Mens sana in corpore sano

Yet again, in some dumbass article, I came across the expression “Mens sana in corpore sano” (Latin for “A healthy mind in a healthy body”). Usually, this expression has been (mis)appropriated by those who want to wax lyrical on the virtues of exercising and sporting in order to develop a “healthy body”. Funny thing is, the phrase was first used in a satirical context (the Roman poet Juvenal used it in one of his works to actually comment on the Roman habits of prayers to the gods). However, in modern times it has been exclusively associated with a kind of hygienist approach to bodies that irks me for several reasons:

1) the implication that a sick body would not be able to be home to a healthy mind

2) the implied “moral judgment” of equating physical health with exercise (i.e. a “healthy” mind is one that practices some kind of physical activity).

3) and although it is not part of the original expression, neither is it implied, the expression is often used by those who also seem to have tendencies towards a certain ideological inclination where they use exercise and physical activity as a means to “tame” sexual desire (I really like the French/ Spanish term “pulsion sexual”, -originally an expression used in psychoanalysis, because it seems to encompass not just immediate desire but the drive of desire that can loosely be equated to a human version of survival instinct). In general, those who want to somehow placate desire are also keen on seeing exercise as a “substitute for”, equating exercise with cleanliness and sex/desire with disease/ dirt.

I guess the Puritan legacy extends far beyond their immediate circles/ surroundings and has permeated even those cultures/ societies that were not originally touched by the Puritan phenomenon (Latinos, for instance, whereas originally Catholic also bought on the virtues of “Mens sana in corpore sano”).

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