A friend of mine, Tom Lowdermilk, resident of that Los Gatos cousin, Saratoga, spent recent days in Japan, especially in Chiba, adjacent to Tokyo.
Walking in the neighborhoods, he noticed frequent sites of Shinto shrines. At these locations, people give “offerings of flowers, lanterns, incense, food and drink,” as Hopfe and Woodward note in their Religions of the World, or as Tom noticed, they set down “decorative pieces of paper.”
These are given as elements of ancestor worship and in reverence for souls in surrounding nature.
Then I wondered, “What may be the shrines in Los Gatos?” Ready images came to mind.
Explore the streets of Los Gatos, and one will see on every hand examples of devotion to fitness and reverence for bodily health.
Firm abs and gluts appear to constitute the immediate goal. The higher intent moves toward physical health and longevity.
Are cycling shops and fitness emporiums shrine-like?
The Los Gatos phenomenon takes various forms. Cycling, for example, can be done alone, in tandem, in groups or with a very fit dog. Then there is jogging, including jogging alone, with companions or with a dog. For the less agile, there is fitness walking, again alone or with others. Sometimes one sees joggers with single or double baby strollers. Dog walkers include those who are walked by dogs, lunging or scrambling ahead.
Some in Los Gatos attend to both abs and absolutes. Spiritual qualities exist in physical wholeness. Likewise, physical energy flows from spiritual health.
Those bodies without an ounce of fat may not be inwardly vacuous. Those attending to daily prayer and scripture study may not suffer from obesity. One thinks of the saying attributed to the Church Father, Irenaeus (c.115-c.202), “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”
Some readers may find the Chiba/Los Gatos comparison a bit far fetched. Perhaps. Perhaps not. After all, both are performed daily and in ritualistic fashion. In both cases, certain anxieties and nervousness arise if the exercise is omitted. Both aim at goals; in Chiba, it's the reverence of souls in nature; in Los Gatos, it's the solace of a coffee shop.
Reflect on the fact that both prayer and physical training constitute forms of exercise. Some may be familiar with the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order. Daily cyclists, joggers, walkers among us perform exercise, not of going somewhere but of going for the sake of going. That’s an exercise, not a journey.
In the Bible's New Testament, in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, the Christian apostle St. Paul offers advice worth consideration in Japan or California. "Train yourself in godliness, for while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."