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On Dead Bodybuilders and Immortality

On Dead Bodybuilders and Immortality
By Alf Cengia

For most of my early life I was a biggish kid. Not tall, just…well let’s say I was largish sideways. Sport wasn’t in my genetic make-up. I preferred reading books.

I also loved my comics. At the back of the comics there almost always was an ad aimed at kids like myself. If you sent someone money they’d mail you a book promising to show you how to slap on slabs of muscle in next to no time.

My largishness followed me into my late teens. We had an older married English teacher (RC) who was also homosexual. He had a penchant for giving presents to the better looking male students. RC also invited them to his house on weekends, though I don’t know anyone who ever took him up on the offer. My size, thankfully, spared me his attention.

It didn’t help my ego, however, when friends felt the need to taunt me. Probably my worst recollection was when RC organized a school football match and placed me in a strategically critical position. Following the game RC included in his summary that I was the worst player on the field. Of course he was right. Most of the other players were natural athletes.

Years later I joined a gym. The one I chose had the infamous reputation of being inhabited by knuckle dragging modern-day Neanderthals. A friend urged me to find one of those gentler chrome-dumbbell type places (as he had). He said I’d be out of my depth. He was wrong.

Once I got my diet dialed in reasonably okay, I quickly packed on muscle (without roids). Soon I was happily training alongside steroid munching Neanderthals. I was in weight-training heaven.

If I may be allowed the luxury to brag a tad, I got to impromptu bench press over 300 lbs without preparing for it, and almost got the same result for an incline press (which is harder). My Neanderthal friends urged me to take roids and start competing. Yet I knew I wasn’t really that good, or dedicated. I was surrounded by far better lifters than me.

My pride-appeasing revenge arrived some years afterwards at a school reunion. They saw a different Cengia – one who had broader shoulders and muscle. On the other hand many of my classmates were now largish in the middle, and some were balding. At the time I kinda wished RC had been there too. Just to show him!

The bodybuilding culture is essentially narcissistic. Some of us just wanted to look better; others wanted to become demigods. Some believed that training would extend their lives. And we all thrived on the rare accolades thrown our way.

One friend often joked that he wanted to leave a great looking corpse behind. In fact if you Google Dead Bodybuilders you’ll be confronted with long lists of those who died relatively young. Tragically, none of their remains are worth looking at now.

One of my saddest memories is of Pat. When I first met him he was a local legend. Pat was about 40lbs heavier than me and hard as a rock. He had the sort of male model looks which attracted many women.

I didn’t know him personally, but Pat approached me in the gym one Saturday afternoon, many years later. He was emaciated because he couldn’t take steroids due to health issues (he took speed to fire up his training). He wanted to know how I was able to keep training so hard for so long. It was easy really; I accepted my natural limitations – he couldn’t.

Pat was a troubled man. Apparently he was divorced and still pining for his ex-wife. Weights, steroids and speed couldn’t help him. Some time later he was hit by a train. I attended his funeral.

There were other gym legends who stayed away from drugs. They were much older men who were virtually immortal in our eyes. But they all eventually died – some quite suddenly when they were seemingly on top their game.

Not all surviving bodybuilders embrace aging well. Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to wanting to throw up after looking into a mirror. Following extensive back surgery, an eight time Mr. Olympia (a professing Christian) notoriously stated that he had only one regret – it was that he once performed two reps of an 800lb squat, rather than four!

One ex Mr. Olympia who I respected was Dorian Yates. Heck, even Mike Tyson looked up to The Shadow! What I liked was his single-minded approach to training. Yates eschewed the limelight. He walked into the gym, trained, and went home. If the press wanted to take pictures, they’d have to do it while he trained.

When Yates retired from bodybuilding, he searched for “truth,” a deeper meaning in life and “spirituality.” Sadly, this involved taking psychedelics, meditation and yoga. What a pity he hasn’t found The Truth of God’s Word. Let’s pray he does before he becomes another statistic!

No one beats aging and death. It’s like trying to sweep back the roaring waves of the great sea with a broom (Psalm 90:3, 10). The stark reality is that at the end of our days on earth, regardless of how great we think we are or were; we all level out exactly the same – dust or ash!

Bodybuilding is now an unpopular narcissistic-cult sport. While it has healthy elements, it is covered in self-indulgent pride. But narcissism and the pursuit of physical immortality are alive and growing legs everywhere we look.

One bizarre example is a California clinic which claims that “Infusions of ‘Young Blood Could Effectively Reverse the Aging Process.” Then you have the case of the Christian Transhumanists who claim that faith, science and technology can co-operate to create a better world. They assert:

We believe that God’s mission involves the transformation and renewal of creation including humanity…

This statement cannot be backed up by Scripture, however. The renovation of the earth won’t be facilitated by humans using science (Revelation 21:1, 5). God created all things and everything belongs to Him (John 1:3). Moreover we can’t ignore a God who is everywhere. We can’t simply do our own thing. See Our Boundless Infinite God.

Despite the inevitability of death, we have a promise of immortality and eternal joy. Through faith in Jesus Christ we become co-heirs with Him. See also: What is our inheritance in Christ? Paul writes:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Rom 8:16-18

In one of my favorite, glorious promise passages John affirms:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2

What must you do to inherit eternity? See Cripplegate’s The Opportunity of an Eternity. Don’t waste all your time in vain temporal pursuits which only lead to the grave. Seek the Lord Jesus Christ now.


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