young men striving to advance a sufficiently inflated (we hope) animal carcass that we watch on New Years day. We are renewed and rejuvenated, nevertheless. If we are not adding years to our lives, we are adding a healthy life to the years we have.

And we make fun of people new to our game?

Good luck to them! I hope they stay. I hope they find the same love of fitness that drives the rest of us to the gym, the bike and the Cross-fit center. I hope the place is packed, which creates the need for Planet Fitness, a franchise-selling corporation based in New Hampshire, to build more clubs, employ more people and facilitate the glee of others in the raw power of getting in shape.

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