Believed to be one of the best American presidents, Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly boy who suffered from a life threatening asthma. To compensate for his weakness he embraced a strenuous life and became a naturalist, hunter, explorer, author and a successful politician.
As a young man he lost his father to cancer followed a few years later by the death of his mother and his wife on the same day. He suffered from what he called Black Care – known today as depression.
To conquer the depression Roosevelt returned to a therapy he developed himself as a boy, a demanding physical regimen in the natural world; swimming, hiking, exploring, hunting. It is no coincidence that he is the father of conservation in the US. In 1912 he uttered the following line “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I recently visited a small exhibition by a New York based Austrian graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister called The Happy Show. In the show, Sagmeister explores his own attempts at increasing happiness, ‘training your mind as you would train your body’.
One of the installations in the show is a bike which when pedaled lights up a variety of proclamations with the last one being – “Seek Discomfort”. What I find rather interesting between Roosevelt and Sagmeister is the similarity of the message. Both believe in training to heal the body and to heal the mind. And arduous physical activity is certainly discomforting.
The participants on Tour d’Afrique tours come for very different reasons. Most, I imagine come because it is an adventure and because adventures make them happy.
But I wonder how many show up because instinctively or knowingly they recognize it is good for their mental health, in their own way ‘to ride fast in order to escape the Black Care’. And for those who complain about the discomforts, think again. The larger the discomfort, the better the end result!
photo credit: Seek Discomfort via Linsey Laidlaw