Rafe Kelley teaches people how to “move like a human.”
Wait, what? Don't humans naturally move like humans?
Well, no. Just as you can use a knife as a flat head screwdriver, you can stick a human body at a desk, have it stare at a screen, push buttons on a keyboard, and interact with algorithms – but the knife will break, and the human will go a bit (or a lot) crazy.
In short, there's a profound mismatch between what we've evolved to do and be, and what we're actually rewarded for doing and being in our civilization.
And it's making us miserable, and sick, and weak. It allows us to destroy our planet. It creates the ground for convincing “alternative facts” and fake news and dangerous conspiracy theories.
The mismatch makes us unable to deal with real-world problems like climate destabilization, pandemics, and pollution.
Kelley isn't talking about exercise, or gym workouts. Instead, he wants to get back to natural human movement in relation to nature, embedded in the natural world, seeking joy and meaning rather than comfort and ease.
The first half of our conversation took an unexpected turn for me. We explored learning theory at a very deep level, looking at the work of academics like John Vervaeke, philosophers like Nietzsche, and motor learning practitioners like Nikolai Bernstein, as well as the 4E Cognition movement.
Kelley echoes the work of Barbara Tversky (listen to her episode here) by explaining that all cognition is based on metaphors of movement and location. In other words, if we aren't moving, and challenging ourselves through movement, we're really not learning in some quite profound ways.
Then we looked at health – individual, communal, and planetary – and the role that returning to forms of movement based on play and joy can have on our ability to thrive in the world.
What's wrong with our current culture of physical exercise: gyms, treadmills, weight machines, and so on? Kelley points out that they're based on highly toxic, highly ineffective motivators: shame at our out-of-shape bodies, and abstract ideas of health.
Even if those forms of movement were good for us – which they aren't – the emphasis on looking sexy and fit and/or avoiding disease is doing a terrible job of getting us to move at all. The key, according to Kelley, is to reconnect with joyful movement, the kind that all babies engage in automatically, and that our society punishes us for (“Sit still and pay attention, Howie!”).
All of us can take steps to reclaim our natural heritage of play – testing our edges and our limits, seeking frustration and discomfort in the service of growth and joy and deep belonging to our ecosystem and our planet.
Start simply and modestly, Kelley recommends, with a walk in nature. Listen to bird song. Feel your body feeling connected, and good. And take it from there.
John Vervaeke's YouTube series, “Awakening from the Meaning Crisis”
Free to Learn, by Peter Gray
The Secret of Our Success, by Joseph Heinrich
Become a Health Coach
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New Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
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It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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