The Finger, or The Moon

The Finger, or The Moon


Reading from the book, “Become What You Are” by Alan Watts, I found an essay particularly apt to the discipline of physical fitness. This particular essay, amongst this collection of essays, is titled, “The Finger and The Moon.” I’ll attempt to synopsize, but to get the greatest benefit, I suggest finding a copy and reading it in its brief entirety.

“If your destination is the moon, to which you point your finger; don’t dwell on the finger, but focus on the moon.”

So how does this apply to training? Look around your gym and see sho’s really 110% engaged in their activity. Now, look to see how many are distracted by phones or friends or trends. They’re easy to spot. They’re the ones not sweating, the ones who have not progressed an inch over the last 3 months you’ve seen them. They are the ones concerned with how they look to the people not watching them, if their outfits match, if their shoes are new and cool, if anyone notices how hard they’re pretending to workout.

That’s the finger pointing at the moon. They are so involved in the externals of the gym that nothing happens internally. The switch that engages and marries them to the exercise hasn’t been turned on yet.


A man on a stepper has a pile of magazines he’s strewn as he’s perused them; getting neither the benefit from the cardio training, nor learning anything from the pages he’d flipped through, because he couldn’t read and balance at the same time, let alone concentrate on either activity to benefit his mind or body. He grunts and groans but goes so slow that you wonder if it’s he or the machine straining.


A girl lifts dumbbells, far from strenuous or challenging, changing her music mid-set, going through the motions day after day, every lunch hour, continually changing her routines and doing one set of the suggestion she’d seen in an inadequate and incorrect article from a fashion magazine that even gets technique wrong; and another set her co-worker suggests, until time is up and she’d performed what she believes was enough, then changes back to work clothes with not a hair out of place.


Now, see the one moving methodically through a series of sets, undistracted, minimum rest, focused on form, grimacing through a goal of repetitions, only stopping momentarily to return to form, then finishing the set; pausing only for a sip of water or to set up the next exercise. The skin glistens across the definition and separations of chest to shoulders to triceps. The sweat is a badge brandished across the shirt, front and back. Everyone notices, but the concentration and dedication cannot be broken by any sideward glance.


Which of these three are simply pointing at the moon? Trying everything once but succeeding at nothing, often, haphazardly pointing at something outside themselves; and which is on their way to the moon, confidently, never doubting, but moving systematically forward and not balking at the finger that holds them back rather than moves them forward? Which are you? How does this apply to any and every aspect of your life?

How can you bring the moon, closer?

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