Mind Over Body

There's a saying among athletes that, "The mind quits before the body." That is, the mind will always stop the body from hurting itself. "I am too exhausted to run another step," or "There is no way I can lift that much weight." Thus, one is oftentimes defeated before making the attempt. Great athletes are able to resist and overcome this innate defense mechanism of the mind to give up and quit. They approach the upper limits of their physical ability through intense desire. A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.

The winner of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic marathon had crossed the finish line over an hour earlier when word came that there was still a runner out on the course! Eventually John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania entered the far end of the stadium out of the cold night's darkness. Few spectators remained as he hobbled onward while strips of gauze dangled from the bloodied bandage around his injured right leg. The small crowd managed a roar of appreciation as he crossed the finish line in last place and was quickly surrounded by reporters and photographers. One reporter asked why had he not quit the race since he had been hurt in a fall and there was no chance of him winning. Mr. Akhwari seemed puzzled and confused by the question. Finally, he answered in broken English, "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish." Akhwari certainly was not a quitter, but was he a winner that night? Absolutely! His story became the greatest personal interest story to come out of that Olympics. Tanzania received much positive press, and John Stephen Akhwari became known as the greatest last place finisher ever!

But for the multitudes, this system of mind over body works perfectly to prevent many of us from reaching the full potential of our bodies. Of course, there are the extremely rare individuals whose minds overcome debilitating bodily injuries or deformities to excel in sports or other areas. These few use their mental powers to overcome their weakened bodies. But in addition to driving themselves relentlessly, they have faith that they can perform the amazing feats which they accomplish! So how important is this intangible quality we call faith? According to the scriptures, if humans have faith then nothing is beyond their abilities:

Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. (Matthew 17:20)

Does mankind have faith that mountains can be moved today? Absolutely, given sufficient time, large earth moving equipment, explosives, manpower, and most importantly vast amounts of money. However, no man has ever moved a mountain through faith alone as described above in Matthew 17:20.

In fact, mankind's faith has generally been weak. Throughout the Bible, those called by God to perform leadership roles typically resisted due to some perceived weakness. For example, Moses protested that he had a speech impediment.

Against physical pain inflicted on ourselves, such as physical exercise, our minds almost always win in the struggle between mind and body. This is by design. Pain signals our mind to stop our activity in time to prevent our death. But what about pain inflicted by others? For example, can anyone successfully resist torture? Cambodia's history with the infamous Khmer Rouge gives some incite into the mind's efforts to protect the body. Virtually 100% of the people tortured by the Khmer Rouge signed confessions, and virtually 100% of these confessions were absolutely false! All reached the point where their minds did whatever was thought necessary to protect their bodies. Pain is an input to the brain telling us to retreat, run, escape, hide, defend, etc. Escape being impossible, their minds resorted to lying and deceiving in an attempt to end the torture.

Today, most military leaders understand that the vast majority of information obtained through torture is totally worthless! It was a sad, sad day when the United States of America even considered not abiding by the Geneva Convention in our treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba! America, the bastion of freedom, justice, equality, fairness, free speech, freedom of religion, yada, yada, yada. We took the tired, the weary, the misfits and other undesirables and added freedom; and look at our achievements! We have a history of which we can be proud, but where are we headed today? Two courageous Americans spoke out against going our own way in the treatment of prisoners, Senator John Glenn and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Now we ignorantly seek to wall ourselves in for protection, building a fence between ourselves and Mexico. Yes, that worked so well for China and Berlin! How embarrassing!

So our minds seek to protect our bodies, telling us to stop, escape, or lie. That said, how do suicide bombers overcome this innate self protection device? They overcome it through their fanatical belief system. They truly believe the moment they push that button, they will be in heaven. Likewise, Christian parents who murder their innocent children fanatically believe those children go immediately to heaven. They do not worry about the consequences of their actions on themselves. So one way to overcome our built in protection system is through fanatical beliefs.

An alternative way to overcome the mind's efforts to protect the body is through love. If you truly love someone or something, when that person or thing is in danger, your mind's defense of the body is overwhelmed by that stronger power of love. That is, you totally forsake your welfare in an effort to protect the object of your love. Love should be the working mechanism for all of the world's religions. Sadly this is not the case. It should be obviously true to all peoples and all religions that any moron can take the lives of unarmed men, women, and children. This is no great accomplishment! On the other hand, it takes a person of special character to risk his life saving anothers life! The only time one should be justified in putting his or her life in jeopardy is to save another person's life. In this instant the body truly defeats the self preservation impulses of the mind; and flesh and blood physical bodies perform miraculous feats beyond our comprehension.

For example, there is the story of that wonderful old grandmother, who seeing the jacked up car fall on her only grandson working underneath, ran over and lifted the car sufficiently for her beloved grandson to crawl out from under the vehicle. With adrenaline rushing and with no concern for her welfare, she did not even consider that her frail body could not lift the weight. Thus, it could!