Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The Pursuit of Arete
When I was in 8th or 9th grade, I remember studying the ancient Greeks in World History and my teacher taught us about the idea of Arete (pronounced AR-e-TAY). It was a Greek term for all-around excellence - whether it be intellect, athletics or physical - and it was the central idea of their culture. They believed in making the most of all they had to offer society and not wasting their gifts.
15 years later, that term still fascinates me. My teacher said it was a precursor to another term we all know - Renaissance Man, someone we consider to be well-rounded. It makes sense since the Italians looked back to the Greeks for inspiration during that time period.
This year has been a great journey for me as I've started a new blog and stepped up my fitness to lose some weight. I've been challenged spiritually as well and I feel like that as I approach my 30's, it's time to become even more comfortable pursuing the best that I can be. That's where Arete comes in and I figured out a three-pronged approach to help me reach that.
Mental excellence: Romans 12:2 is a scripture that's motivated me in faith and life. "Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." As I've gotten older, I take this Scripture to see things differently than the average person. I read insightful people who challenge what I see so that I can be a better witness of the world around me.
In sports, I try to see things different than the average fan. In life, I try to make observations and connections that show how my thoughts have evolved to that time. If you've read this blog, you know that sometimes I go on different trains of thoughts than most.
To be mentally sharp, you not only need to read great writers/thinkers but you need to live and learn from peers and friends to see how to apply it.
That's why I'm chasing the EB Sports Report. That's why for four years, I've tried to make Virgo Gumbo a place of great thought and sharing unique perspective. That's why I've always loved reading. It's one thing to have a sharp mind, but it's entirely another to commit to keeping it sharp and being open to new perspectives.
Physical excellence: I'll give a deeper update on my full workout from March later but this year has been a revelation when I started to get serious about my weight. Since January 3, I've lost 25 lbs. and maybe look the best I've ever been in my life. But looking great hasn't compared to how I feel physically.
When I watch shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" or cover high school athletes with incredible strength and athleticism, I marvel at how their young bodies can do so much. I marvel at my 40-year-old godbrother who's one of the best athletes I know and is excellent in volleyball and basketball. I marvel at my girlfriend, who plays softball and stays in great shape in her own right.
That feeling is why I've chased getting my body right. It's not just for my goals but for my future. I want to be healthy enough to still do things in my 30's and beyond and I believe that it helps improve your mental excellence. Body image does wonders for the mind but the natural endorphins released during a workout have given me incredible motivation.
Spiritual excellence: This is where I can grow more. I know you're wondering why I said that since I go to church, participate in several ministries and try to live a good life. But it's more than just outwardly things.
When I did a devotion series this past month on changing how I see myself, one of the lessons was on integrity and discipline. It challenged me to be disciplined in reading the Bible more and staying true to what my foundation is.
In another twist of fate, a sermon from my pastor 2-3 weeks ago talked about Spiritual Discipline. As if God wants to hammer a nail in my head that 2013 needs to be a year of Discipline to prepare for something. So I hope to keep chasing spiritual excellence privately because it does no good publicly if it's not being fueled by God telling me how to be better.
Mind, body and soul in perfect union working towards being a better person. That's Arete. It can mean a lot of things but I'm making this approach my central goal the rest of 2013 (I've added it to my Twitter bio). I already feel like a different person than I was in 2012 and now I can't wait to see how it shows up in my work and interactions with people.
Thank you to Mr. Lennon for teaching me this all those years ago. My alma mater may be deceased but it's far from forgotten.