(From Classic X, 1998)
Note: A year after this article was originally posted, I began a serious relationship with Jeanenne Schindele, one of the interior designers who helped with the body-home concept. We married in December of 2000 and, six months later, moved into our home in Windermere, Florida, which is 15 miles north of Celebration. Jeanenne was responsible for the planning, building, and furnishing of our residence and did a phenomenal job of blending our personalities into what she called a casual-elegant feel. The blending worked so well that we are now grateful parents of strapping son, Tyler, who recently turned 2-1/2 years old.
Update: On November 10, 2004, we sold our Windermere home. Jeanenne grew up in Tennessee and her parents still live there. Well be moving to Jackson, Tennessee, where well be designing and constructing a new home on 20 acres of land.
Ah, theres magic in the transition of knowledge.
by Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
Arthur Jones, the creative genius behind the original Nautilus exercise machines, is fond of saying that much of an individuals wisdom eventually comes from the ability to link the knowledge in one subject to the knowledge of another. A person who transfers knowledge efficiently and applies it effectively is indeed wise.
John Gray used a similar concept when he wrote his best-selling book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Better knowledge of each other from both partners points of view leads to understanding, transition, and meaningful action. The end result, according to Gray, is a more productive relationship.
Men traditionally have been more interested in strength training than have women. Yet, its predominantly women who respond to advertising related to ways to change the shape of their body. These schemes rarely involve strength training, which just happens to be the best way to reshape. What a shame that most women have a difficult time grasping the effectiveness of strength training and applying it correctly in their lifestyles.
On the other hand, women have a much keener awareness of the home than do men. Yet, most men have the capacity to understand home décor much better than most women give them credit for.
Why does strength training have to be a male activity anymore than home decorating have to be almost exclusively for females? A man or a woman, if motivated properly, should be able to master either endeavor.
One key for improved mastery deals with the transition of knowledge. To follow with this thought, Id like to describe some experiences that enlightened me about my body and my home.
In December 1997, I purchased a home in Celebration, Florida. Celebration is the model community of the Walt Disney Company and is located three miles from Disney World. Celebration is designed with a traditional small-town atmosphere, but with modern conveniences. Most of the homes are within walking distance of downtown, and sidewalks and bike paths connect all points.
The houses in Celebration draw on a number of regional prototypes: Victorian, Classical, Colonial Revival, Coastal, Mediterranean, and French. I bought an Arabella Classical styled home, which is patterned after a design made popular in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1900s. Little did I comprehend at that time that I would be responsible for the interior design of the residence. I just assumed that someone else would make such arrangements. I soon realized that Id better do some research in interior design.
I must have studied two dozen books on the subject. After six weeks, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted. I was partial to a certain southern look: openness, white mixed with greens and blues, and casualness throughout. Since Ive learned to travel lightly over the years, Ive accumulated only a few pieces of furniture. I estimated that Id have to buy approximately 75 percent new furnishings for my home.
The questions I needed answers for were as follows: What do I buy, and in which order? What about quality, delivery times, and cost? How do I blend the big purchases with the accessories to accomplish my desired look? And perhaps most importantly, where do I start?
Fortunately for me a friend introduced me to Leslie Fogel and Jeanenne Schindele, who are lead interior designers for quality homebuilders in Florida. Both of these women were willing to do a trade: they would assist me with my home if I would help them get their bodies in shape. It sounded like a great deal, so we all agreed on the preliminaries.
Thank goodness for Leslie and Jeanenne. Besides being skilled decorators, they both have patience. I had a difficult time initially, grasping the fundamentals they were trying to get me to understand. Then, two events occurred.
First, I flew to Zurich, Switzerland, to speak to a group of fitness-minded people on my concept of Living Longer Stronger. While in this European country, I observed the people. Most of them were obese (similar to Americans), with sedentary lifestyles, and their smoking rates were on the increase (which is bad sign). Plus, there were few low-fat, low-calorie foods available in Switzerland. The foods were traditional (high in fat and sugar) and the alcohol consumption per person was much higher than in the United States.
Yet, heres the amazing statistic. The Swiss people are at the top of the rankings in life expectancy. Both the Swiss women and men live significantly longer than their American counterparts. But why?
When I returned to my home in Celebration, I was telling a neighbor Michael McDonough about my observations in Switzerland. A gifted architect, McDonough has resided in Celebration six months longer than I have. He had a reply that started me thinking in an interesting direction.
"The key to the long life of the Swiss people," McDonough said, "may be their surroundings. The snow-capped mountains, the free-flowing streams, the rugged valleys, the tall trees combined with their colorful homes of the people has to make a positive impact on their longevity. You know, Ellington, beauty is healing. And theres nowhere on earth more beautiful than Switzerland."
