Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Integrity: Looking Better Naked

Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.  - C.S. Lewis


I've been thinking a lot about integrity lately and haven't figured out exactly why. Maybe it's because the older and hopefully wiser I get, I realize that creating success on domestic estates has less to do with where the shrimp fork goes and more to do with if the staff will actually put it there, even when no one is looking.

So last weekend, I finally decided to try out one of the cross-fit exercise studios that are popping up everywhere and, in my quest to lose those last five pounds that just keep hanging around, I wanted to see for myself exactly why they've seemed to be catching on. And the whole morning, to my surprise, turned out to be like one of those movies where you just can't stop thinking about something one of the characters said, or maybe like a pop tune that you can't seem to get out of your head, even though it's not really the most popular tune of the week and, kinda secretly, that's why you like it.

He wasn't too easy to pick out as I walked in, but then he slowly gave himself away. A rather ordinary type with about thirty summers to look back on, he turned out to be rather memorable in a curious way, and not the type you'd ever guess to be
Before honesty was a resume keyword, integrity was a lifestyle.
a fitness trainer here. Mind you he wasn't too old; but just that his shape wasn't the kind, I thought, likely to be found in the pages of glossy magazines, or in the spandex of glossy gyms. He had, I thought and what I recognized from my own youth, and what can only be described to our gentle readership as, I'd term, a sort of farmer's body... the kind of natural fitness I'd say that's nicely lean, but not too lanky; rather taught, but not too tight; some bits of shape put around here, yet not so perfectly set around there and still, you just got a sense he'd be that kind of person you'd want to have there right along beside you, if you ever needed to get out of a tight spot with the talents of some real and usable strength, a store of real and reliable endurance, and
all tempered down by a lid of real and calm assurance. 

It was pretty much the kind of body and character I recalled knowing, I thought, during my own early summer days, growing up in and around the Kentucky farmlands and being able to navigate out of the woods at night to find safety, to climb over mountains to find camp, or to swim across rivers to find home were the milestones through which adolescence was marked for many of us. And I thought, like in those summer days, we hadn't been learning from him just what to do, we'd been learning from him what needed to be done. And that meant doing what needed to done, even when no one was looking.

He had a truly great line and I'm almost sure it wasn't rehearsed, about getting fit through cross-fit training as being the best way to look better naked. Well, this just struck me right away as an even nicer benefit to my neighborhood than to myself, because, as anyone who lives in midtown Manhattan knows all too well about our close quarters and through no intent, the occasional glimpses we accidentially get of each other around these little spaces through apartment windows and, what a great idea, I thought, to improve my own body and at the same time provide such a nice service to my neighbors.

And improving myself all made sense now and it wasn't just about showing off an honest body, it now seemed about something more basic, it seemed about something more valuable, and it seemed beyond anything I'd imagined getting fit could really be. Not just the honest workout I'd been sold before, but it just seemed to be, and no other way to put it: the right thing to do.

+++++

On our estates, staff seems to have the same kinds of options spread ahead of them,

just about every day. We honestly wrote eight hours on our time sheets... yet were those eight hours spent doing honest work?  We honestly focused on our duties... yet were the duties actually focused on the job?  We honestly caught up on some tasks... so... what could've been wrong with catching up on some personal emails and entertaining apps?  Besides, really, no one was looking...


+++++

"Honesty" is always popular, honesty is always welcomed, and talking about honesty always seems a great way to get through a reference check and to get just about anything, actually, that involves doing something big, using the word honesty a lot, and saying and doing the whole thing in front of others so everyone sees how "honest" we are.

There's as many definitions for integrity, I suppose, as there're ways for people to try and convince themselves that honesty is just as good, yet I've always settled on that of C.S. Lewis, who just seemed to get the difference. I'll admit that honesty will always turn my head, honesty will always look a lot younger, and honesty will certainly always be a lot more fashionable to dress ourselves in.

Strip them both down to their skivvies, though, and I gotta say, there's just something about integrity that, like that farm boy at cross-fit, I just can't help myself from thinking about. That's because between the two of them, I just know that integrity is always going to help me to look better naked. 

Even when no one is looking.