Beauty is healing.
Could McDonough be right in his reasoning? This idea certainly merited consideration.
Second, a day later, Im driving my car to the supermarket. On the radio, I hear Dr. James Dobson of "Focus on the Family," explaining about the primary difference between how a man and a woman view their home. "A typical man," said Dr. Dobson, "looks at his residence as being a place he can kick off his shoes, stretch out in his favorite chair, and watch a little TV or simply relax. A woman, in contrast, views her home as an extension of her entire self."
In other words, a man sees a home as a practical place to get comfortable. To a woman, her home is HER from the front porch, through the entire house, to the barbecue pit out back every blade of grass, piece of furniture, and tiny accessory is a vital part of HER.
The vast majority of us cant relocate our homes to a beautiful valley in Switzerland. We can, however, start adding beautiful things to our current surroundings.
I was beginning to make some connections. Your home definitely should be an extension of who you are. Besides being an avenue to relax, it should be a place to revive and rejuvenate. To do that efficiently, it must be appealing, attractive, and beautiful.
Finally, I began to appreciate what Leslie and Jeanenne had been hammering me with for many weeks. They never used the concept "make your home an extension of yourself," but they had implied it multiple times in their conversations and actions.
Strength training and bodybuilding are an important part of my lifestyle. I began to apply bodybuilding principles in thinking about my residence. For example, symmetry is important in bodybuilding. Likewise, a home should be balanced at least most of it should be. But theres a place for the unexpected a selection of artwork thats different, or a room that breaks the mould. You know, like an occasional workout that is vastly different from what youre used to? Then, theres the principle of progression. A properly decorated home should progressively lead you from one area to another, with a subtle theme involved in the background. Sounds like a well planned, bodybuilding routine, doesnt it?
A month later, I was watching ABC Televisions "100 Best American Films of All Time." During this three-hour presentation, many famous actors, producers, directors, and critics were interviewed concerning their favorite films. Beautiful was probably the most used adjective by all of these people. For example, there was the beautiful lighting used in The Godfather (l972), the beautiful scenery displayed in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), the beautiful dancing in Singin in the Rain (l952) and West Side Story (1961), the beautiful set design in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and An American in Paris (1951), and the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (l95l).
Elizabeth Taylor at age 17, according to the interviewed director, was simply "breathtaking." Her 1951 costar, Montgomery Cliff, displayed perfectly the behavior of a love-struck man. The look on his face, the first time he saw Liz, was captured on camera to a degree that could not have been acted or planned, according to the director. Montgomery was actually swept away by the beauty of this teenage goddess. And it was well known in Hollywood that Cliff was gay. Such is the impact of beauty.
Men who have been in the presence of an extremely beautiful woman know what Im talking about. The instant attraction is inspiring, motivating, and healing all at the same time.
Now, I understood.
A beautiful woman. A handsome man. A great build. A lean midsection. Strong, rippling muscles. A symmetrical, buffed body. They all are captivating. They all carry with them a degree of healing and rejuvenation.
Theres the natural extension of this concept into the home. Inside, theres a similar feel of strength and leanness, of sharpness and curves, of squares and circles, of color and lack of color, of the expected and the unexpected, of whats pleasing and whats not pleasing.
People and homes have a lot in common, or at least they should.
Ive learned a great deal over the last year about myself and my home: what I like and dislike about colors, casualness, carpet, tile, furniture, walls, artwork, and all kinds of accessories (the little things that can make a big contribution). Although my home decorating is not yet complete, and it probably never will be, I have a plan that is working well. In several months, the initial process should be finished.
My new residence is beautiful, and it will improve over time. Having a beautiful home will allow me to better entertain and better communicate with my friends and neighbors who I am. Since strength training is important in my life, my guests will see the subtle and not-so-subtle connections throughout. I hope my home accentuates the sharing of many related ideas. Sharing with others is an important component in my quest to live longer stronger.
Pride in my residence has also made me more in touch with my own body. As a result, Im a more effective communicator about HIT to both men and women. Theres real power in the linking of old and new knowledge.
In closing, I want you to kick off your shoes and settle back in your most comfortable chair. Look around the room youre sitting in. Is there a small thing you can do quickly to make the room more attractive? Yep, I thought so. If nothing more, you can pickup those magazines on the floor, empty the trash, or straighten that picture on the wall.
A beautiful room in a smartly decorated home provides a healing effect. So does a lean, strong body. Your body and your home deserve equal attention.
Apply the power of transition and your wisdom, along with your well being, will grow richer.